WEEK 27 |
T OM'S mind was made up now. He was gloomy and desperate. He was a forsaken, friendless boy, he said; nobody loved him; when they found out what they had driven him to, perhaps they would be sorry; he had tried to do right and get along, but they would not let him; since nothing would do them but to be rid of him, let it be so; and let them blame him for the consequences—why shouldn't they? What right had the friendless to complain? Yes, they had forced him to it at last: he would lead a life of crime. There was no choice.
By this time he was far down Meadow Lane, and the bell for school to "take up" tinkled faintly upon his ear. He sobbed, now, to think he should never, never hear that old familiar sound any more—it was very hard, but it was forced on him; since he was driven out into the cold world, he must submit—but he forgave them. Then the sobs came thick and fast.
Just at this point he met his soul's sworn comrade, Joe Harper—hard-eyed, and with evidently a great and dismal purpose in his heart. Plainly here were "two souls with but a single thought." Tom, wiping his eyes with his sleeve, began to blubber out something about a resolution to escape from hard usage and lack of sympathy at home by roaming abroad into the great world never to return; and ended by hoping that Joe would not forget him.
But it transpired that this was a request which Joe had just been going to make of Tom, and had come to hunt him up for that purpose. His mother had whipped him for drinking some cream which he had never tasted and knew nothing about; it was plain that she was tired of him and wished him to go; if she felt that way, there was nothing for him to do but succumb; he hoped she would be happy, and never regret having driven her poor boy out into the unfeeling world to suffer and die.
As the two boys walked sorrowing along, they made a new compact to stand by each other and be brothers and never separate till death relieved them of their troubles. Then they began to lay their plans. Joe was for being a hermit, and living on crusts in a remote cave, and dying, some time, of cold and want and grief; but after listening to Tom, he conceded that there were some conspicuous advantages about a life of crime, and so he consented to be a pirate.
Three miles below St. Petersburg, at a point where the Mississippi River was a trifle over a mile wide, there was a long, narrow, wooded island, with a shallow bar at the head of it, and this offered well as a rendezvous. It was not inhabited; it lay far over toward the further shore, abreast a dense and almost wholly unpeopled forest. So Jackson's Island was chosen. Who were to be the subjects of their piracies was a matter that did not occur to them. Then they hunted up Huckleberry Finn, and he joined them promptly, for all careers were one to him; he was indifferent. They presently separated to meet at a lonely spot on the river-bank two miles above the village at the favorite hour—which was midnight. There was a small log raft there which they meant to capture. Each would bring hooks and lines, and such provision as he could steal in the most dark and mysterious way—as became outlaws. And before the afternoon was done, they had all managed to enjoy the sweet glory of spreading the fact that pretty soon the town would "hear something." All who got this vague hint were cautioned to "be mum and wait."
About midnight Tom arrived with a boiled ham and a few trifles, and stopped in a dense undergrowth on a small bluff overlooking the meeting-place. It was starlight, and very still. The mighty river lay like an ocean at rest. Tom listened a moment, but no sound disturbed the quiet. Then he gave a low, distinct whistle. It was answered from under the bluff. Tom whistled twice more; these signals were answered in the same way. Then a guarded voice said:
"Who goes there?"
"Tom Sawyer, the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main. Name your names."
"Huck Finn the Red-Handed, and Joe Harper the Terror of the Seas." Tom had furnished these titles, from his favorite literature.
Two hoarse whispers delivered the same awful word simultaneously to the brooding night:
Then Tom tumbled his ham over the bluff and let himself down after it, tearing both skin and clothes to some extent in the effort. There was an easy, comfortable path along the shore under the bluff, but it lacked the advantages of difficulty and danger so valued by a pirate.
The Terror of the Seas had brought a side of bacon, and had about worn himself out with getting it there. Finn the Red-Handed had stolen a skillet and a quantity of half-cured leaf tobacco, and had also brought a few corn-cobs to make pipes with. But none of the pirates smoked or "chewed" but himself. The Black Avenger of the Spanish Main said it would never do to start without some fire. That was a wise thought; matches were hardly known there in that day. They saw a fire smoldering upon a great raft a hundred yards above, and they went stealthily thither and helped themselves to a chunk. They made an imposing adventure of it, saying, "Hist!" every now and then, and suddenly halting with finger on lip; moving with hands on imaginary dagger-hilts; and giving orders in dismal whispers that if "the foe" stirred, to "let him have it to the hilt," because "dead men tell no tales." They knew well enough that the raftsmen were all down at the village laying in stores or having a spree, but still that was no excuse for their conducting this thing in an unpiratical way.
They shoved off, presently, Tom in command, Huck at the after oar and Joe at the forward. Tom stood amidships, gloomy-browed, and with folded arms, and gave his orders in a low, stern whisper:
"Luff, and bring her to the wind!"
"Steady it is, sir!"
"Let her go off a point!"
"Point it is, sir!"
As the boys steadily and monotonously drove the raft toward mid-stream it was no doubt understood that these orders were given only for "style," and were not intended to mean anything in particular.
"What sail's she carrying?"
"Courses, tops'ls, and flying-jib, sir."
"Send the r'yals up! Lay out aloft, there, half a dozen of ye—foretopmaststuns'l! Lively, now!"
"Shake out that maintogalans'l! Sheets and braces! Now my hearties!"
"Hellum-a-lee—hard a port! Stand by to meet her when she comes! Port, port! Now, men! With a will! Stead-y-y-y!"
"Steady it is, sir!"
The raft drew beyond the middle of the river; the boys pointed her head right, and then lay on their oars. The river was not high, so there was not more than a two or three mile current. Hardly a word was said during the next three-quarters of an hour. Now the raft was passing before the distant town. Two or three glimmering lights showed where it lay, peacefully sleeping, beyond the vague vast sweep of star-gemmed water, unconscious of the tremendous event that was happening. The Black Avenger stood still with folded arms, "looking his last" upon the scene of his former joys and his later sufferings, and wishing "she" could see him now, abroad on the wild sea, facing peril and death with dauntless heart, going to his doom with a grim smile on his lips. It was but a small strain on his imagination to remove Jackson's Island beyond eye-shot of the village, and so he "looked his last" with a broken and satisfied heart. The other pirates were looking their last, too; and they all looked so long that they came near letting the current drift them out of the range of the island. But they discovered the danger in time, and made shift to avert it. About two o'clock in the morning the raft grounded on the bar two hundred yards above the head of the island, and they waded back and forth until they had landed their freight. Part of the little raft's belongings consisted of an old sail, and this they spread over a nook in the bushes for a tent to shelter their provisions; but they themselves would sleep in the open air in good weather, as became outlaws.
They built a fire against the side of a great log twenty or thirty steps within the somber depths of the forest, and then cooked some bacon in the frying-pan for supper, and used up half of the corn "pone" stock they had brought. It seemed glorious sport to be feasting in that wild, free way in the virgin forest of an unexplored and uninhabited island, far from the haunts of men, and they said they never would return to civilization.
The climbing fire lit up their faces and threw its ruddy glare upon the pillared tree-trunks of their forest temple, and upon the varnished foliage and festooning vines.
When the last crisp slice of bacon was gone, and the last allowance of corn pone devoured, the boys stretched themselves out on the grass, filled with contentment. They could have found a cooler place, but they would not deny themselves such a romantic feature as the roasting camp-fire.
"Ain't it gay?" said Joe.
"It's nuts!" said Tom. "What would the boys say if they could see us?"
"Say? Well, they'd just die to be here—hey, Hucky!"
"I reckon so," said Huckleberry; "anyways,
"It's just the life for me," said Tom. "You don't have to get up, mornings, and you don't have to go to school, and wash, and all that blame foolishness. You see a pirate don't have to do anything, Joe, when he's ashore, but a hermit he has to be praying considerable, and then he don't have any fun, anyway, all by himself that way."
"Oh, yes, that's so," said Joe, "but I hadn't thought much about it, you know. I'd a good deal rather be a pirate, now that I've tried it."
"You see," said Tom, "people don't go much
on hermits, nowadays, like
they used to in old times, but a pirate's always respected. And a
hermit's got to sleep on the hardest place he can find, and put
sackcloth and ashes on his head,
and stand out in the rain,
"What does he put sackcloth and ashes on his head for?" inquired Huck.
"I dono. But they've got to do it. Hermits always do. You'd have to do that if you was a hermit."
"Dern'd if I would," said Huck.
"Well, what would you do?"
"I dunno. But I wouldn't do that."
"Why, Huck, you'd have to. How'd you get around it?"
"Why, I just wouldn't stand it. I'd run away."
"Run away! Well, you would be a nice old slouch of a hermit. You'd be a disgrace."
The Red-Handed made no response, being better employed. He had finished gouging out a cob, and now he fitted a weed stem to it, loaded it with tobacco, and was pressing a coal to the charge and blowing a cloud of fragrant smoke—he was in the full bloom of luxurious contentment. The other pirates envied him this majestic vice, and secretly resolved to acquire it shortly. Presently Huck said:
"What does pirates have to do?"
"Oh, they have just a bully time—take ships and burn them, and get the money and bury it in awful places in their island where there's ghosts and things to watch it, and kill everybody in the ships—make 'em walk a plank."
"And they carry the women to the island," said Joe; "they don't kill the women."
"No," assented Tom, "they don't kill the women—they're too noble. And the women's always beautiful, too.
"And don't they wear the bulliest clothes! Oh, no! All gold and silver and di'monds," said Joe, with enthusiasm.
"Who?" said Huck.
"Why, the pirates."
Huck scanned his own clothing forlornly.
"I reckon I ain't dressed fitten for a pirate," said he, with a regretful pathos in his voice; "but I ain't got none but these."
But the other boys told him the fine clothes would come fast enough, after they should have begun their adventures. They made him understand that his poor rags would do to begin with, though it was customary for wealthy pirates to start with a proper wardrobe.
Gradually their talk died out and drowsiness began to steal upon the
eyelids of the little waifs. The pipe dropped from the fingers of the
Red-Handed, and he slept the sleep of the conscience-free and the
weary. The Terror of the Seas and the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main
had more difficulty in getting to sleep. They said their prayers
inwardly, and lying down, since there was nobody there with authority
to make them kneel and recite aloud; in truth, they had a mind not to
say them at all, but they were afraid to proceed to such lengths as
that, lest they might call down a sudden and special
Heaven. Then at once they reached and hovered upon the imminent verge
of sleep—but an intruder came, now, that would not "down." It was
conscience. They began to feel a vague fear that they had been doing
wrong to run away; and next they thought of the stolen meat, and then
the real torture came. They tried to argue it away by reminding
conscience that they had purloined sweetmeats and apples scores of
times; but conscience was not to be appeased by such thin
plausibilities; it seemed to them, in the end, that there was no
getting around the stubborn fact that taking sweetmeats was only
"hooking," while taking bacon and hams and such valuables was plain
T here were several expeditions to rescue Jerusalem, but the third may fairly be named the Royal Crusade because of the number of sovereigns who took part in it. There was Frederick, the German Emperor, nicknamed Barbarossa because of his long red beard; there was Philip II., King of France; and there was Richard I. of England, the famous Cœur de Lion, the lion-hearted soldier.
After being eighty-eight years in the hands of the Christians, Jerusalem had been recaptured in 1187 by a great Saracen commander named Saladin. He was far more merciful, however, than the Christians of the first crusade, for when the women of Jerusalem begged for the lives of their fathers and brothers and husbands, he forgot all his stern threats and not only freed his prisoners, but loaded them with presents.
The Emperor Frederick could not bear the thought of Jerusalem being in the hands of the Saracens, and he set off with his army to regain it. He was a brave and wise soldier and would have led his troops most nobly, but by some accident he was drowned before reaching the Holy Land. His subjects were heartbroken at the news of his death. They could hardly believe it possible, and the legend arose that he had hidden himself away in the depths of the mountains; and fathers said to their children, "The good Barbarossa is not dead. He and his daughter and his brave comrades sit about a marble table in some mountain cavern. His red beard has grown through the marble, so long has he waited. But by and by there will come a time when the ravens no longer fly around the mountain. Then he will come forth, and in that day our land shall be great indeed."
