WEEK 28 |
W HEN Tom awoke in the morning, he wondered where he was. He sat up and rubbed his eyes and looked around. Then he comprehended. It was the cool gray dawn, and there was a delicious sense of repose and peace in the deep pervading calm and silence of the woods. Not a leaf stirred; not a sound obtruded upon great Nature's meditation. Beaded dewdrops stood upon the leaves and grasses. A white layer of ashes covered the fire, and a thin blue breath of smoke rose straight into the air. Joe and Huck still slept.
Now, far away in the woods a bird called; another answered; presently the hammering of a woodpecker was heard. Gradually the cool dim gray of the morning whitened, and as gradually sounds multiplied and life manifested itself. The marvel of Nature shaking off sleep and going to work unfolded itself to the musing boy. A little green worm came crawling over a dewy leaf, lifting two-thirds of his body into the air from time to time and "sniffing around," then proceeding again—for he was measuring, Tom said; and when the worm approached him, of its own accord, he sat as still as a stone, with his hopes rising and falling, by turns, as the creature still came toward him or seemed inclined to go elsewhere; and when at last it considered a painful moment with its curved body in the air and then came decisively down upon Tom's leg and began a journey over him, his whole heart was glad—for that meant that he was going to have a new suit of clothes—without the shadow of a doubt a gaudy piratical uniform. Now a procession of ants appeared, from nowhere in particular, and went about their labors; one struggled manfully by with a dead spider five times as big as itself in its arms, and lugged it straight up a tree-trunk. A brown spotted lady-bug climbed the dizzy height of a grass-blade, and Tom bent down close to it and said, "Lady-bug, lady-bug, fly away home, your house is on fire, your children's alone," and she took wing and went off to see about it—which did not surprise the boy, for he knew of old that this insect was credulous about conflagrations, and he had practised upon its simplicity more than once. A tumblebug came next, heaving sturdily at its ball, and Tom touched the creature, to see it shut its legs against its body and pretend to be dead. The birds were fairly rioting by this time. A catbird, the Northern mocker, lit in a tree over Tom's head, and trilled out her imitations of her neighbors in a rapture of enjoyment; then a shrill jay swept down, a flash of blue flame, and stopped on a twig almost within the boy's reach, cocked his head to one side and eyed the strangers with a consuming curiosity; a gray squirrel and a big fellow of the "fox" kind came scurrying along, sitting up at intervals to inspect and chatter at the boys, for the wild things had probably never seen a human being before and scarcely knew whether to be afraid or not. All Nature was wide awake and stirring, now; long lances of sunlight pierced down through the dense foliage far and near, and a few butterflies came fluttering upon the scene.
Tom stirred up the other pirates and they all clattered away with a shout, and in a minute or two were stripped and chasing after and tumbling over each other in the shallow limpid water of the white sand-bar. They felt no longing for the little village sleeping in the distance beyond the majestic waste of water. A vagrant current or a slight rise in the river had carried off their raft, but this only gratified them, since its going was something like burning the bridge between them and civilization.
They came back to camp wonderfully refreshed, glad-hearted, and ravenous; and they soon had the camp-fire blazing up again. Huck found a spring of clear cold water close by, and the boys made cups of broad oak or hickory leaves, and felt that water, sweetened with such a wildwood charm as that, would be a good enough substitute for coffee. While Joe was slicing bacon for breakfast, Tom and Huck asked him to hold on a minute; they stepped to a promising nook in the river-bank and threw in their lines; almost immediately they had reward. Joe had not had time to get impatient before they were back again with some handsome bass, a couple of sun-perch and a small catfish—provisions enough for quite a family. They fried the fish with the bacon, and were astonished; for no fish had ever seemed so delicious before. They did not know that the quicker a fresh-water fish is on the fire after he is caught the better he is; and they reflected little upon what a sauce open-air sleeping, open-air exercise, bathing, and a large ingredient of hunger make, too.
They lay around in the shade, after breakfast, while Huck had a smoke, and then went off through the woods on an exploring expedition. They tramped gaily along, over decaying logs, through tangled underbrush, among solemn monarchs of the forest, hung from their crowns to the ground with a drooping regalia of grapevines. Now and then they came upon snug nooks carpeted with grass and jeweled with flowers.
They found plenty of things to be delighted with, but nothing to be astonished at. They discovered that the island was about three miles long and a quarter of a mile wide, and that the shore it lay closest to was only separated from it by a narrow channel hardly two hundred yards wide. They took a swim about every hour, so it was close upon the middle of the afternoon when they got back to camp. They were too hungry to stop to fish, but they fared sumptuously upon cold ham, and then threw themselves down in the shade to talk. But the talk soon began to drag, and then died. The stillness, the solemnity that brooded in the woods, and the sense of loneliness, began to tell upon the spirits of the boys. They fell to thinking. A sort of undefined longing crept upon them. This took dim shape, presently—it was budding homesickness. Even Finn the Red-Handed was dreaming of his doorsteps and empty hogsheads. But they were all ashamed of their weakness, and none was brave enough to speak his thought.
For some time, now, the boys had been dully conscious of a peculiar sound in the distance, just as one sometimes is of the ticking of a clock which he takes no distinct note of. But now this mysterious sound became more pronounced, and forced a recognition. The boys started, glanced at each other, and then each assumed a listening attitude. There was a long silence, profound and unbroken; then a deep, sullen boom came floating down out of the distance.
"What is it!" exclaimed Joe, under his breath.
"I wonder," said Tom in a whisper.
"Hark!" said Tom. "Listen—don't talk."
They waited a time that seemed an age, and then the same muffled boom troubled the solemn hush.
"Let's go and see."
They sprang to their feet and hurried to the shore toward the town. They parted the bushes on the bank and peered out over the water. The little steam ferryboat was about a mile below the village, drifting with the current. Her broad deck seemed crowded with people. There were a great many skiffs rowing about or floating with the stream in the neighborhood of the ferryboat, but the boys could not determine what the men in them were doing. Presently a great jet of white smoke burst from the ferryboat's side, and as it expanded and rose in a lazy cloud, that same dull throb of sound was borne to the listeners again.
"I know now!" exclaimed Tom; "somebody's drownded!"
"That's it!" said Huck; "they done that last summer, when Bill Turner got drownded; they shoot a cannon over the water, and that makes him come up to the top. Yes, and they take loaves of bread and put quicksilver in 'em and set 'em afloat, and wherever there's anybody that's drownded, they'll float right there and stop."
"Yes, I've heard about that," said Joe. "I wonder what makes the bread do that."
"Oh, it ain't the bread, so much," said Tom; "I reckon it's mostly what they say over it before they start it out."
"But they don't say anything over it," said Huck. "I've seen 'em and they don't."
"Well, that's funny," said Tom. "But maybe they say it to themselves. Of course they do. Anybody might know that."
The other boys agreed that there was reason in what Tom said, because an ignorant lump of bread, uninstructed by an incantation, could not be expected to act very intelligently when sent upon an errand of such gravity.
"By jings, I wish I was over there, now," said Joe.
"I do too," said Huck. "I'd give heaps to know who it is."
The boys still listened and watched. Presently a revealing thought flashed through Tom's mind, and he exclaimed:
"Boys, I know who's drownded—it's us!"
They felt like heroes in an instant. Here was a gorgeous triumph; they were missed; they were mourned; hearts were breaking on their account; tears were being shed; accusing memories of unkindnesses to these poor lost lads were rising up, and unavailing regrets and remorse were being indulged: and best of all, the departed were the talk of the whole town, and the envy of all the boys, as far as this dazzling notoriety was concerned. This was fine. It was worth while to be a pirate, after all.
As twilight drew on, the ferryboat went back to her accustomed
business and the skiffs disappeared. The pirates returned to camp. They
were jubilant with vanity over their new grandeur and the illustrious
trouble they were making. They caught fish, cooked supper and ate it,
and then fell to guessing at what the village was thinking and saying
about them; and the pictures they drew of the public distress on their
account were gratifying to look upon—from their point of view. But
when the shadows of night closed them in, they gradually ceased to
talk, and sat gazing into the fire, with their minds evidently
wandering elsewhere. The excitement was gone, now, and Tom and Joe
could not keep back thoughts of certain persons at home who were not
enjoying this fine frolic as much as they were. Misgivings came; they
grew troubled and unhappy; a sigh or two escaped, unawares. By and by
Joe timidly ventured upon a roundabout "feeler" as to how the others
might look upon a return to civilization—not right now,
Tom withered him with derision! Huck, being uncommitted as yet, joined in with Tom, and the waverer quickly "explained," and was glad to get out of the scrape with as little taint of chicken-hearted homesickness clinging to his garments as he could. Mutiny was effectually laid to rest for the moment.
As the night deepened, Huck began to nod, and presently to snore. Joe followed next. Tom lay upon his elbow motionless, for some time, watching the two intently. At last he got up cautiously, on his knees, and went searching among the grass and the flickering reflections flung by the camp-fire. He picked up and inspected several large semicylinders of the thin white bark of a sycamore, and finally chose two which seemed to suit him. Then he knelt by the fire and painfully wrote something upon each of these with his "red keel"; one he rolled up and put in his jacket pocket, and the other he put in Joe's hat and removed it to a little distance from the owner. And he also put into the hat certain school-boy treasures of almost inestimable value—among them a lump of chalk, an India-rubber ball, three fishhooks, and one of that kind of marbles known as a "sure 'nough crystal." Then he tiptoed his way cautiously among the trees till he felt that he was out of hearing, and straightway broke into a keen run in the direction of the sand-bar.
A marvellous thing now came to pass, for the children of France and Germany went on a crusade. Stephen, a French shepherd boy twelve years old, declared that Jesus had appeared to him and bidden him lead a company of children to rescue the Holy Sepulcher from the infidels. Other children joined him, and they went about from village to village, bearing crosses and candles, swinging censers, singing hymns, and crying "God wills it! God wills it!" Soon a great army of boys and girls, including the humblest shepherd lads and the children of wealthy nobles, started to march for the Holy Land. No one could stop them. The king bade them return to their homes, but they only cried the more, "God wills it!" They broke away from their friends, from the very arms of their parents. The older folk knew not what to think. Some said this was a work of Satan to destroy the children. Others believed that it was the will of God that where armed men had failed, innocent children should succeed; and they dared not hold them back lest they should be fighting against God.