King Richard of England was eager for glory and would gladly have set out for the Holy Land at once; but first the money for an army must be raised. How it was raised he did not care. More than one man who wanted to be a bishop, obtained his wish by paying for it. If a man was guilty of wrong-doing, he need not go to prison if he could send a goodly sum of money to the king. England held two fortresses in Scotland; but Richard willingly gave up all claim to them and to the whole country for ten thousand marks. He and Philip Augustus of France were enemies, but now they swore to be most faithful friends. "If one of us is slain during the crusade," they said, "the other shall take all troops and money and go on with the great work of freeing the Holy Land." Richard meant to have better order than during the first crusade, and he made some remarkable laws. If one man killed another, the murderer was to be tied to the body of his victim, and both were to be thrown into the sea. A man who stole was to have hot pitch poured upon his head and over this feathers were to be shaken.
Richard and Philip at the Siege of Acre
At length both French and English were on the way; but long before they reached Syria, the two kings quarrelled. They patched up a sort of peace and went on to Acre, a seaport town of Syria that the Christians were besieging. That soon fell. Both kings put their banners on the ramparts; but Richard took up his abode in the royal palace, leaving to Philip a humbler place. Indeed, in whatever they did, Richard always took the first place; and before long Philip declared that he was sick and should return to Europe. "If you are really sick or afraid of the enemy, you would better go home," said Richard scornfully. He easily guessed that Philip's real reason for wishing to go home was that he might try to seize some of the English possessions, and he made the French king swear not to make war upon any of the English lands while he himself was away.
King Richard in Combat
Richard marched south toward Jerusalem. Every night when he halted, heralds cried three times, "Save the Holy Sepulchre!" and all the army knelt and said "Amen!" The hot-tempered Richard had already had trouble, not only with Philip but with Duke Leopold of Austria; for at Acre the duke had set his banner upon a tower that he had taken, and Richard had torn it down and flung it into the ditch. There was also trouble at Ascalon. Richard was bent upon rebuilding the walls. With his own royal hands he brought stones and mortar. Leopold refused to follow his example, and he declared as the old poem puts it,—
"My father n'as mason ne carpenter;
And though your walls should all to shake,
I shall never help hem to make."
Then, as the story goes, Richard not only stormed at the noble duke, but struck him. Naturally, the duke too went home.
On the whole, none of the warriors seems to have behaved in so praiseworthy a fashion as the Mohammedan Saladin. This brave and knightly leader greatly admired the daring deeds of Richard. They exchanged many courtesies, and when the English king was ill, his enemy sent him fruit and ice for his comfort.
Richard's boldness amazed every one. He was always in the thickest of the fight, striking off a foeman's head with one blow of his sword, or swinging his terrible battle-axe with twenty pounds of steel in its head. One of his enemies declared, "No man can escape from his sword; his attack is dreadful; to engage with him is fatal, and his deeds are beyond human nature." Saladin's brother, too, looked upon his enemy with warmest admiration; and when Richard was once dismounted in battle, the Saracen sent him as a gift two noble horses. It is said that fifty years later, if the horse of a Saracen shied, his rider would say, "What, do you think you see King Richard in that bush?"
But the Germans and the French, and even many of his own troops, had left Richard. Therefore, as he had not men enough to take Jerusalem, he made the best terms he could with Saladin and departed from the Holy Land. On the way home overland through Austria he was captured by his enemy, Duke Leopold, given over to the Emperor of Germany, and put into prison. There is a pleasant story that Blondel, one of his minstrels, roamed over Europe in search of his beloved master. A minstrel might go safely wherever he would, and Blondel wandered about for a year without success. At last some country folk pointed out a castle belonging to the emperor and said, "Folk say there is a king kept prisoner in that tower." Then Blondel sang beside the tower the first stanza of a little French song that he and the king had written together. He paused a moment, and from the tower came the voice of Richard singing the second stanza. Blondel straightway went home and told the English where their king was, and they were ready to pay ransom for him. Philip of France and Richard's younger brother John—the John who had to sign Magna Charta some years later—did all they could to have him kept in prison; for Philip thought he could seize Normandy if Richard was out of the way. As for John, he had been ruling England during his brother's absence, and he was determined not to give up the kingdom. But the pope threatened Philip and the emperor with excommunication from the church if they did not let Richard go; and at last they yielded. It was not easy to raise the large ransom demanded, but the English had a hearty admiration for their king, and finally it was paid and Richard was set free.
He hastened to England, and the whole English people rejoiced, save John and his followers. To John, Philip had sent a message saying, "Take care of yourself; the devil has broken loose." Richard, however, made no attempt to punish his brother, and even when John again showed himself unfaithful, Richard forgave him, saying, "I hope I shall as easily forget his injuries as he will my pardon."
WEEK 27 |
ING CHARLES was beheaded on 30th January
The people of Scotland and Ireland, however, were very angry when they heard what had happened. The Scots had never wished the King to be killed; they had hoped to force him to rule better. Now that he was dead they proclaimed his son Charles king. At the same time the Irish rebelled, and Cromwell and his Ironsides went to subdue them. Very many of the Irish were Roman Catholics, and some years before they had risen and cruelly murdered the Irish Protestants. Cromwell hated the Roman Catholics, and he intended now to punish them for their cruelty to the Protestants, as well as for rebelling against the Commonwealth, as the Government of Britain was now called.
Cromwell remained nine months in Ireland, and so cruel and pitiless was he, that for many years no Irishman could hear his name without a shudder and a curse. The country was utterly subdued. Many of the people were killed, others were sent as slaves to the West Indies, and all who could fled to far countries to escape the fury of Cromwell.
When he had finished this dreadful work, Cromwell returned to England, and then marched into Scotland. The Ironsides had never been defeated, and now they won battle after battle, and at last Charles decided to march into England and fight for his crown there.
Cromwell was very much astonished when he heard what Charles was doing, and he hurried after him as fast as he could. The English did not flock to join Charles as he had expected, and when the two armies met at Worcester, Cromwell's army was nearly twice as large as that of the Prince. A dreadful battle followed. The Scots fought gallantly for their Prince, but they were utterly defeated. Hardly any escaped, and those who were not killed were sold as slaves.
Cromwell called this battle his "crowning mercy," for with it Charles lost all hope of regaining his kingdom. It was fought on what Cromwell used to think was his "lucky day," the third of September.
Charles fled from Worcester, and had many adventures before he reached safety. Great rewards were offered to any one who would tell where he was hiding, punishment and death threatened those who helped him. Yet so many were faithful to him that he escaped.
He cut off his beautiful hair, stained his face and his white hands brown, and instead of silk and satin, he put on coarse clothes which were much patched and darned, so that he looked like a labouring man. Then with an axe over his shoulder, he went into the woods with four brothers, who really were working men, and pretended to cut wood.
All day long they stayed in the wood, and at night the four
brothers guided the Prince to another place. There they
found so many of Cromwell's men that it was not safe for
Charles to stay in a house. That night he slept in a
Charles lay very still and quiet. His heart thumped against his ribs, and he held his breath when some of Cromwell's soldiers rode under the tree. They were so close that he could hear them talk.
"The Lord hath given the ungodly one into our hands," said one.
"Yea, he cannot be afar off."
"We will use well our eyes. Perchance the Lord may deliver the malignant even unto us."
But the kind green leaves kept close, and little did the Roundheads think that the very man for whom they were looking was close above their heads and could hear every word they said.
For a whole long day Charles lay in the oak, and at last Cromwell's men, having searched and searched in vain for him, went away. Then Charles climbed down from the tree and walked many weary miles till his feet were blistered and sore, and his bones ached.
At length he reached the house of a Royalist lady and gentleman, who were kind to him.
The lady pretended that she had to go on a journey to visit a sick friend. Charles was dressed as her servant and mounted upon a horse, and the lady got up behind him. In those days, before there were trains or even coaches, ladies very often travelled like this. They did not ride upon a horse by themselves, but mounted behind a servant or a friend.
For many miles Charles travelled as this lady's servant, having many adventures and escapes by the way. As Charles was supposed to be the servant, he had, of course, to look after the horse. One evening, as he went into the stable-yard of the inn in which they were to spend the night, he found it full of Cromwell's men. One of them looked hard at the Prince.
"My friend," he said, "I seem to know your face."
"Like enough," replied Charles, "I have travelled a good deal with my masters."
"Surely," said the man, "you were with Mr. Baxter?"
"Yes," replied the Prince calmly, "I was with him. But now make way, my man, till I see after my beast. I will talk to you later."
So Charles busied himself with his horse, and escaped from the man who took him to be a fellow-servant.
After many dangers, often being recognised in spite of his disguises, the Prince arrived at Lyme Regis, and there a little boat was found to take him over to France. But when the captain's wife heard who was going to sail in her husband's boat, she was afraid. She was afraid that Cromwell might hear of it, and perhaps kill her husband. So she told him he must not go.
"I must go," said the captain, "I have promised."
"You shall not go," said his wife, and, seeing that talking did no good, she locked him into a room and took the key away.
Charles and his friends waited in vain for the captain, and at last they left Lyme Regis in despair. After more adventures they reached Brighton, and there they really did find a boat and a captain willing to take them over to France.
The evening before starting, Charles was having supper at a little inn in Brighton, when the landlord came behind him and kissed his hand. Again he had been recognised. But the landlord was faithful, and would not betray him.
"God bless your Majesty," he said, "perhaps I may live to be a lord, and my good wife a lady." He thought that if Charles ever came back to the throne he would not forget those who had helped and served him when he was poor and in trouble.
For more than six weeks Charles had travelled in fear and danger among his bitter enemies. In spite of his disguises, many people had recognised him. Yet not one had betrayed him. Instead, they had taken a great deal of trouble and run many risks to help and save him, and now his difficulties and dangers were over.
Very early next morning, while it was still almost dark, the little party crept down to the shore. In the grey dawn Charles stepped on board the boat, the sails were set, and slowly he was carried away from his kingdom which he was not to see again for many long days.
T HE word summer, being interpreted, means vacation; and vacation, being interpreted, means—so many things that I have not space in this book to name them. Yet how can there be a vacation without mountains, or seashore, or the fields, or the forests—days out of doors? My ideal vacation would have to be spent in the open; and this book, the larger part of it, is the record of one of my summer vacations—the vacation of the summer of 1912. That was an ideal vacation, and along with my account of it I wish to give you some hints on how to make the most of your summer chance to tramp the fields and woods.
For the real lover of nature is a tramp; not the kind of tramp that walks the railroad-ties and carries his possessions in a tomato-can, but one who follows the cow-paths to the fields, who treads the rabbit-roads in the woods, watching the ways of the wild things that dwell in the tree-tops, and in the deepest burrows under ground.
Do not tell anybody, least of all yourself, that you love the out-of-doors, unless you have your own path to the woods, your own cross-cut to the pond, your own particular huckleberry-patch and fishing-holes and friendships in the fields. The winds, the rain, the stars, the green grass, even the birds and a multitude of other wild folk try to meet you more than halfway, try to seek you out even in the heart of the great city; but the great out-of-doors you must seek, for it is not in books, nor in houses, nor in cities. It is out at the end of the car-line or just beyond the back-yard fence, maybe—far enough away, anyhow, to make it necessary for you to put on your tramping shoes and with your good stout stick go forth.
You must learn to be a good tramper. You thought you learned how to walk soon after you got out of the cradle, and perhaps you did, but most persons only know how to hobble when they get into the unpaved paths of the woods.
With stout, well-fitting shoes, broad in the toe and heel; light, stout clothes that will not catch the briers, good bird-glasses, and a bite of lunch against the noon, swing out on your legs; breathe to the bottom of your lungs; balance your body on your hips, not on your collar-bones, and, going leisurely, but not slowly (for crawling is deadly dull), do ten miles up a mountain-side or through the brush; and if at the end you feel like eating up ten miles more, then you may know that you can walk, can tramp, and are in good shape for the summer.
In your tramping-kit you need: a pocket-knife; some string; a pair of field-glasses; a botany-can or fish-basket on your back; and perhaps a notebook. This is all and more than you need for every tramp. To these things might be added a light camera. It depends upon what you go for. I have been afield all my life and have never owned or used a camera. But there are a good many things that I have never done. A camera may add a world of interest to your summer, so if you find use for a camera, don't fail to make one a part of your tramping outfit.