In Germany, too, there was a boy preacher, one Nicholas; and he aroused the German children as Stephen aroused the French. The little German boys and girls set out, twenty thousand strong, many of them wearing long grey coats upon which crosses were sewn. They had broad-brimmed hats, and they carried the staffs of pilgrims. As they marched, they sang hymns. One of these has come down to us. It begins,
Fairest Lord Jesus,
Ruler of all nature.
But the way grew rougher and rougher. The air of the mountains was cold. They came to desert places where there was no food. Thousands died, and when the others reached the city of Genoa, they were only seven thousand. Still the children did not lose courage. God would open a way for them through the sea, they believed, and soon they would be in the Holy Land. They would tell the story of the good Jesus. The infidels would listen and would become His followers.
The Children Crossing the Alps
The morning came. They waited patiently on the shore at Genoa, but no path was opened through the sea. There is a tradition that part of the children sailed for Syria, but what became of them is not known. Some pressed on to Rome. They told the Pope about their journey and their sufferings. He said that it was of no use for them to try to reach Syria, but, as they were bound by their vows, they must go on a crusade when they were older.
By this time only a few children were left. Many had died, as has been said; some had been stolen or sold as slaves, and still others had stopped in one place or another. Nothing now remained but to suffer the long, hard journey home; and at last this, too, was ended. "Tell us of your wanderings. Where have you been?" begged their parents and friends; but all that the tired little crusaders could answer was, "We do not know."
Meanwhile, the French children, thirty thousand in all, had set out for Marseilles. Their way was less rough, but the heat of the summer was terrible. Many of the little ones had never been farther from their homes than some neighbouring village, and whenever they came in sight of a city wall or a castle, they would ask piteously, "Isn't that Jerusalem?" After a journey of three hundred miles, about twenty thousand of them came to Marseilles. "Let us stay here to-night," they begged, "and to-morrow God will open a way for us through the sea." No path was opened, and many started to return to their homes. At length two merchants offered to provide vessels for all who wished to go to the Holy Land. "We do it for the cause of God," they said, "and we ask no reward but your prayers." Then the children were happy. "This is the path through the sea," they cried joyfully. "This is what God promised us." Seven vessels full of the bravest of the children set sail to cross the blue Mediterranean. Eighteen years later, an old priest came to Europe, and told the sad ending of the story. Two of the seven vessels had been wrecked; but the hundreds of children on board the others had been carried to the coast of Africa and sold to the Mohammedans as slaves; for the generous men of Marseilles who had so kindly offered to carry them across the sea were slave traders. Not one of the seven shiploads of children ever saw his home again.
Clear and cool, clear and cool,
By laughing shallow, and dreaming pool;
Cool and clear, cool and clear,
By shining shingle, and foaming wear;
Under the crag where the ouzel sings,
And the ivied wall where the church bell rings,
Undefiled, for the undefiled;
Play by me, bathe in me, mother and child.
Dank and foul, dank and foul,
By the smoky town in its murky cowl;
Foul and dank, foul and dank,
By wharf and sewer and slimy bank;
Darker and darker the further I go,
Baser and baser the richer I grow;
Who dare sport with the sin-defiled?
Shrink from me, turn from me, mother and child.
Strong and free, strong and free,
The floodgates are open, away to the sea,
Free and strong, free and strong,
Cleansing my streams as I hurry along
To the golden sands, and the leaping bar,
And the taintless tide that awaits me afar,
As I lose myself in the infinite main,
Like a soul that has sinned and is pardoned again.
Undefiled, for the undefiled;
Play by me, bathe in me, mother and child.
WEEK 28 |
T HE British had hardly done fighting at home, when they had to fight with enemies abroad. They went to war with the Dutch, who at this time had a very famous admiral called Van Tromp. The English, too, had a famous admiral called Blake.
The Dutch and the British had several reasons for quarrelling. Each tried to spoil the trade of the other, and the Dutch would not acknowledge the new British Government. This made the Parliament very angry.
Several fierce battles were fought at sea, and when the Dutch won, Van Tromp hoisted a broom to his masthead, as a sign that he intended to sweep the British ships from the seas. Blake and the English were very angry at this. They built and manned more ships as fast as they could, and once more sailed out to fight the Dutch. When the two fleets met, the fiercest, longest battle of this sea war took place. For three days they fought, but in the end Blake was victorious and, bravely though he had fought, Van Tromp was obliged to lower his proud broom and sweep the remainder of his own fleet homeward.
It was now about four years since King Charles had been beheaded.
Cromwell was the strongest man in the country, yet no real ruler had been appointed, and the Rump Parliament was acting neither wisely nor well. Cromwell made up his mind to put an end to this.
So one day he marched to Parliament at the head of about three hundred of his soldiers. He himself went into the House, leaving some of his soldiers at the door, some in the lobby, and some on the stairs. He sat down in his usual place, and listened for some time to the talking. Then suddenly he rose up and began to speak.
He told the Parliament that the things which they did were unjust, that they were tyrants and worse. "But your hour hath come," he cried, "the Lord hath done with you," and putting on his hat, he stamped with his foot, and his soldiers rushed in.