After all, what you carry on your back or on your feet or in your hands does not matter half so much as what you carry in your head and heart—your eye, and spirit, and purpose. For instance, when you go into the fields have some purpose in your going besides the indefinite desire to get out of doors.
If you long for the wide sky and the wide winds and the wide slopes of green, then that is a real and a definite desire. You want to get out, out, OUT, because you have been shut in. Very good; for you will get what you wish, what you go out to get. The point is this: always go out for something. Never yawn and slouch out to the woods as you might to the corner grocery store, because you don't know how else to kill time.
Go with some purpose; because you wish to visit some particular spot, see some bird, find some flower, catch some—fish! Anything that takes you into the open is good—ploughing, hoeing, chopping, fishing, berrying, botanizing, tramping. The aimless person anywhere is a failure, and he is sure to get lost in the woods!
It is a good plan to go frequently over the same fields, taking the beaten path, watching for the familiar things, until you come to know your haunt as thoroughly as the fox or the rabbit knows his. Don't be afraid of using up a particular spot. The more often you visit a place the richer you will find it to be in interest for you.
Now, do not limit your interest and curiosity to any one kind of life or to any set of things out of doors. Do not let your likes or your prejudices interfere with your seeing the whole out-of-doors with all its manifold life, for it is all interrelated, all related to you, all of interest and meaning.
The clover blossom and the bumblebee that carries the fertilizing pollen are related; the bumblebee and the mouse that eats up its grubs are related; and every one knows that mice and cats are related; thus the clover, the bumblebee, the mouse, the cat, and, finally, the farmer, are all so interrelated that if the farmer keeps a cat, the cat will catch the mice, the mice cannot eat the young bumblebees, the bumblebees can fertilize the clover, and the clover can make seed. So if the farmer wants clover seed to sow down a new field with, he must keep a cat.
I think it is well for you to have some one thing in which you are particularly interested. It may be flowers or birds or shells or minerals. But as the whole is greater than any of its parts, so a love and knowledge of nature, of the earth and the sky over your head and under your feet, with all that lives with you there, is more than a knowledge of its birds or trees or reptiles.
But be on your guard against the purpose to spread yourselves over too much. Don't be thin and superficial. Don't be satisfied with learning the long Latin names of things while never watching the ways of the things that have the names. As they sat on the porch, so the story goes, the school trustee called attention to a familiar little orange-colored bug, with black spots on his back, that was crawling on the floor.
"I s'pose you know what that is?" he said.
"Yes," replied the applicant, with conviction; "that is a Coccinella septempunctata."
"Young man," was the rejoinder, "a feller as don't know a ladybug when he sees it can't get my vote for teacher in this deestrict."
The "trustee" was right; for what is the use of knowing
that the little ladybug is Coc-ci-
"Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home;
Your house is on fire, your children alone"?
Let us say, now, that you are spending your vacation in the edge of the country within twenty miles of a great city such as Boston. That might bring you out at Hingham, where I am spending mine. In such an ordinary place (if any place is ordinary), what might you expect to see and watch during the summer?
Sixty species of birds, to begin with! They will keep you busy all summer. The wild animals, beasts, that you will find depend so very much upon your locality—woods, waters, rocks, etc.—that it is hard to say how many they will be. Here in my woods you might come upon three or four species of mice, three species of squirrels, the mink, the muskrat, the weasel, the mole, the shrew, the fox, the skunk, the rabbit, and even a wild deer.
Red Salamanders, Old and Young
Of reptiles and amphibians you would see several more species than of fur-bearing animals,—six snakes, four common turtles, two salamanders, frogs, toads, newts,—a wonderfully interesting group, with a real live rattler among them if you should go over to the Blue Hills, fifteen miles away.
You will go many times into the fields before you can make of the reptiles your friends and neighbors. But by and by you will watch them and note their ways with as much interest as you watch the other wild folk about you. It is a pretty shallow lover of nature who jumps upon a little snake with both feet, or who shivers when a little salamander drops out of the leaf-mould at his feet.
And what shall I say of the fishes? There are a dozen of them in the stream and ponds within the compass of my haunt. They are a fascinating family, and one very little watched by the ordinary tramper. But you are not ordinary. Quiet and patience and much putting together of scraps of observations will be necessary if you are to get at the whole story of any fish's life. The story will be worth it, however.
No, I shall not even try to number the insects—the butterflies, beetles, moths, wasps, bees, bugs, ticks, mites, and such small "deer" as you will find in the round of your summer's tramp. Nor shall I try to name the flowers and trees, the ferns and mosses. It is with the common things that you ought now to become familiar, and one summer is all too short for the things you ought to see and hear and do in your vacation out of doors.
I've watched you now a full half hour,
Self-poised upon that yellow flower;
And, little butterfly, indeed
I know not if you sleep or feed.
How motionless!—not frozen seas
More motionless! and then
What joy awaits you, when the breeze
Hath found you out among the trees,
And calls you forth again!
This plot of orchard ground is ours;
My trees they are, my sister's flowers;
Here rest your wings when they are weary;
Here lodge as in a sanctuary!
Come often to us, fear no wrong;
Sit near us, on the bough!
We'll talk of sunshine and of song;
And summer days when we were young;
Sweet childish days, that were as long
As twenty days are now.
WEEK 27 |
T HE next day the little chickens were all hatched and doing well. The hen had led them to the courtyard, and, scratching the soil and clucking, she dug up small seeds which the little ones came and took from their mother's beak. At the slightest approach of danger, the hen called the brood, and all ran to snuggle under her outspread wings. The boldest soon put their heads out, their pretty little yellow heads framed in their mother's black feathers. The alarm over, the hen began clucking and scratching again, and the little ones went trotting around her once more. Completely reassured, Mother Ambroisine forever renounced her proverb of the spider. In the evening Uncle Paul continued the story of the epeira.
"Since it must serve as a support to the silken network, the first thread stretched from one bank to the other must be of exceptional firmness. The epeira begins, therefore, by fixing both ends well; then, going and coming on the thread from one extremity to the other, always spinning, it doubles and trebles the strands and sticks them together in a common cable. A second similar cable is necessary, placed beneath the first in an almost parallel direction. It is between the two that the web must be spun.
"For this purpose, from one of the ends of the cable already constructed the epeira lets itself fall perpendicularly, hanging by the thread that escapes from its spinnerets. It reaches a lower branch, fastens the thread firmly to it, and ascends to the communicating bridge by the vertical thread it used for descending. The spider then reaches the other bank, still spinning, but without gluing this new strand of silk to the cable. Arrived at the other side, it lets itself slide on to a branch conveniently placed, and there fastens the end of the thread that it has spun on its way from one bank to the other. This second chief piece of the framework becomes a cable by the addition of new threads. Finally the two parallel cables are made firm at each end by divers threads starting from it in every direction and attaching themselves to the branches. Other threads go out from this point and that, from one cable to the other, leaving between them, in the middle of the construction, a large open space, almost circular, destined for the net.
"Thus far the epeira has only constructed the framework of
its building, a rough but solid
"When the radiating lines are finished, the most delicate work of all is still left for the spider. Each of these lines must be bound by a thread that, starting at the circumference, twists and turns in a spiral line around the center, where it terminates. The epeira starts from the top of the web and, unwinding its thread, stretches it from one radiating line to another, keeping always at an equal distance from the outside thread. By thus circling about, always at the same distance from the preceding thread, the spider ends at the center of the radiating lines. The network is then finished.
"Now there must be arranged a little ambuscade from which
the epeira can survey its web, a
The children were disappointed: at the moment when the story became the most interesting, Uncle Paul broke off his narrative.
"The epeira has interested me very much, Uncle," said Jules. "The bridge over the stream, the cobweb with its regular radiating lines, and the thread that twists and turns, getting nearer and nearer to the center, the room for ambush and rest—all that is very astonishing in a creature that does these wonderful things without having to learn how. Catching the game ought to be still more curious."
"Very curious indeed. Therefore, instead of telling you about the hunt, I prefer to show it to you. Yesterday, in crossing the field, I saw an epeira constructing its web between two trees on the little stream where such fine crayfish are caught. Let us get up early in the morning and go and see the chase."
It was just about Christmas time that Patrick failed in business.
There was great merry-making in the neighborhood; and on Christmas eve, the young people were all invited to a party at the house of Colonel Dandridge, a rich planter living near the Henrys. Thomas Jefferson was one of the guests.
He was a fine lad, sixteen years old, and was on his way to attend William and Mary College at Williamsburg.
When Jefferson was introduced to Patrick Henry, he thought him a very rough-looking fellow; but he soon found that he was the best fiddler, the best story-teller, and the jolliest joker in the company.
When he heard about his misfortunes and saw the lonely little shop with its window boarded up and its door closed, he said to himself, "It is too bad that such a merry soul is so idle and shiftless!" He never expected to see the poor merchant again.
A few months later, as Jefferson was sitting in his room in Williamsburg, he heard a knock at the door. Imagine his surprise when, upon opening it, he saw Patrick Henry, of Hanover County.
There he stood, dressed in coarse homespun and covered with the dust of his journey. His hair hung in tangles about his ears. He looked so shabby that the rich young student thought he had come to beg.
When Patrick told him he had come to the city to pass an examination to be a lawyer, Jefferson smiled and thought he must be joking. But the deep-set blue eyes looked very serious under the shaggy brow.
"I am going to try to make a man of myself, Tom," he said, "and if I pass with the judges I shall let you know."
A few days later Patrick called again. He was much elated as he showed his license to practice law in the courts of Virginia.
"I blundered through the questions with two of the judges," he said. "They signed my paper just to get rid of me, I think. When I went to the third judge, he refused at first even to ask me anything. He thought me a greenhorn; I am sure of it by the way he looked at me. But I showed him that the others had signed for me, and then he began to put questions.
"Of course, he asked me a great deal that I knew nothing about. I was just thinking to myself that he would soon quit in disgust, when he made a statement that did not sound like good law. We argued the question a long time. I got quite hot over my side.
"At last Judge Randolph said, 'You defend your opinion
well, sir; but now let us look up the law.' He opened
one book and then another. His face flushed. After a
moment of silence he exclaimed, 'Here are law books
which you have never read; yet you are right and I am
wrong! Mr. Henry, if your industry is only half equal
to your genius, you will prove an ornament to your
Jefferson himself expected to be examined some day for the law, and listened eagerly to all that Patrick said. And when he had finished, he gave him his hand, and told him he wished him success, and invited him for a walk through the city.
The two passed down the street together.
Now, Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia. Here the governor lived and the House of Burgesses met to make the laws.
Just as the boys were admiring the governor's mansion, with its fine garden of roses, a great coach drawn by six milk-white horses drove out at the gate.
The governor sat inside the coach. He smiled, and waved his hand at young Thomas Jefferson, who doffed his three-cornered hat and bowed most gracefully.
Then many fair ladies smiled upon the rich and elegant college boy. No doubt, they wondered that he walked with such an awkward looking fellow; but Thomas Jefferson was pleased with the wit of his companion.
They walked through the park and then stopped at the famous Raleigh tavern, where Thomas told about the gay times the young folks had in the ball-room. "But nobody in Williamsburg plays the fiddle so well as you, Patrick," he said.
They visited the capitol, and went up the broad portico into the room where the burgesses met. And as they looked down from the lobby upon the empty seats below, Jefferson talked about the Virginia statesmen whom he had seen there at the last session.
He said that his favorite was Colonel George Washington, who had marched with Braddock against the Indians and had afterwards captured the French fort at the head of the Ohio.
It was all very interesting to Patrick. He wondered if he should ever meet the famous men who sat together on those benches and helped the king's officers make laws for the colony of Virginia. He was delighted with everything he saw, for he had never been in a town before.
At last he bade good bye to his courteous friend, and, mounting his horse, he rode away with his lawyer's license safe in the saddle bags beneath him.
The grass so little has to do,
A sphere of simple green,
With only butterflies to brood,
And bees to entertain,
And stir all day to pretty tunes
The breezes fetch along,
And hold the sunshine in its lap
And bow to everything;
And thread the dews all night, like pearls,
And make itself so fine,
A duchess were too common
For such a noticing.
And even when it dies, to pass
In odors so divine,
As lowly spices gone to sleep,
Or amulets of pine.
And then to dwell in sovereign barns,
And dream the days away,
The grass so little has to do,
I wish I were the hay!
WEEK 27 |
Y EARS had passed away. The oaths of Louis, and promises of Lothaire, had been broken; and Arnulf of Flanders, the murderer of Duke William, had incited them to repeated and treacherous inroads on Normandy; so that Richard's life, from fourteen to five or six-and- twenty, had been one long war in defence of his country. But it had been a glorious war for him, and his gallant deeds had well earned for him the title of "Richard the Fearless"—a name well deserved; for there was but one thing he feared, and that was, to do wrong.
By and by, success and peace came; and then Arnulf of Flanders, finding open force would not destroy him, three times made attempts to assassinate him, like his father, by treachery. But all these had failed; and now Richard had enjoyed many years of peace and honour, whilst his enemies had vanished from his sight.
King Louis was killed by a fall from his horse; Lothaire died in early youth, and in him ended the degenerate line of Charlemagne; Hugh Capet, the son of Richard's old friend, Hugh the White, was on the throne of France, his sure ally and brother-in-law, looking to him for advice and aid in all his undertakings.
Fru Astrida and Sir Eric had long been in their quiet graves; Osmond and Alberic were among Richard's most trusty councillors and warriors; Abbot Martin, in extreme old age, still ruled the Abbey of Jumieges, where Richard, like his father, loved to visit him, hold converse with him, and refresh himself in the peaceful cloister, after the affairs of state and war.
And Richard himself was a grey-headed man, of lofty stature and majestic bearing. His eldest son was older than he had been himself when he became the little Duke, and he had even begun to remember his father's project, of an old age to be spent in retirement and peace.
It was on a summer eve, that Duke Richard sat beside the white-bearded old Abbot, within the porch, looking at the sun shining with soft declining beams on the arches and columns. They spoke together of that burial at Rouen, and of the silver key; the Abbot delighting to tell, over and over again, all the good deeds and good sayings of William Longsword.
As they sat, a man, also very old and shrivelled and bent, came up to the cloister gate, with the tottering, feeble step of one pursued beyond his strength, coming to take sanctuary.
"What can be the crime of one so aged and feeble?" said the Duke, in surprise.
At the sight of him, a look of terror shot from the old man's eye. He clasped his hands together, and turned as if to flee; then, finding himself incapable of escape, he threw himself on the ground before him.
"Mercy, mercy! noble, most noble Duke!" was all he said.
"Rise up—kneel not to me. I cannot brook this from one who might be my father," said Richard, trying to raise him; but at those words the old man groaned and crouched lower still.
"Who art thou?" said the Duke. "In this holy place thou art secure, be thy deed what it may. Speak!—who art thou?"
"Dost thou not know me?" said the suppliant. "Promise mercy, ere thou dost hear my name."
"I have seen that face under a helmet," said the Duke. "Thou art Arnulf of Flanders!"
There was a deep silence.
"And wherefore art thou here?"
"I delayed to own the French King Hugh. He has taken my towns and ravaged my lands. Each Frenchman and each Norman vows to slay me, in revenge for your wrongs, Lord Duke. I have been driven hither and thither, in fear of my life, till I thought of the renown of Duke Richard, not merely the most fearless, but the most merciful of Princes. I sought to come hither, trusting that, when the holy Father Abbot beheld my bitter repentance, he would intercede for me with you, most noble Prince, for my safety and forgiveness. Oh, gallant Duke, forgive and spare!"
"Rise up, Arnulf," said Richard. "Where the hand of the lord hath stricken, it is not for man to exact his own reckoning. My father's death has been long forgiven, and what you may have planned against myself has, by the blessing of Heaven, been brought to nought. From Normans at least you are safe; and it shall be my work to ensure your pardon from my brother the King. Come into the refectory: you need refreshment. The Lord Abbot makes you welcome."
Tears of gratitude and true repentance choked Arnulf's speech, and he allowed himself to be raised from the ground, and was forced to accept the support of the Duke's arm.
The venerable Abbot slowly rose, and held up his hand in an attitude of blessing: "The blessing of a merciful God be upon the sinner who turneth from his evil way; and ten thousand blessings of pardon and peace are already on the head of him who hath stretched out his hand to forgive and aid him who was once his most grievous foe!"
There was once a pond far from the highway, and in it lived Three Fish in peace and happiness. Now one of these Fish always used his wits; the second used his sometimes, but the third never used his at all. One day Two Fishermen chanced upon this pond, and saw the Three Fish, which were large and fat.
"Quick, let us return home and bring our nets," they cried. "Here is a fine catch!"
When the Three Fish heard these words, they lay still in terror. Then the Fish who always made use of his wits resolved at once what he would do. Without stopping to consult his brothers, he swam quickly to the outlet of the pond and was soon out of harm's way.
Soon after this, the Fishermen returned and missed one of the Fish. They at once looked about for an outlet, and when they had discovered it, stopped it up. There now seemed no escape for the other two. In desperation, the Fish who sometimes used his wits began to float on his back on the top of the water. The Fishermen picked him up, and so well did he play his part that they threw him back into the pond, supposing he was dead. Meanwhile the Fish who never used his wits sank to the bottom, where he was easily caught, and was served that very day on the King's table.
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 27 |
"Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains."
T HESE events bring us to the verge of one of the most thrilling and terrible stories in modern history—the great French Revolution.
If the young colonists in America had cried out against unjust taxation, far more grievous was the cry wrung from the peasants of France under a system of taxation that had long existed in their own country. The mass of the people lived and struggled, suffered and died, under painful and cruel conditions. Pitiless indeed were the burdens laid upon the land, until the very life and hope of the nation seemed to be sapped away. The poor were taxed while the rich went free. Duties were laid on articles of daily need—candles, fuel, wine, and grain, while the tax on salt was the hardest of all. Every man, woman, and child over seven years of age had to buy 7 lb. of salt a-year, and a heavy fine was inflicted on those who could not or would not pay. So the nation groaned under its burden. Young women grew old before their time with toil, men worked under a cloud of hopeless gloom, and the nobles of France grew rich and prospered.
Such a state of things could not last. All knew that a change must come sooner or later. Great men—Voltaire and Rousseau—arose and wrote against the existing evils. Voltaire called on the king to take the work in hand. But the years passed on and little was done till, in 1774, the king, Louis XV., died, to be succeeded by his grandson as Louis XVI.
Now four years before this Louis—the Dauphin, as he was called—had married Marie Antoinette, the beautiful young daughter of Maria Theresa, Empress of Germany. The little Marie Antoinette was but fourteen, and the Dauphin fifteen, when a marriage was arranged between them, to cement the peace made a few years since between Austria and France.
Marie Antoinette was the youngest of sixteen children. She was a pretty, careless, pleasure-loving child, captivating all who came near her, and her mother had set her heart on her becoming the Queen of France some day.
It was yet early in the morning of April 21, in the year 1770, when the little Austrian girl left Vienna, her old home, for the long drive to Paris. The streets were thronged, as the long line of carriages rolled through the city gate on their way to the French frontier. A fortnight's driving brought them to Strasburg. The young German poet Goethe has told us, how here she was met by her new French suite. Her Austrian clothes were taken off, and she was dressed in new clothes from Paris. French ladies, provided for her by the King of France, now came forward to take charge of her. Weeping bitterly, the child kissed her Austrian attendants, sending messages of love back to her mother and sisters at home.
"Pardon me," she said, turning to her French suite and smiling through her tears. "Henceforth I shall never forget that I am French."
On May 16 she was married to the Dauphin, whom she had seen for the first time two days before. A terrific storm burst over Versailles on the wedding-day, causing many a Frenchman to shake his head and prophesy evil.
The young bridegroom himself was but sixteen. He was grandson to the present king. Having lost his father some years before, he was now heir to the throne of France. He had led a solitary life among the splendours and luxuries of the court at Versailles. He was shy and awkward, fond of hunting, but knowing little enough of the pitiable state of that country he would soon be called upon to govern.
Four years after the marriage Louis the king died of smallpox. His grandson and the beautiful young Austrian were King and Queen of France.
"O God! guide us, protect us; we are too young to reign," they cried, falling on their knees with streaming eyes.
For a time it seemed as if brighter days might be dawning for France under the new King Louis XVI. and his minister Turgot, the greatest statesman in France since the days of Richelieu. Turgot tried to make the young king understand how dangerous was the state of his country, how badly in need of reform. He would tax the rich as well as the poor, would abolish forced labour, would give France a national life in which each citizen must bear a part. But Louis was incapable of grasping the great crisis through which his poor country was passing.
"The king is above all, for the good of all," said Turgot.
Louis could not rise to this ideal of kingship, and in 1776 Turgot was dismissed.
"Do not forget, sire, that it was weakness which placed the head of Charles I. on the block," he said at parting. The words were prophetic of what should happen, but his reminder was in vain.
The luxuries at the court now increased. The winter of 1776 was bitterly cold, and bread was very dear. Deep snow lay in the streets of Paris, and the poor suffered acutely.
One day a gay train of sleighs drove through Paris. With every appearance of wealth, comfort, and luxury, Marie Antoinette, the Queen, was enjoying the snow and keen air, with no attempt to hide her merriment. The poor people shivered at their doors. They had never seen sleighs before.
"The Austrian," they muttered with displeasure; for the marriage had never been popular in France, and a feeling grew up between the irresponsible young queen and her unhappy subjects.
It was not till her tragic death seventeen years later, that she atoned for the past by the courage and dignity with which she met her fate.
IGURD went to war: with the men that King Alv gave him he marched into the country that was ruled over by the slayer of his father. The war that he waged was short and the battles that he won were not perilous. Old was King Lygni now, and feeble was his grasp upon his people. Sigurd slew him and took away his treasure and added his lands to the lands of King Alv.
But Sigurd was not content with the victory he had gained. He had dreamt of stark battles and of renown that would be hardily won. What was the war he had waged to the wars that Sigmund his father, and Volsung his father's father, had waged in their days? Not content was Sigurd. He led his men back by the hills from the crests of which he could look upon the Dragon's haunts. And having come as far as those hills he bade his men return to King Alv's hall with the spoils he had won.
They went, and Sigurd stayed upon the hills and looked across Gnita Heath to where Fafnir the Dragon had his lair. All blazed and wasted was the Heath with the fiery breath of the Dragon. And he saw the cave where Fafnir abode, and he saw the track that his comings and goings made. For every day the Dragon left his cave in the cliffs, crossing the Heath to come to the River at which he drank.
For the length of a day Sigurd watched from the hills the haunt of the Dragon. In the evening he saw him lengthening himself out of the cave, and coming on his track across the Heath, in seeming like a ship that travels swiftly because of its many oars.
Then to Regin in his smithy he came. To that cunning man Sigurd said:
"Tell me all thou dost know of Fafnir the Dragon."
Regin began to talk, but his speech was old and strange and filled with runes. When he had spoken it all Sigurd said, "All thou hast told me thou wilt have to say over again in a speech that is known to men of our day."
Then said Regin: "Of a hoard I spoke. The Dwarf Andvari guarded it from the first days of the world. But one of the Æsir forced Andvari to give the hoard to him, masses of gold and heaps of jewels, and the Æsir gave it to Hreidmar, who was my father.
"For the slaying of his son Otter the Æsir gave the hoard to Hreidmar, the greatest hoard that had ever been seen in the world. But not long was it left to Hreidmar to gloat over. For a son slew a father that he might posses that hoard. Fafnir, that son was Fafnir, my brother.
"Then Fafnir, that no one might disturb his possession of the hoard, turned himself into a Dragon, a Dragon so fearful that none dare come nigh him. And I, Regin, was stricken with covetousness of the hoard. I did not change myself into another being, but, by the magic my father knew, I made my life longer than the generations of men, hoping that I would see Fafnir slain and then have the mighty hoard under my hands.
"Now, son of the Volsungs, thou dost know all that has to do with Fafnir the Dragon, and the great hoard that he guards."