"I will put an end to your babbling," he shouted, and at a signal from their master, the soldiers drove the members out of the hall, Cromwell calling out insulting names at them as they passed.
The Speaker refused to leave the chair, and tried to address the members, but in the noise and confusion he could not make himself heard. Then one of Cromwell's friends took him by the arm and forced him to go. In a few minutes the hall was cleared of every one except Cromwell's soldiers and followers.
On the table lay the mace. The mace is the sign of the dignity and the lawfulness of Parliament. It is carried before the Speaker as he enters and leaves the House, and lies on the table while the members talk together. It is a sign of law and order, just as the sceptre is the sign of royalty and rule. Cromwell did not like any form or ceremony. He thought it was foolish and wicked.
"Take away that bauble," he said angrily, pointing to the mace. So it was removed. Cromwell's friends then left the House, he himself coming last and locking the doors after him. This was the end of the Long Parliament. It had lasted for thirteen years.
Cromwell and his friends now set to work to form a new Parliament, and one more to their liking than the last had been. Instead of allowing the people to choose the members, Cromwell himself chose them. But this Parliament did not please him much better than the last, and in less than five months it was again dissolved.
Cromwell was now asked to become ruler. Some of his friends wished him to take the title of king, but he refused, chiefly because he knew that his greatest friends were the soldiers, and they hated the name of king. If he took that name he was sure that they would turn against him and become his worst enemies. So he became ruler under the title of Lord Protector.
Cromwell was not crowned and anointed as kings were. But there was a very solemn service held, when a beautiful purple robe was placed upon his shoulders, the sword of office buckled to his side, and the sceptre put into his hand. He was truly king in everything but name.
Cromwell was not only a king, but a very stern and autocratic one. He wanted his own way quite as much as the Stuarts had done, only he really thought of the good of the country, and the Stuarts thought only of themselves.
The troubles of the civil war now began to pass away, and under the stern rule of the Lord Protector, Britain began once more to be peaceful and prosperous at home, and famous abroad.
All the Protestants of Europe looked to Cromwell for help and protection, and so powerful was his name that he could always give help. Kings bowed and obeyed when Cromwell commanded, and Britain was famous as she had not been since the days of Elizabeth. Her soldiers were the best in the world. Her admirals won for her the name of mistress of the seas, a name which she has kept ever since.
Yet the man who had won this great place for Britain lived in terror of his life. He was a tyrant, and like all tyrants he was bitterly hated, and he knew it. Under his clothes he wore armour, he always carried weapons, and wherever he went, he was followed and surrounded by a strong bodyguard. No one ever knew where he would sleep, for he moved about from room to room in his great palace lest some one should attack him while he rested.
At last, worn out in body and brain, the great Lord
Protector died on
He first put arms into Religion's hand,
And tim'rous conscience unto courage mann'd;
The soldier taught that inward mail to wear,
And fearing God, how they should nothing fear;
Those strokes, he said, will pierce through all below,
Where those that strike from Heav'n fetch their blow.
Astonished armies did their flight prepare,
And cities strong were storméd by his prayer;
In all his wars needs must he triumph, when
He conquered God still ere he fought with men.
T HE watcher of wild animals never gets used to the sight of their mirthless sport. In all other respects animal play is entirely human.
A great deal of human play is serious—desperately serious on the football-field, and at the card-table, as when a lonely player is trying to kill time with solitaire.
I have watched a great ungainly hippopotamus for hours trying to do the same solemn thing by cuffing a croquet-ball back and forth from one end of his cage to the other. His keepers told me that without the plaything the poor caged giant would fret and worry himself to death. It was his game of solitaire. In all their games of rivalry the animals are serious as humans, and, forgetting the fun, often fall to fighting—a sad case, indeed. But brutes are brutes. We cannot expect anything better of the animals. Only this morning the whole flock of chickens in the hen-yard started suddenly on the wild flap to see which would beat to the back fence and wound up on the "line" in a free fight, two of the cockerels tearing the feathers from each other in a desperate set-to.
You have seen puppies fall out in the same human fashion, and kittens also, and older folk as well. I have seen a game of wood-tag among friendly gray squirrels come to a finish in a fight. As the crows pass over during the winter afternoon, you will notice their play—racing each other through the air, diving, swooping, cawing in their fun, when suddenly some one's temper snaps, and there is a mix-up in the air.
They can get angry, but they cannot laugh. I once saw what I thought was a twinkle of merriment, however, in an elephant's eye. It was at the circus several years ago. The keeper had just set down for one of the elephants a bucket of water which a perspiring youth had brought in. The big beast sucked it quietly up,—the whole of it,—swung gently around as if to thank the perspiring boy, then soused him, the whole bucketful! Everybody roared, and one of the other elephants joined in with trumpetings, so huge and jolly was the joke.
The elephant who played the trick looked solemn enough, except for a twitch at the lips and a glint in the eye. There is something of a smile about every elephant's lips, to be sure, and fun is so contagious that one should hesitate to say that he saw an elephant laugh. But if that elephant didn't laugh, it was not his fault.
From the elephant to the infusorian, the microscopic animal of a single cell known as the paramœcium, is a far cry—to the extreme opposite end of the animal kingdom, worlds apart. Yet I have seen Paramœcium caudatum at play in a drop of water under a compound microscope, as I have seen elephants at play in their big bath-tub at the zoölogical gardens.