"Little do I care about the hoard he guards," Sigurd said. "I care only that he has made the King's good lands into a waste and that he is an evil thing to men. I would have the renown of slaying Fafnir the Dragon."
"With Gram, the sword thou hast, thou couldst slay Fafnir," Regin cried, his body shaken with his passion for the hoard. "Thou couldst slay him with the sword thou hast. Harken now and I will tell thee how thou mightst give him the deathly stroke through the coils of his mail. Harken, for I have thought of it all.
"The track of the Dragon to the River is broad, for he takes ever the one track. Dig a pit in the middle of that track, and when Fafnir comes over it strike up into his coils of mail with Gram, thy great sword. Gram only may pierce that mail. Then will Fafnir be slain and the hoard will be left guardless."
"What thou sayst is wise, Regin," Sigurd answered. "We will make this pit and I will strike Fafnir in the way thou says."
Then Sigurd went and he rode upon Grani, his proud horse, and he showed himself to King Alv and to Hiordis, his mother. Afterwards he went with Regin to the Heath that was the haunt of the Dragon, and in his track they dug a pit for the slaying of Fafnir.
And, lest his horse should scream aloud at the coming of the Dragon, Sigurd had Grani sent back to a cave in the hills. It was Regin that brought Grani away. "I am fearful and can do nothing to help thee, son of the Volsungs," he said. "I will go away and await the slaying of Fafnir."
He went, and Sigurd lay down in the pit they made and practiced thrusting upward with his sword. He lay with his face upward and with his two hands he thrust the mighty sword upward.
But as he lay there he bethought of a dread thing that might happen; namely, that the blood and the venom of the Dragon might pour over him as he lay there, and waste him flesh and bone. When he thought of this Sigurd hastened out of the pit, and he dug other pits near by, and he made a passage for himself from one pit to the other that he might escape from the flow of the Dragon's envenomed blood.
As he lay down again in the pit he heard the treading of the Dragon and he heard the Dragon's strange and mournful cry. Mightily the Dragon came on and he heard his breathing. His shape came over the pit. Then the Dragon held his head and looked down on Sigurd.
It was the instant for him to make stroke with Gram. He did not let the instant pass. He struck mightily under the shoulder and towards the heart of the beast. The sword went through the hard and glittering scales that were the creature's mail. Sigurd pulled out the sword and drew himself through the passage and out into the second pit as Fafnir's envenomed blood drenched where he had been.
Drawing himself up out of the second pit he saw the huge shape of Fafnir heaving and lashing. He came to him and thrust his sword right through the Dragon's neck. The Dragon reared up as though to fling himself down on Sigurd with all his crushing bulk and dread talons, with his fiery breath and his envenomed blood. But Sigurd leaped aside and ran far off. Then did Fafnir scream his death scream. After he had torn up rocks with his talons he lay prone on the ground, his head in the pit that was filled with his envenomed blood.
Then did Regin, hearing the scream that let him know that Fafnir was slain, come down to where the battle had been fought. When he saw that Sigurd was alive and unharmed he uttered a cry of fury. For his plan had been to have Sigurd drowned and burnt in the pit with the stream of Fafnir's envenomed blood.
But he mastered his fury and showed a pleased countenance to Sigurd. "Now thou wilt have renown," he cried. "Forever wilt thou be called Sigurd, Fafnir's Bane. More renown than ever any of thy fathers had wilt thou have, O Prince of the Volsungs."
So he spoke, saying fair words to him, for now that he was left alive there was something he would have Sigurd do.
"Fafnir is slain," Sigurd said, "and the triumph over him was not lightly won. Now may I show myself to King Alv and to my mother, and the gold from Fafnir's hoard will make me a great spoil."
"Wait," said Regin cunningly. "Wait. Thou hast yet to do something for me. With the sword thou hast, cut through the Dragon and take out his heart for me. When thou has taken it out, roast it that I may eat of it and become wiser than I am. Do this for me who showed thee how to slay Fafnir."
Sigurd did what Fafnir would have him do. He cut out the heart of the Dragon and he hung it from stakes to roast. Regin drew away and left him. As Sigurd stood before the fire putting sticks upon it there was a great silence in the forest.
He put his hand down to turn an ashen branch into the heart of the fire. As he did a drop from the roasting Dragon-heart fell upon his hand. The drop burnt into him. He put his hand to his mouth to ease the smart, and his tongue tasted the burning blood of the Dragon.
He went to gather wood for the fire. In a clearing that he came to there were birds; he saw four on a branch together. They spoke to each other in birds' notes, and Sigurd heard and knew what they were saying.
Said the first bird: "How simple is he who has come into this dell! He has no thought of an enemy, and yet he who was with him but a while ago has gone away that he may bring a spear to slay him."
"For the sake of the gold that is in the Dragon's cave he would slay him," said the second bird.
And the third bird said: "If he would eat the Dragon's heart himself he would know all wisdom."
But the fourth bird said: "He has tasted a drop of the Dragon's blood and he knows what we are saying."
The four birds did not fly away nor cease from speaking. Instead they began to tell of a marvelous abode that was known to them.
Deep in the forest, the birds sang, there was a Hall that was called the House of Flame. Its ten walls were Uni, Iri, Barri, Ori, Varns, Vegdrasil, Derri, Uri, Dellinger, Atvarder, and each wall was built by the Dwarf whose name it bore. All round the Hall there was a circle of fire through which none might pass. And within the Hall a maiden slept, and she was the wisest and the bravest and the most beautiful maiden in the world.
Sigurd stood like a man enchanted listening to what the birds sang.
But suddenly they changed the flow of their discourse, and their notes became sharp and piercing.
"Look, look!" cried one. "He is coming against the youth."
"He is coming against the youth with a spear," cried another.
"Now will the youth be slain unless he is swift," cried a third.
Sigurd turned round and he saw Regin treading the way towards him, grim and silent, with a spear in his hands. The spear would have gone through Sigurd had he stayed one instant longer in the place where he had been listening to the speech of the birds. As he turned he had his sword in his hand, and he flung it, and Gram struck Regin on the breast.
Then Regin cried out: "I die—I die without having laid my hands on the hoard that Fafnir guarded. Ah, a curse was upon the hoard, for Hreidmar and Fafnir and I have perished because of it. May the curse of the gold now fall on the one who is my slayer."
Then did Regin breathe out his life. Sigurd took the body and cast it into the pit that was alongside the dead Fafnir. Then, that he might eat the Dragon's heart and become the wisest of men, he went to where he had left it roasting. And he thought that when he had eaten the heart he would go into the Dragon's cave and carry away the treasure that was there, and bring it as a spoil of his battle to King Alv and to his mother. Then he would go through the forest and find the House of Flame where slept the maiden who was the wisest and bravest and most beautiful in the world.
But Sigurd did not eat the Dragon's heart. When he came to where he had left it roasting he found that the fire had burnt it utterly.
Barefooted boys scud up the street
Or skurry under sheltering sheds;
And school-girl faces, pale and sweet,
Gleam from the shawls about their heads.
Doors bang; and mother-voices call
From alien homes; and rusty gates
Are slammed; and high above it all,
The thunder grim reverberates.
And then, abrupt—the rain! the rain!;
The earth lies gasping; and the eyes
Behind the streaming window-pane
Smile at the trouble of the skies.
The highway smokes; sharp echoes ring;
The cattle bawl and cow-bells clank;
And into town comes galloping
The farmer's horse, with steaming flank.
The swallow dips beneath the eaves
And flirts his plumes and folds his wings;
And under the Catawba leaves
The caterpillar curls and clings.
The bumblebee is pelted down
The wet stem of the hollyhock;
And sullenly, in spattered brown,
The cricket leaps the garden walk.
Within, the baby claps his hands
And crows with rapture strange and vague;
Without, beneath the rose-bush stands
A dripping rooster on one leg.
WEEK 27 |
H IGH above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince. He was gilded all over with thin leaves of fine gold, for eyes he had two bright sapphires, and a large red ruby glowed on his sword-hilt.
He was very much admired indeed. "He is as beautiful as a weathercock," remarked one of the Town Councillors who wished to gain a reputation for having artistic tastes; "only not quite so useful," he added, fearing lest people should think him unpractical, which he really was not.
"Why can't you be like the Happy Prince?" asked a sensible mother of her little boy who was crying for the moon. "The Happy Prince never dreams of crying for anything."
"I am glad there is some one in the world who is quite happy," muttered a disappointed man as he gazed at the wonderful statue.
"He looks just like an angel," said the Charity Children as they came out of the cathedral in their bright scarlet cloaks and their clean white pinafores.
"How do you know?" said the Mathematical Master, "you have never seen one."
"Ah! but we have, in our dreams," answered the children; and the Mathematical Master frowned and looked very severe, for he did not approve of children dreaming.
One night there flew over the city a little Swallow. His friends had gone away to Egypt six weeks before, but he had stayed behind, for he was in love with the most beautiful Reed. He had met her early in the spring as he was flying down the river after a big yellow moth, and had been so attracted by her slender waist that he had stopped to talk to her.
"Shall I love you?" said the Swallow, who liked to come to the point at once, and the Reed made him a low bow. So he flew round and round her, touching the water with his wings, and making silver ripples. This was his courtship, and it lasted all through the summer.
"It is a ridiculous attachment," twittered the other Swallows; "she has no money, and far too many relations;" and indeed the river was quite full of Reeds. Then, when the autumn came they all flew away.
After they had gone he felt lonely, and began to tire of his lady-love. "She has no conversation," he said, "and I am afraid that she is a coquette, for she is always flirting with the wind." And certainly, whenever the wind blew, the Reed made the most graceful curtseys. "I admit that she is domestic," he continued, "but I love travelling, and my wife, consequently, should love travelling also."
"Will you come away with me?" he said finally to her; but the Reed shook her head, she was so attached to her home.
"You have been trifling with me," he cried. "I am off to the Pyramids. Good-bye!" and he flew away.
All day long he flew, and at night-time he arrived at the city. "Where shall I put up?" he said; "I hope the town has made preparations."
Then he saw the statue on the tall column.
"I will put up there," he cried; "it is a fine position, with plenty of fresh air." So he alighted just between the feet of the Happy Prince.
"I have a golden bedroom," he said softly to himself as he looked round, and he prepared to go to sleep; but just as he was putting his head under his wing a large drop of water fell on him. "What a curious thing!" he cried; "there is not a single cloud in the sky, the stars are quite clear and bright, and yet it is raining. The climate in the north of Europe is really dreadful. The Reed used to like the rain, but that was merely her selfishness."
Then another drop fell.
"What is the use of a statue if it cannot keep the rain off?" he said; "I must look for a good chimney-pot," and he determined to fly away.
But before he had opened his wings, a third drop fell, and he looked up, and saw——Ah! what did he see?
The eyes of the Happy Prince were filled with tears, and tears were running down his golden cheeks. His face was so beautiful in the moonlight that the little Swallow was filled with pity.
"Who are you?" he said.
"I am the Happy Prince."
"Why are you weeping then?" asked the Swallow; "you have quite drenched me."
"When I was alive and had a human heart," answered the statue, "I did not know what tears were, for I lived in the Palace of Sans-Souci, where sorrow is not allowed to enter.
In the daytime I played with my companions in the garden, and in the evening I led the dance in the Great Hall. Round the garden ran a very lofty wall, but I never cared to ask what lay beyond it, everything about me was so beautiful. My courtiers called me the Happy Prince, and happy indeed I was, if pleasure be happiness. So I lived, and so I died. And now that I am dead they have set me up here so high that I can see all the ugliness and all the misery of my city, and though my heart is made of lead yet I cannot choose but weep."
"What! is he not solid gold?" said the Swallow to himself. He was too polite to make any personal remarks out loud.
"Far away," continued the statue in a low musical voice, "far away in a little street there is a poor house. One of the windows is open, and through it I can see a woman seated at a table. Her face is thin and worn, and she has coarse, red hands, all pricked by the needle, for she is a seamstress. She is embroidering passion-flowers on a satin gown for the loveliest of the Queen's maids-of-honour to wear at the next Court-ball.
In a bed in the corner of the room her little boy is lying ill. He has a fever, and is asking for oranges. His mother has nothing to give him but river water, so he is crying. Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow, will you not bring her the ruby out of my sword-hilt? My feet are fastened to this pedestal and I cannot move."
"I am waited for in Egypt," said the Swallow. "My friends are flying up and down the Nile, and talking to the large lotus-flowers. Soon they will go to sleep in the tomb of the great King. The King is there himself in his painted coffin. He is wrapped in yellow linen, and embalmed with spices. Round his neck is a chain of pale green jade, and his hands are like withered leaves."
"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "will you not stay with me for one night, and be my messenger? The boy is so thirsty, and the mother so sad."
"I don't think I like boys," answered the Swallow. "Last summer, when I was staying on the river, there were two rude boys, the miller's sons, who were always throwing stones at me. They never hit me, of course; we swallows fly far too well for that, and besides, I come of a family famous for its agility; but still, it was a mark of disrespect."
But the Happy Prince looked so sad that the little Swallow was sorry. "It is very cold here," he said; "but I will stay with you for one night, and be your messenger."
"Thank you, little Swallow," said the Prince.
So the Swallow picked out the great ruby from the Prince's sword, and flew away with it in his beak over the roofs of the town.
He passed by the cathedral tower, where the white marble angels were sculptured. He passed by the palace and heard the sound of dancing. A beautiful girl came out on the balcony with her lover. "How wonderful the stars are," he said to her, "and how wonderful is the power of love!"
"I hope my dress will be ready in time for the State-ball," she answered; "I have ordered passion-flowers to be embroidered on it; but the seamstresses are so lazy."
He passed over the river, and saw the lanterns hanging to the masts of the ships. He passed over the Ghetto, and saw the old Jews bargaining with each other, and weighing out money in copper scales. At last he came to the poor house and looked in. The boy was tossing feverishly on his bed, and the mother had fallen asleep, she was so tired. In he hopped, and laid the great ruby on the table beside the woman's thimble. Then he flew gently round the bed, fanning the boy's forehead with his wings. "How cool I feel!" said the boy, "I must be getting better;" and he sank into a delicious slumber.
Then the Swallow flew back to the Happy Prince, and told him what he had done. "It is curious," he remarked, "but I feel quite warm now, although it is so cold."
"That is because you have done a good action," said the Prince. And the little Swallow began to think, and then he fell asleep. Thinking always made him sleepy.
When day broke he flew down to the river and had a bath. "What a remarkable phenomenon," said the Professor of Ornithology as he was passing over the bridge. "A swallow in winter!" And he wrote a long letter about it to the local newspaper. Every one quoted it, it was full of so many words that they could not understand.
"To-night I go to Egypt," said the Swallow, and he was in high spirits at the prospect. He visited all the public monuments, and sat a long time on top of the church steeple. Wherever he went the Sparrows chirruped, and said to each other, "What a distinguished stranger!" so he enjoyed himself very much.
When the moon rose he flew back to the Happy Prince. "Have you any commissions for Egypt?" he cried; "I am just starting."
"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "will you not stay with me one night longer?"
"I am waited for in Egypt," answered the Swallow. "To-morrow my friends will fly up to the Second Cataract. The river-horse couches there among the bulrushes, and on a great granite throne sits the God Memnon. All night long he watches the stars, and when the morning star shines he utters one cry of joy, and then he is silent. At noon the yellow lions come down to the water's edge to drink. They have eyes like green beryls, and their roar is louder than the roar of the cataract."
"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "far away across the city I see a young man in a garret. He is leaning over a desk covered with papers, and in a tumbler by his side there is a bunch of withered violets. His hair is brown and crisp, and his lips are red as a pomegranate, and he has large and dreamy eyes. He is trying to finish a play for the Director of the Theatre, but he is too cold to write any more. There is no fire in the grate, and hunger has made him faint."
"I will wait with you one night longer," said the Swallow, who really had a good heart. "Shall I take him another ruby?"
"Alas! I have no ruby now," said the Prince; "my eyes are all that I have left. They are made of rare sapphires, which were brought out of India a thousand years ago. Pluck out one of them and take it to him. He will sell it to the jeweller, and buy food and firewood, and finish his play."
"Dear Prince," said the Swallow, "I cannot do that"; and he began to weep.
"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "do as I command you."
So the Swallow plucked out the Prince's eye, and flew away to the student's garret. It was easy enough to get in, as there was a hole in the roof. Through this he darted, and came into the room. The young man had his head buried in his hands, so he did not hear the flutter of the bird's wings, and when he looked up he found the beautiful sapphire lying on the withered violets.
"I am beginning to be appreciated," he cried; "this is from some great admirer. Now I can finish my play," and he looked quite happy.
The next day the Swallow flew down to the harbour. He sat on the mast of a large vessel and watched the sailors hauling big chests out of the hold with ropes. "Heave a-hoy!" they shouted as each chest came up. "I am going to Egypt!" cried the Swallow, but nobody minded, and when the moon rose he flew back to the Happy Prince.
"I am come to bid you good-bye," he cried.
"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "will you not stay with me one night longer?"
"It is winter," answered the Swallow, "and the chill snow will soon be here. In Egypt the sun is warm on the green palm-trees, and the crocodiles lie in the mud and look lazily about them. My companions are building a nest in the Temple of Baalbec, and the pink and white doves are watching them, and cooing to each other. Dear Prince, I must leave you, but I will never forget you, and next spring I will bring you back two beautiful jewels in place of those you have given away. The ruby shall be redder than a red rose, and the sapphire shall be as blue as the great sea."
"In the square below," said the Happy Prince, "there stands a little match-girl. She has let her matches fall in the gutter, and they are all spoiled. Her father will beat her if she does not bring home some money, and she is crying. She has no shoes or stockings, and her little head is bare. Pluck out my other eye and give it to her, and her father will not beat her."
"I will stay with you one night longer," said the Swallow, "but I cannot pluck out your eye. You would be quite blind then."
"Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow," said the Prince, "do as I command you."
So he plucked out the Prince's other eye, and darted down with it. He swooped past the match-girl, and slipped the jewel into the palm of her hand. "What a lovely bit of glass!" cried the little girl; and she ran home, laughing.
Then the Swallow came back to the Prince. "You are blind now," he said, "so I will stay with you always."
"No, little Swallow," said the poor Prince, "you must go away to Egypt."
"I will stay with you always," said the Swallow, and he slept at the Prince's feet.
All the next day he sat on the Prince's shoulder, and told him stories of what he had seen in strange lands. He told him of the red ibises, who stand in long rows on the banks of the Nile, and catch gold-fish in their beaks; of the Sphinx, who is as old as the world itself, and lives in the desert, and knows everything; of the merchants, who walk slowly by the side of their camels and carry amber beads in their hands; of the King of the Mountains of the Moon, who is as black as ebony, and worships a large crystal; of the great green snake that sleeps in a palm tree, and has twenty priests to feed it with honey-cakes; and of the pygmies who sail over a big lake on large flat leaves, and are always at war with the butterflies.
"Dear little Swallow," said the Prince, "you tell me of marvellous things, but more marvellous than anything is the suffering of men and of women. There is no Mystery so great as Misery. Fly over my city, little Swallow, and tell me what you see there."
So the Swallow flew over the great city, and saw the rich making merry in their beautiful houses, while the beggars were sitting at the gates. He flew into dark lanes, and saw the white faces of starving children looking out listlessly at the black streets. Under the archway of a bridge two little boys were lying in one another's arms to try and keep themselves warm. "How hungry we are!" they said. "You must not lie here," shouted the Watchman, and they wandered out into the rain.
Then he flew back and told the Prince what he had seen.
"I am covered with fine gold," said the Prince, "you must take it off, leaf by leaf, and give it to my poor; the living always think that gold can make them happy."
Leaf after leaf of the fine gold the Swallow picked off, till the Happy Prince looked quite dull and grey. Leaf after leaf of the fine gold he brought to the poor, and the children's faces grew rosier, and they laughed and played games in the street. "We have bread now!" they cried.
Then the snow came, and after the snow came the frost. The streets looked as if they were made of silver, they were so bright and glistening; long icicles like crystal daggers hung down from the eaves of the houses, everybody went about in furs, and the little boys wore scarlet caps and skated on the ice.
The poor little Swallow grew colder and colder, but he would not leave the Prince, he loved him too well. He picked up crumbs outside the baker's door when the baker was not looking, and tried to keep himself warm by flapping his wings.
But at last he knew that he was going to die. He had just strength to fly up to the Prince's shoulder once more. "Good-bye, dear Prince!" he murmured, "will you let me kiss your hand?"
"I am glad that you are going to Egypt at last, little Swallow," said the Prince, "you have stayed too long here; but you must kiss me on the lips, for I love you."
"It is not to Egypt that I am going," said the Swallow. "I am going to the House of Death. Death is the brother of Sleep, is he not?"
And he kissed the Happy Prince on the lips, and fell down dead at his feet.
At that moment a curious crack sounded inside the statue, as if something had broken. The fact is that the leaden heart had snapped right in two. It certainly was a dreadfully hard frost.
Early the next morning the Mayor was walking in the square below in company with the Town Councillors. As they passed the column he looked up at the statue: "Dear me! how shabby the Happy Prince looks!" he said.
"How shabby, indeed!" cried the Town Councillors, who always agreed with the Mayor; and they went up to look at it.
"The ruby has fallen out of his sword, his eyes are gone, and he is golden no longer," said the Mayor; "in fact, he is little better than a beggar!"
"Little better than a beggar," said the Town Councillors.
"And here is actually a dead bird at his feet!" continued the Mayor. "We must really issue a proclamation that birds are not to be allowed to die here." And the Town Clerk made a note of the suggestion.
So they pulled down the statue of the Happy Prince. "As he is no longer beautiful he is no longer useful," said the Art Professor at the University.
Then they melted the statue in a furnace, and the Mayor held a meeting of the Corporation to decide what was to be done with the metal. "We must have another statue, of course," he said, "and it shall be a statue of myself."
"Of myself," said each of the Town Councillors, and they quarrelled. When I last heard of them they were quarrelling still.
"What a strange thing!" said the overseer of the workmen at the foundry. "This broken lead heart will not melt in the furnace. We must throw it away." So they threw it on a dust-heap where the dead Swallow was also lying.
"Bring me the two most precious things in the city," said God to one of His Angels; and the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird.
"You have rightly chosen," said God, "for in my garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing for evermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me."
W HO comes hurrying through the door, hugging her little pellet of clay so tightly under her chin? It is Lady Wasp of the slender waist. She is on her way to the corner of the shed up there under the roof. Now see, she has stopped. What is she doing? Pretty wasp in the brown dress, tell us what you are doing up there under the roof?
No, there is no spider web up there under the roof in the corner of the shed. She is very busy and is singing at her work. She has put down her pellet of clay and is now spreading it out flat and smooth. Presently, she has used it all up and needs more to go on with. More clay, eh? Off she goes through the open doorway. Follow her who follow can.
Theodore watched the wasp fly back and forth to the corner of the shed, always bringing in a little ball under her head, and always going away empty. Then he thought he would ask Uncle Will about it—Uncle Will, who knew everything.
"Let us see about this," said Uncle Will, and hand in hand they went to the shed and walked in and waited. Ah, yes, there she comes. "Zzzzz"—she is at work.
"Let us get up on the workbench," said Uncle Will; and so
they did, and stood quite close to where the wasp was
working. She seemed doubtful about it at first and flew
about Uncle Willís face in a threatening manner, but he kept
very still and finally
she flew away. When she came back,
she must have thought that Uncle Will had two heads, and she
Soon she got so used to Uncle Will with Theodore sitting on
his shoulder, for that was what the
"How she jerks her wings," said Theodore, "every time she walks or stops working."
"Yes," said Uncle Will, "she is very fond of flirting her wings; perhaps she is proud of them and wants everybody to be sure and see them. I have noticed that this kind of wasp always behaves that way."
"And now she has daubed the clay all over the corner of the shed!" exclaimed Theodore.
"Yes," said Uncle Will, "she is sometimes called the
They watched her come and go, bringing the little mud balls and spreading them out, all the time she was at work buzzing in a high key as though very much excited.
"She is enjoying it," said Uncle Will; "all the little living things that make nests for their children love to do it."
"Is she making a nest then?" asked Theodore.