Place a drop of stagnant water under your microscope and watch these atoms of life for yourself. Invisible to the naked eye, they are easily followed on the slide as they skate and whirl and chase one another to the boundaries of their playground and back again, first one of them "it," then another. They stop to eat, they slow up to divide their single-celled bodies into two cells, the two cells now two living creatures where a moment before they were but one, both of them swimming off immediately to feed and multiply and play.
Play seems to be as natural and as necessary to the wild animals as it is to human beings. Like us the animals play hardest while young, but as some human children never outgrow their youth and love of play, so there are old animals that never grow too fat nor too stiff nor too stupid to play.
The condition of the body has a great deal to do with the state of the spirit. The sleek, lithe otter could not possibly grow fat. He keeps in trim because he cannot help it, perhaps, but however that may be, he is a very boy for play, and even goes so far as to build himself a slide or chute for the fun of diving down it into the water.
A writer in one of the magazines tells of an otter in the New York Zoölogical Park that swam and dived with a round stone balanced on his head.
Building a slide is more than we children used to do, for we had ready-made for us grandfather's two big slanting cellar-doors, down which we slid and slid and slid till the wood was scoured white and slippery with the sliding. The otter loves to slide. Up he climbs on the bank, then down he goes—splash—into the stream. Up he climbs and down he goes—time after time, day after day. There is nothing like a slide, unless it is a cellar-door.
How much of a necessity to the otter is his play, one would like to know—what he would give up for it, and how he would do deprived of it. In the case of Pups, my neighbor's beautiful young collie, play seems more needful than food. There are no children, no one, to play with him there, so that the sight of my small boys sets him almost frantic.
His efforts to induce a hen or a rooster to play with him are pathetic. The hen cannot understand. She hasn't a particle of play in her anyhow, but Pups cannot get that through his head. He runs rapidly around her, drops on all fours flat, swings his tail, cocks his ears, looks appealingly and barks a few little cackle-barks, as nearly hen-like as he can bark them, then dashes off and whirls back—while the hen picks up another bug. She never sees Pups. The old white coon cat is better; but she is usually up the miff-tree. Pups steps on her, knocks her over, or otherwise offends, especially when he tags her out into the fields and spoils her hunting. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ought to send some child or puppy out to play with Pups of a Saturday.
I doubt if among the lower forms of animals play holds any such prominent place as with the dog and the keen-witted, intelligent otter. To catch these lower animals at play is a rare experience. One of our naturalists describes the game of "follow my leader," as he watched it played by a school of minnows—a most unusual record, but not at all hard to believe, for I saw recently, from the bridge in the Boston Public Garden, a school of goldfish playing at something very much like it.
This naturalist was lying stretched out upon an old bridge, watching the minnows through a large crack between the planks, when he saw one leap out of the water over a small twig floating at the surface. Instantly another minnow broke the water and flipped over the twig, followed by another and another, the whole school, as so many sheep, or so many children, following the leader over the twig.
The love of play seems to be one of the elemental needs of all life above the plants, and the games of us human children seem to have been played before the dry land was, when there were only water babies in the world, for certainly the fish never learned "follow my leader" from us. Nor did my young bees learn from us their game of "prisoners' base" which they play almost every summer noontime in front of the hives. And what is the game the flies play about the cord of the drop-light in the centre of the kitchen ceiling?
One of the most interesting animal games that I ever saw was played by a flock of butterflies on the very top of Mount Hood, whose pointed snow-piled peak looks down from the clouds over the whole vast State of Oregon.
Mount Hood is an ancient volcano, eleven thousand two hundred twenty-five feet high. Some seven thousand feet or more up, we came to "Tie-up Rock"—the place on the climb where the glacier snows lay before us and we were tied up to one another and all of us fastened by rope to the guide.
From this point to the peak, it was sheer deep snow. For the last eighteen hundred feet we clung to a rope that was anchored on the edge of the crater at the summit, and cut our steps as we climbed.
Once we had gained the peak, we lay down behind a pile of sulphurous rock, out of the way of the cutting wind, and watched the steam float up from the crater, with the widest world in view that I ever turned my eyes upon.
The draft pulled hard about the openings among the rock-piles, but hardest up a flue, or chimney, that was left in the edge of the crater-rim where parts of the rock had fallen away.
As we lay at the side of this flue, we soon discovered that butterflies were hovering about us; no, not hovering, but flying swiftly up between the rocks from somewhere down the flue. I could scarcely believe my eyes. What could any living thing be doing here?—and of all things, butterflies? This was three or four thousand feet above the last vestige of vegetation, a mere point of volcanic rock (the jagged edge-piece of an old crater) wrapped in eternal ice and snow, with sulphurous gases pouring over it, and across it blowing a wind that would freeze as soon as the sun was out of the sky.
But here were real butterflies. I caught two or three of them and found them to be vanessas (Vanessa californica ), a close relative of our mourning-cloak butterfly. They were all of one species, apparently, but what were they doing here?
Scrambling to the top of the piece of rock behind which I had been resting, I saw that the peak was alive with butterflies, and that they were flying—over my head, out down over the crater, and out of sight behind the peak, whence they reappeared, whirling up the flue past me on the wings of the draft that pulled hard through it, to sail down over the crater again, and again to be caught by the draft and pulled up the flue, to their evident delight, up and out over the peak, where they could again take wings, as boys take their sleds, and so down again for the fierce upward draft that bore them whirling over Mount Hood's pointed peak.
Here they were, thousands of feet above the snow-line, where there was no sign of vegetation, where the heavy vapors made the air to smell, where the very next day a wild snowstorm wrapped its frozen folds about the peak—here they were, butterflies, playing, a host of them, like so many schoolboys on the first coasting snow!
How pleasant the life of a bird must be,
Flitting about in each leafy tree;
In the leafy trees, so broad and tall,
Like a green and beautiful palace hall,
With its airy chambers light and boon,
That open to sun and stars and moon;
That open to the bright blue sky,
And the frolicsome winds as they wander by!
They have left their nests on the forest bough;
Those homes of delight they need not now;
And the young and the old they wander out,
And traverse their green world round about;
And hark! at the top of this leafy hall,
How one to the other in love they call!
"Come up! come up!" they seem to say,
"Where the topmost twigs in the breezes sway."
"Come up! come up! for the world is fair
Where the merry leaves dance in the summer air."
And the birds below give back the cry,
"We come, we come, to the branches high."
How pleasant the lives of the birds must be,
Living in love in a leafy tree!
And away through the air what joy to go,
And to look on the green, bright earth below!
How pleasant the life of a bird must be,
Skimming about on the breezy sea,
Cresting the billows like silvery foam,
Then wheeling away to its cliff-built home!
What joy it must be to sail, upborne
By a strong, free wing, through the rosy morn!
To meet the young sun face to face,
And pierce like a shaft the boundless space:
To pass through the bowers of the silver cloud;
To sing in the thunder-halls aloud;
To spread out the wings for a wild, free flight
With the upper-cloud winds—oh, what delight!
Oh, what would I give, like a bird, to go
Right on through the arch of the sunlit bow,
And see how the water drops are kissed
Into green and yellow and amethyst!
How pleasant the life of a bird must be,
Wherever it listeth there to flee;
To go, when a joyful fancy calls,
Dashing adown 'mong the waterfalls;
Then to wheel about with their mates at play,
Above and below and among the spray,
Hither and thither, with screams as wild
As the laughing mirth of a rosy child!
What joy it must be, like a living breeze,
To flutter about 'mid the flowering trees;
Lightly to soar, and to see beneath
The wastes of the blossoming purple heath,
And the yellow furze, like fields of gold,
That gladdened some fairy region old!
On the mountain tops, on the billowy sea,
On the leafy stems of the forest tree,
How pleasant the life of a bird must be!
WEEK 28 |
NCLE PAUL had said: "Let us get up early in the morning."
No one had to be called. One sleeps little when one is going
to see an epeira hunt. About seven o'clock, with the sun
shining bright, they were at the border of the stream. The
cobweb was finished. Some dewdrops hanging to the threads
shone like pearls. Hence the spider was not yet in the
center of the net; no doubt it was waiting, before descending
from its room, for the sun to dissipate the morning
dampness. The party sat down on the grass for breakfast, at
the very foot of the
"Oh! how well it got out!" cried Jules. "A little more and the poor thing would have been eaten alive. Did you see, Emile, how quickly the spider ran down from its hiding place when it felt the web move! The hunt begins badly; the game escapes and the net is torn."
"Yes, but the spider is going to mend it," his uncle reassured him.
And, in fact, as soon as it had recovered from its misadventure, the epeira renewed the broken threads with delicate dexterity. The darning finished, the damage could hardly be detected. The spider now takes its place in the center of the network: the right moment for the chase has come, apparently, and it is advisable for it to pounce upon the game as quickly as possible, to avoid other misadventures. It spreads its eight feet in a circle, to receive the slightest movement that may come at any point of the web, and it waits, completely motionless.
The dragon-flies continue their evolutions. Not one is
caught: the recent alarm has rendered them circumspect; they
fly around the web to pass beyond it. Oh! oh! what is that
coming so giddily and striking its head against the network?
It is a little
"It was done so quickly," complained Jules, "I
did not see
the spider's poisonous fangs. If we were to wait a little
"It is not necessary to wait," replied Uncle Paul. "If we proceed skilfully we can make the spider recommence its hunting manœuvers. All of you look attentively."
Uncle Paul searched among the field flowers for a moment and caught a large fly; then, holding it by one wing, put it near the web. The insect, beating about, gets entangled in the threads. The web shakes, the spider leaves its bee and runs, delighted with the fortunate chance that brings him prey again so quickly. The same manœuvers begin again. The fly is first strangled; the epeira opens its pointed fangs, stings the fly a little, and all is over. The victim trembles, stretches itself out, and ceases to move.
"Ah! that time I saw it," said Jules, satisfied at last.
"Claire, did you notice the fineness of the spider's fangs?"
asked Emile. "I am sure that in your
"I dare say not. As for me, what surprises me the most is not the fineness of the spider's fangs, but the quickness of the victim's death. It seems to me that a fly as large as this one ought not to die so quickly even from the coarser pricks of our needles."