When Uncle Willís back was tired with holding Theodore on his shoulder, they went away and came again after a while, Uncle Will standing on the bench and Theodore perched up on his shoulder as before. Thus they did day after day and watched the nest grow.
"She is making a little cave with a rounded top!" cried Theodore at last.
"Yes," said Uncle Will. "She is building a fine domed vault.
Young wasps are
"Did we live in caves?" asked Theodore, opening his eyes in astonishment.
"Yes and no," said Uncle Will, "our ancestors did a few million years before we came to it."
"Iím glad," said Theodore, "that we waited to be born until grandfather had built our dear old house with the big stone fireplaces."
"So am I," agreed Uncle Will, heartily. "Now see how fast Pelopaeus is putting on that roof, she will soon have it done."
"Why do you call her Pelopaeus, Uncle Will?"
"Stop kicking me, you young
"Am I kicking you?" and Theodore threw back his head and laughed. "I forgot I was on your back, and so was just kicking."
"Well, quit it and stop choking me too."
"Oh, Uncle Will, you know perfectly well I am only hugging you"; and Theodore hugged tighter than ever, while Uncle Will made believe fall over, and nearly spilled them both off the bench.
"Why did you call her Pelopaeus?" asked Theodore as soon as he could stop laughing.
"I called her Pelopaeus because that is her name," said
Uncle Will, looking solemnly at Theodore. "At least it is
the name of the part of the wasp family to which she
belongs. Wise men named her that because they had to name
her something. Pelopaeus comes from the Greek and means
"Why didnít they just say dark-faced then and done with it?"
"Because they were so wise, you foolish young cave-dweller.
Scientific people speak
in terms that everybody can
understand. When you say Pelopaeus all the scientific
people, whether they are French or German or Spanish or
Norwegian or any other nationality, know what you mean,
while if you said
"But why call her
"Because you can see for yourself she is
"Oh, how nice!" said Theodore, forgetting and kicking again. "How nice," he went on after they had both stopped laughing; "just like people. Some have white faces, Indians are red, and the Chinese are yellow."
"And different races have different features, just as the wasps have different facial markings—but now be quiet, for here she comes."
"She lays it on, now this way, now that," said Theodore, leaning out very close to the busy wasp, who was so used to their presence that she did not mind them at all.
"See, the top of the nest looks as if it had been made of strips of mud braided together."
"So it does," said Uncle Will, leaning still closer to look more carefully. "What a bright red nest it is!" he added.
"That is because it is made of red clay," whispered Theodore.
"Just so," said Uncle Will; "once I saw some Pelopaeus nests that were nearly white—like fine china nests, you know. And sometimes wasps make their nests of grey mud, sometimes of yellow, and sometimes of black, yes, I have seen black waspís nests, it all depends upon the kind of mud they find."
"She just loves to work," said Theodore, watching Pelopaeus.
"Yes, it is natural to want to work," answered Uncle Will. "Now this little mud-dauber is—let me see—she isnít a carpenter, what is she?"
"She must be a mason," said Theodore, remembering the man who had mended the chimney a few days before.
"She is, with her tongue for a trowel," said Uncle Will.
"And she uses mud instead of plaster," added Theodore.
"That is so, and I think she is a very clever little body to do so good a job with nothing to work with but her own little legs and jaws."
Walla Walla, Paw Paw, Kalamazoo,
Honolulu, Altoona, Amarillo, Backoo.
Metropolis, Thermopolis, Minneapolis, St. Paul,
Tallahassee, Waxahachie, Wichita Falls.
Winnemucca, Chattanooga, Cincinnati, Ashtabula,
Kokomo, Natchez, Belzoni, Pascagoula.
Bug Tussle, Monkeys Eyebrow, Worms, Duck,
Zap, Zip City, Pluck, Gluck, Keokuk.
Spot, Dot, Twodot, It,
Bingo, Mingo, Lingo, Grit.
Ypsilanti, Yeehaw Junction, Yazoo City, Phlox,
Ho-Ho-Kus, Hackensack, Pepperbox.
Great Neck, Mossy Head, Wounded Knee,
Tuscaloosa, Bogalusa, Kankakee.
Nazareth, Bethlehem, Christmas, Zion,
Cripple Creek, Licking Creek, Slippery Rock, Rion.
Pawnee, Shawnee, Shoshone, Sioux,
Waters, Waterfall, Water Pipe, Waterloo.
Waterlily, Ty Ty, Pahrump, Missoula,
Picayune, Natchitoches, Ponchatoula.
Eureka, Uneeda, Hoodoo, Pee Dee,
Annapolis, Annandale, Washington, D.C
WEEK 27 |
It was in the year of our Lord 540 that Saint Benedict was born at Spoleto in Italy, and he was only a boy of sixteen on the night when our story begins.
Such a cold night it was. Piercing wind swept over the mountains, whistling through the pine-trees, and hurrying on to the great city of Rome that lay in the plains below. It was cold enough in the city where the people could take shelter in their houses, and sit warming their hands over their little pots of fire, but out on the bare hillside it was even worse. For the icy breath of the winter wind, which had come far over the snow, swept into every nook and corner as if determined to search out any summer warmth that might be lingering in a sheltered corner.
And there in a cave high up among the rocks, a boy sat listening to the wind, and thinking of many things, as he tried to wrap his worn old cloak closer round him.
He was a tall thin lad, with sad dreaming eyes, and a face already sharpened by want and suffering. The cave in which he sat had little in it, except a heap of dried leaves which served him for a bed, and it was difficult to imagine how any one could live in so dreary and comfortless a place, so far from any other human being.
But he was thinking of a very different home, as he sat shivering in the cold that night. Only a year ago he had lived in a beautiful palace, where everything was pleasant and warm and bright. His father was the lord of the country around, and he, the only son of the house, had everything that he could want. They were all proud of him, he was so clever and brilliant, and as soon as he was old enough he was sent to study in Rome, that he might become a great lawyer.
There the boy's eyes saw a different scene—the great city of Rome, where all was gaiety and pleasure, where all pleased the eye, the ear, and the taste, but where, alas, so much wickedness dwelt as well. He had tried to shut his eyes to things he did not wish to see, but day by day the sights and sounds around him, the talk of his companions, and the things they thought so pleasant had become hateful to him. And one day he had stolen secretly away from Rome, leaving everything behind, determined to go away into a desert place and live alone. This it seemed to him was the only way of truly serving God, to learn to deny himself in everything and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
A tender smile came over the boy's face as the next picture rose before his eyes. True he had left all and gone into the wilderness, but love could not so easily be left behind, and his old nurse had found out a way of following him, and would not be denied the pleasure of serving him and caring for his wants; even begging food, from door to door, that she might prepare a dainty meal for him. It had been very pleasant, but its very pleasantness had warned him that he must deny himself still further. So he had once more stolen away, when his old nurse was asleep and had hidden himself in the cave among the rocks of Subiaco. Here he was indeed alone, and the only food he had was a little bread which a kind old hermit gave him daily, and his only drink the clear water of the mountain streams.
And here he seemed to live with God alone, seeing no one but the kind old hermit who brought him his daily bread. He was happy and peaceful, never ceasing to pray for those who in the busy world might forget to pray for themselves.
But this night the thoughts of past days were troubling him. And as he sat there listening to the wind he began to long for the things he had left behind. One beautiful face especially grew clearer than the rest, and smiling upon him beckoned him back to the pleasures and comforts and earthly joys he had put away from him.
With a cry he sprang to his feet and rushed out of the cave. For a moment he felt as if his feet must carry him down the steep mountain-side, over the plain and back to the beautiful city; and then he stood still, and with a prayer for help to overcome this temptation of the Evil One, he threw himself into a thicket of thorny briars that grew by the side of the cave. There he rolled over and over until he was torn and bleeding; then slowly returning to the cave he lay down upon his bed of leaves, peaceful and contented. The evil thoughts had fled, the face that tempted him had vanished, and Satan was conquered. So Benedict began his life of self-denial and solitary prayer. Years passed by and in spite of the loneliness of the place and the few people who ever passed by that way, it began to be known that one of God's saints lived in the mountain cave. The shepherds who fed their flocks on the lower hills would bring him little offerings of milk or cheese and ask his blessing, or perhaps a prayer for one who was sick. And gradually people began to call him their saint of the mountain, and to come to him for help in all their troubles. Thus the fame of his goodness spread wider and wider, until a company of monks who lived some way off sent and besought him to come and live with them and be their head.
Benedict was grieved to think of leaving his little cell which he had grown to love, and the simple mountain people, who so often came to him in their need. But he thought this was a call he ought to obey, so he sorrowfully set out and journeyed many miles till he came to the convent of the brothers.
It was all very strange to him after the stillness of his mountain cell, and he could not accustom himself to hearing voices all day long and to seeing so many faces. Still he strove to do his duty and soon made many changes in the convent life. He told the brothers plainly that there were many comforts they must put away, and above all that they must eat less and work more.
Now the brothers did not like this at all, and they began to repent that they had asked so great a saint to come and rule over them, for he made their rule so hard and strict, that few of them cared to keep it.
Then one day a strange thing happened. The brothers were all dining together, and Benedict was silently eating his portion, his thoughts far away in the little mountain cell at Subiaco, when some one touched his arm and offered him a cup of wine. Benedict turned and looked searchingly into the brother's face, and then with upraised hand made the sign of the cross over the cup. Instantly it fell broken to the ground, and the wine was spilt upon the floor, for there had been poison in the cup, which the holy sign had destroyed.
Then Benedict looked round at the company of brothers, who sat with downcast eyes, ashamed and silent, and, without a word, he rose and left them. He returned, alone as he had come, back to his mountain home, where instead of human voices there was the song of the birds, where the wild flowers looked at him with pure, friendly faces, and even the wild animals did not count him their enemy and would do him no harm.
Here he hoped once more to live quite alone, but one by one men came and built huts close to his cave, that they might be near so great a saint, and before long there was a great company living around him.
Benedict's fame had spread even to Rome, and two of the Roman nobles sent their sons to be taught by him. One was only five years old and the other twelve, and it seemed a hard life for such children. But Benedict cared for them and watched over them, and they loved him as if he had been their own father.
And after all life was very pleasant on the mountain-side, when the sun shone and lessons and prayers were over. They could play among the pine-trees and chase the goats over the rocks, and when the sun grew too hot creep back into the cave to rest. In spring there were the first flowers to hunt for, and they would come back with eager hands filled with violets and mountain anemones. And in autumn there were nuts and berries to be gathered, which they laid up like young squirrels for their winter store.
And among the daily duties there was nothing they liked so well as to go down to the lake to fetch water, when the mountain springs had run dry. One day it was the little one's turn to do this, and as he was leaning over, his foot slipped, and he fell into the lake, and before he could utter a cry the water closed over his head.
At that very moment Benedict, who was kneeling in prayer on the hill above, saw a vision of the boy's danger, and hastily sent the elder lad down to the lake to help the child.
He never stayed to question why he was sent, but sped down the mountain-side, and without a moment's delay threw himself into the lake, hoping to be able to reach the little dark head that had risen above the water for the last time. And lo! he found that the water grew firm beneath his feet, and he walked as if he was on dry land, and lifting the child, carried him safely ashore.
When Benedict saw that so many other hermits had taken up their abode on the mountain, he determined to form them into a company of brothers, and give them a rule to live by, and by and by they built a little chapel where they could meet for daily service.
Now, strangely enough, every evening at the hour of prayer, one young monk became restless and uneasy, and would steal silently out of the chapel and disappear down the hillside. None of the brothers could think what made him do this; but night after night the same thing happened just when prayers were about to begin. All were troubled and disturbed, till at last they went to Benedict, and asked him what it could mean. Then the saint promised to watch, and that very evening he saw what no other eyes had seen.
Into the chapel came a little demon black as coal, and he seized the robe of the poor young monk, and dragged him out of the door. And though the demon was so tiny he was stronger than the monk, and easily led him swiftly away out of sound of the chapel bell.
Then Benedict followed, and touching the monk with his rod, bade the demon begone and trouble him no longer. And after that the young monk stayed in the chapel with the rest, and the demon was seen no more.