"Very true," assented her uncle. "An insect transfixed by a pin still lives a long time; but if it is only pricked by the fine point of the spider's fangs, it dies almost instantly. But then, the spider takes care to poison its weapon. Its fangs are venomous; they are perforated by a minute canal through which the spider lets flow at will a scarcely visible little drop of liquid called venom, which the creature makes as it makes the silk liquid. The venom is held in reserve in a slender pocket placed in the interior of the fangs. When the spider pricks its prey, it makes a little of this liquid pass into the wound, and that suffices to bring speedy death to the wounded insect. The victim dies, not from the prick itself, but from the dreadful ravages wrought by the venom discharged into the wound."
Here Uncle Paul, in order to give his hearers a better view of the poisonous fangs, took the epeira with the tips of his fingers. Claire uttered a cry of fear, but her uncle soon calmed her.
"Don't be uneasy, my dear child: the poison that kills a fly will have no effect on Uncle Paul's hard skin."
And with the aid of a pin he opened the creature's fangs to show them in detail to the children, who were quite reassured.
"You must not be too frightened," he continued, "at the
quick death of the fly and of the
It was in 1760 when Patrick Henry got permission to be a lawyer. At that time Virginia, like most of the other colonies in America, was still a province belonging to England.
The king of England sent over a governor to rule in his stead. The governor chose a few men to advise him about the affairs of the province, and when they met together they were called the council.
The people elected delegates, called burgesses, who met every year in Williamsburg with the council. And when the burgesses and the council agreed on any measure for the public good, it became the law of the land.
Sometimes the king himself made laws for his provinces, without asking the consent of anybody. This did not please the people very well. Yet they had always been loyal to their king, whatever he did.
It was said that Virginia was the most loyal of all the colonies. But when young George the Third came to the throne, the Virginians had hardly stopped shouting over his coronation before they saw that he would make them a great deal of trouble.
The first complaint was about the salaries of the clergymen. Because there was so little coin in the country, the people paid their debts in paper money, or in tobacco.
The clergy had always been paid in tobacco; but one year, when the tobacco crop was poor, the law was passed that clergymen should be paid in paper money instead of tobacco. This made their salaries much smaller than ever before.
Now, some of the clergy in Virginia were noble men, and did a great deal of good, and among them was Patrick Henry's own uncle. But there were many who were not worthy of the name of clergymen.
They lived in fine houses. They went hunting with their hounds across country. They loved horse-racing, dice-playing, and wine. They courted the rich, and neglected the poor.
You can guess that such kind of men would not like to have their salaries made any less. They sent a petition to the king against it.
The king declared the law void; and then the clergymen went into court and sued the tax-collectors for the full amount of their pay.
Very few lawyers were willing to oppose the clergymen. The king was on their side, and the governor favored them, too.
But when some of the planters in Hanover County asked young Patrick Henry to take a case against the clergymen, he said he would do the best that he could.
What does little birdie say,
In her nest at peep of day?
"Let me fly," says little birdie;
"Mother, let me fly away."
"Birdie, rest a little longer,
Till the little wings are stronger."
So she rests a little longer,
Then she flies away.
What does little baby say,
In her bed at peep of day?
Baby says, like little birdie,
"Let me rise and fly away."
"Baby, sleep a little longer,
Till the little limbs are stronger."
If she sleeps a little longer,
Baby, too, shall fly away.
WEEK 28 |
The August sun was shining brightly over the Irish meadows skirting a narrow river that glittered with such a silvery light you would never have thought its name was the Blackwater. Neither would you have supposed the place on its bank in front of which were moored scores of oddly built boats was really the very tiny old village of Tailltenn. No, you would have declared that it was a gay though rather queer looking city, and could scarcely have believed that in a week's time all its noise and bustle would vanish and only the few wattled houses of the village be left.
For Tailltenn in August, when its great fair was held, and Tailltenn the rest of the year were two very different places.
But never mind about Tailltenn the rest of the year, for our story begins right in the middle of the fair, which was surprisingly like our fairs of to-day. And this seems strange, considering that it was almost exactly nine hundred years ago; that is to say, it was August of the year 1013.
But people nine hundred years ago liked to show and buy things and enjoyed racing and games and entertainment of all kinds just as well as we do, and anyone who could amuse was sure to have plenty of folks looking on. So it was that the Celtic boy, Ferdiad, who had stopped to watch a specially skilful juggler, soon found himself squeezed into a crowded circle of people and presently a red-headed lad of about his own age was pushed close beside him.
Both smiled good-naturedly, and, "Look!" cried Ferdiad, bending his eyes on the juggler, "I have counted, and he has nine swords and nine little silver shields and nine balls, and he keeps them all up in the air at once and hasn't let one fall!"
"He's the best I ever saw!" said the other boy gazing admiringly at the man, who was dressed in a loose tunic of saffron-colored linen with a wide girdle of scarlet. On his legs were long tight-fitting trousers of the same material and his shoes were of thick leather without heels and laced with red cords. A short scarlet cape with a pointed hood lay on the ground where he had thrown it when he began his performance.
Suddenly, with a few dextrous movements, he caught one by one the balls and swords and shields he had been tossing about, and snatching up one of the latter began passing it among the crowd.