It seemed as if Benedict must always suffer from the malice of evil brothers, who disliked his strict rule; and even in his own mountain home the danger followed him. This time the poison was put into a loaf of bread; but Benedict knew that it was there, and while the wicked monk who offered it to him watched with evil eye, hoping to see him eat it, he turned to a wood near by, where a young raven sat. "Come hither," said Benedict, holding out the loaf towards the raven, "come hither, and take this bread and carry it where the poison that is hidden within can do no harm."
And the story tells us that the raven instantly obeyed, and carried off the loaf. And ere long Death, more powerful than the raven, carried off that wicked monk, so that the poison which lurked in his evil heart could no longer do harm to any one.
It troubled Benedict greatly about this time to hear that not very far off on Monte Cassino there was a heathen temple where the people worshipped false gods, and were living in darkness and sin.
It seemed terrible that such a thing should be suffered in a Christian land, so Benedict made up his mind to go himself and force the people to listen to him.
It was a strange contrast to see him in his coarse, poor robe and thin wan face standing preaching among the crowd of gay pleasure-seekers, who cared for nothing but eating and drinking and making merry. They could not understand why any one should choose to be poor, and suffer pain and hunger for the sake of any god.
But as Benedict taught them day by day, the majesty of his face and the solemn notes in his voice forced them to listen half unwillingly. Then, as they began to learn about the true God, they saw that the gods they had worshipped were false, and they pulled down their temple, and built two chapels on the place where it had stood.
Here, too, Benedict built the first great monastery which was called after him; and after this the brothers began to be known by his name, and were called Benedictines.
But the Evil One saw with great rage that Benedict was taking away his servants and destroying his temples, and he tried in every way to hinder the work. Once when the workmen were trying to raise a stone they found it impossible to move it, though they worked hard all day. At last, in despair, they besought Benedict to come to help them.
As soon as he came he saw at once what was the matter, for on the stone sat a little black demon laughing at the efforts of the workmen, knowing they could never move the stone while he chose to sit there.
"Get you gone, messenger of Satan," cried Benedict.
And with a howl of rage the imp fled, and the stone was lifted easily into its place.
Upon a certain day, not long after the monastery was built, as Benedict was praying in the chapel of the convent, one of the brothers came to tell him that a great company of soldiers were coming up the hill, and at their head was Totila, king of the Goths, who had sent a messenger to ask the saint to receive him.
Benedict, who cared little for earthly kings, was yet too courteous to refuse any such request, so he went out to where the company was gathered on the mountain-side.
The rough soldiers stood with heads uncovered, and from their midst came one who wore a crown and sandals of gold and a kingly robe. He knelt before the saint, and said in a loud, clear voice:
"I, Totila, king of the Goths, have come to crave thy blessing, father, for thy fame hath spread even to the wild north country where I reign."
The brothers, crowding behind Benedict, eager to see these curious strangers, were surprised to hear no answering words of welcome fall from the lips of the saint. And still more surprised were they when Benedict pointed an accusing finger at the glittering crown that shone on the king's head, and said:
"Why dost thou bear upon thy head the sign of royalty which belongs not to thy station? And why have thy lips framed this deceit? Go to thy master, and bid him come to me in truth, and think not that I could mistake a servant for a king."
And to the amazement of all, the real king, who had disguised his armour-bearer to test the power of the saint, came quickly forward, and with no royal robe or golden crown, knelt low before the saint, confessing all, and praying to be forgiven. He was sure now that this was indeed a servant of God, and he listened humbly while Benedict reproved him for his many sins, and warned him of the fate that awaited him.
And so the years passed on, bringing much honour and earthly renown to him who had once lived a lonely boy upon the wild mountain-side.
Things had changed since those early days. He could no longer live quite alone as he had once loved to do, for the world had followed him even into the wilderness. But his heart was as pure and his purpose as strong as when he was a lonely boy seeking only to serve God.
Perhaps the one great pleasure of his earthly life was the yearly visit he paid to his sister Scholastica, who had for many years come to live near him. She had formed a little company of nuns, who strove to live as the brothers were living, working and praying and denying themselves all earthly pleasures.
And as it was a great delight to Benedict to visit his sister, so to Scholastica the day of his coming was the happiest day of all the year. The only thing that grieved her was that the golden hours of that bright day seemed to fly faster than any other, while she listened to his words of counsel and advice, and told him all her troubles.
As it drew near the time for one of these yearly visits, Scholastica began to long for her brother as she had never longed before. Something told her that these bright summer days were to be the last she should spend on earth; and the longing to see and talk to her brother grew almost more than she could bear.
And when he came the hours slipped past even faster than was their wont, and before she could realise it the time had come for him to go. There was so much still to say, and she needed his help so sorely, that she prayed him to wait a few hours longer. But Benedict was persuaded that it was his duty to set off, and duty to him ever came before all else. He gently told her it could not be; that he must return to the brothers that night.
But while he spoke, Scholastica was not listening to his words, nor heeding what he said. With her whole heart she was praying God that He would grant her this one request, and prevent her brother from leaving her so soon.
And as she prayed the light suddenly died out of the sky, great clouds arose and, before Benedict could set out, a terrible storm began to rage. The thunder pealed overhead, the hail came down in a blinding shower, and it was impossible for any one to leave the shelter of the house.
Thus God answered the prayer of Scholastica, filling her heart with thankfulness. And afterwards the heart of Benedict was also filled with gratitude, for not many days later he saw in a vision the soul of his sister flying like a white dove up to heaven's gate, and he knew he should see her on earth no more.
Benedict had lived a long, hard life, eating but little, suffering cold, and denying himself in all things. But though his spirit only grew stronger and brighter as time went on, his body was worn out, and at last he prepared to lay it aside, as men lay aside the worn-out robe which has grown thread-bare. And as he had longed to live alone, so, when death came, he prayed to be carried to the little chapel, and there to be left before the altar alone with God. Thus Benedict the Blessed went home at last, leaving his tired body in God's house, while his spirit returned to God who gave it.
T HAT same morning early, the princess woke in a terrible fright. There was a hideous noise in her room—of creatures snarling and hissing and racketing about as if they were fighting. The moment she came to herself, she remembered something she had never thought of again—what her grandmother told her to do when she was frightened. She immediately took off her ring and put it under her pillow. As she did so, she fancied she felt a finger and thumb take it gently from under her palm. "It must be my grandmother!" she said to herself, and the thought gave her such courage that she stopped to put on her dainty little slippers before running from the room. While doing this, she caught sight of a long cloak of sky-blue, thrown over the back of a chair by her bedside. She had never seen it before, but it was evidently waiting for her. She put it on, and then, feeling with the forefinger of her right hand, soon found her grandmother's thread, which she proceeded at once to follow, expecting it would lead her straight up the old stair. When she reached the door, she found it went down and ran along the floor, so that she had almost to crawl in order to keep a hold of it. Then, to her surprise, and somewhat to her dismay, she found that instead of leading her toward the stair it turned in quite the opposite direction. It led her through certain narrow passages toward the kitchen, turning aside ere she reached it, and guiding her to a door which communicated with a small back yard. Some of the maids were already up, and this door was standing open. Across the yard the thread still ran along the ground, until it brought her to a door in the wall which opened upon the mountain-side. When she had passed through, the thread rose to about half her height, and she could hold it with ease as she walked. It led her straight up the mountain.
The cause of her alarm was less frightful than she supposed. The cook's great black cat, pursued by the housekeeper's terrier, had bounced against her bedroom door, which had not been properly fastened, and the two had burst into her room together and commenced a battle royal. How the nurse came to sleep through it, was a mystery, but I suspect the old lady had something to do with it.
It was a clear warm morning. The wind blew deliciously over the mountain-side. Here and there she saw a late primrose, but she did not stop to call on them. The sky was mottled with small clouds. The sun was not yet up, but some of their fluffy edges had caught his light and hung out orange and gold-colored fringes upon the air. The dew lay in round drops upon the leaves, and hung like tiny diamonds from the blades of grass about her path.
"How lovely that bit of gossamer is!" thought the princess, looking at a long undulating line that shone at some distance from her up the hill. It was not the time for gossamers though; and Irene soon discovered that it was her own thread she saw shining on before her in the light of the morning. It was leading her she knew not whither; but she had never in her life been out before sunrise, and everything was so fresh and cool and lively and full of something coming, that she felt too happy to be afraid of anything.
After leading her up a good distance, the thread turned to the left, and down the path upon which she and Lootie had met Curdie. But she never thought of that, for now in the morning light, with its far outlook over the country, no path could have been more open and airy and cheerful. She could see the road almost to the horizon, along which she had so often watched her king-papa and his troop come shining, with the bugle-blast cleaving the air before them; and it was like a companion to her. Down and down the path went, then up, and then down, and then up again, getting rugged and more rugged as it went; and still along the path went the silvery thread, and still along the thread went Irene's little rosy-tipped forefinger. By and by she came to a little stream that jabbered and prattled down the hill, and up the side of the stream went both path and thread. And still the path grew rougher and steeper, and the mountain grew wilder, till Irene began to think she was going a very long way from home; and when she turned to look back, she saw that the level country had vanished and the rough bare mountain had closed in about her. But still on went the thread, and on went the princess. Everything around her was getting brighter and brighter as the sun came nearer; till at length his first rays all at once alighted on the top of a rock before her, like some golden creature fresh from the sky. Then she saw that the little stream ran out of a hole in that rock, that the path did not go past the rock, and that the thread was leading her straight up to it. A shudder ran through her from head to foot when she found that the thread was actually taking her into the hole out of which the stream ran. It ran out babbling joyously, but she had to go in.
She did not hesitate. Right into the hole she went, which was high enough to let her walk without stooping. For a little way there was a brown glimmer, but at the first turn it all but ceased, and before she had gone many paces she was in total darkness. Then she began to be frightened indeed. Every moment she kept feeling the thread backward, and as she went farther and farther into the darkness of the great hollow mountain, she kept thinking more and more about her grandmother, and all that she had said to her, and how kind she had been, and how beautiful she was, and all about her lovely room, and the fire of roses, and the great lamp that sent its light through stone walls. And she became more and more sure that the thread could not have gone there of itself, and that her grandmother must have sent it. But it tried her dreadfully when the path went down very steep, and especially when she came to places where she had to go down rough stairs, and even sometimes a ladder. Through one narrow passage after another, over lumps of rock and sand and clay, the thread guided her, until she came to a small hole through which she had to creep. Finding no change on the other side—"Shall I ever get back?" she thought, over and over again, wondering at herself that she was not ten times more frightened, and often feeling as if she were only walking in the story of a dream. Sometimes she heard the noise of water, a dull gurgling inside the rock. By and by she heard the sounds of blows, which came nearer and nearer; but again they grew duller and almost died away. In a hundred directions she turned, obedient to the guiding thread.
At last she spied a dull red shine, and came up to the mica-window, and thence away and round about, and right into a cavern, where glowed the red embers of a fire. Here the thread began to rise. It rose as high as her head, and higher still. What should she do if she lost her hold? She was pulling it down! She might break it! She could see it far up, glowing as red as her fire-opal in the light of the embers.
But presently she came to a huge heap of stones, piled in a slope against the wall of the cavern. On these she climbed, and soon recovered the level of the thread—only however to find, the next moment, that it vanished through the heap of stones, and left her standing on it, with her face to the solid rock. For one terrible moment, she felt as if her grandmother had forsaken her. The thread which the spiders had spun far over the seas, which her grandmother had sat in the moonlight and spun again for her, which she had tempered in the rose-fire, and tied to her opal ring, had left her—had gone where she could no longer follow it—had brought her into a horrible cavern, and there left her! She was forsaken indeed!
"When shall I wake?" she said to herself in an agony, but the same moment knew that it was no dream. She threw herself upon the heap, and began to cry. It was well she did not know what creatures, one of them with stone shoes on her feet, were lying in the next cave. But neither did she know who was on the other side of the slab.
At length the thought struck her, that at least she could follow the thread backward, and thus get out of the mountain, and home. She rose at once, and found the thread. But the instant she tried to feel it backward, it vanished from her touch. Forward, it led her hand up to the heap of stones—backward, it seemed nowhere. Neither could she see it as before in the light of the fire. She burst into a wailing cry, and again threw herself down on the stones.