A few small silver coins were dropped into it and two or three little silver rings which often passed instead of coins. People used but little regular money and generally paid for things by exchanging something else for them, as perhaps a measure of wheat or honey, which every one liked; or, if the thing bought was valuable, often a cow or two did for money.
As now the juggler was coming their way with his shield, the two boys strolled off together; for though each had a few silver rings tucked into his girdle for spending money, they had other plans for disposing of these.
When they had gone a short distance they stopped and looked each other over. Both were tall and straight and well grown for their age, which was about twelve years; and their bare heads shone in the sunlight, Ferdiad's as yellow as the other boy's was red. Ferdiad wore a tight scarlet jacket with sleeves striped with green and a kilted skirt reaching just above his bare knees; below them were leggins of soft leather laced with cords tipped with silver as were also his moccasin-like shoes. He had a short cape made of strips of brown and green cloth sewn together, but as the day was warm this hung over one shoulder and was only loosely fastened by a silver brooch. The other boy, who had come from a little different part of the country, was dressed in the fashion of his own home. His jacket was much like Ferdiad's except that it was yellow, and instead of kilts he wore long tight-fitting trousers of gray; his cape also was gray figured with black.
Presently he said to Ferdiad, with a frank smile, "My name is Conn and my home is in the kingdom of Munster where my father is a bo-aire. I guess yours must be a flaith from the colors of your clothes. My foster-father is a bo-aire, too, and we came to the fair this morning in our chariot and I drove all the way from near Kinkora where we live. What is your name?"
"Ferdiad O'Neill," answered Ferdiad; but seeing Conn look bewildered, "O'Neill," he explained, "means my father's name is Neill; you know 'O' stands for son of."
"Yes," said Conn in surprise, "but why do you have two names?"
"Well," replied Ferdiad, "my father says that the high king, Brian Boru, wants people to start having two names instead of just one. You see, if each family settles on a second name that they can add to their first, then you can tell better who folks are and who are their kin. My father, who is a flaith as you guessed, don't want to put anything after his own name for everyone in the kingdom of Meath, where my home is, knows him as Neill. But he says I may as well begin with the two names. I suppose everybody will have family names afterwhile."
"I suppose so," said Conn, who had been listening with interest. "I hadn't heard about it before, but if you can start a family name by adding 'O' to your father's, then I would be Conn O'Keefe!" and he laughed at the odd new fashion. "But," he went on, "who is your foster-father?"
"He is Angus the poet," answered Ferdiad with a touch of pride. "We live beyond Kells on the Blackwater, and we all came to the fair yesterday. We rowed down the river in our curragh."
Now do not suppose that these two boys were orphans because they talked about their foster-fathers. Far from it! In fact, most Celtic boys, and many girls too, were extra well supplied with parents; for they usually had not only their own real fathers and mothers but also the foster-fathers and mothers with whom they lived from the time they were seven, or even younger, until they were seventeen. This custom of putting children to be trained in the home of some one else seems strange to us, but the Celtic people of those days thought it the best way to bring them up. Sometimes their foster-parents were close friends of their own fathers and mothers and took the children for the sake of the affection they felt for one another; and sometimes people placed their children with some one they thought specially fitted to train them, and then they paid a certain sum of money for it, or, more likely, a number of cows.
For the Celtic people then had no large cities and few towns even, but lived mostly in the country and the more cows they had the better off they considered themselves. They were divided into tribes or clans with chiefs of different degrees of rank. A bo-aire, as was Conn's father, though a respectable chief, owned no land but was obliged to rent it of some higher chief, or flaith, such as Ferdiad's father; but a bo-aire always had plenty of cattle of his own. So probably Conn's foster-father received enough fat cows to pay for the support of the boy.
Indeed, the Celtic laws decided just what must be paid for feeding and clothing foster children, and decided also, according to their rank, what they should eat and wear; and every one paid a great deal of attention to the laws. It was because of these that Conn had barley porridge with a lump of salty butter on it for breakfast while Ferdiad ate oatmeal with saltless butter which was considered finer; if either had been a king's son he would have had honey on his porridge. And because of these same laws Conn and Ferdiad at once knew each other's rank; for sons of flaiths might wear red, green and brown clothes, while the colors for boys of bo-aires were yellow, black and gray.
But while we have been talking about them, the boys have not been standing still. They had decided at once to be friends, and "My foster-father said I was to go around and find what I wanted to look at," said Conn, "but I think it would be more fun seeing the fair together."
"So do I!" answered Ferdiad. "Let's look around and see what's going on."
A certain Frog was wont to hatch her eggs in the neighborhood of a Serpent's hole, and always, before the tadpoles had lost their tails, the Serpent devoured them. Greatly distressed over the loss of her young, the Frog went at last to a Crab and told him her trouble. The Crab was a kindly creature, and promised to think of a way to get rid of the Serpent. Thus it was that he came one day to the Frog and said,—
"There lives near at hand a Weasel, who is as bloodthirsty as the Serpent. Go, therefore, and catch a large number of minnows and place them in a line reaching from the Weasel's home to the hole of the Serpent. The greedy Weasel will snatch up the little fish one by one, until he comes to the Serpent's nest. It may be that without noticing he will also devour the Serpent, thinking that it is another fish."
The Frog thanked the Crab and did as he told her. The plan succeeded, even as the Crab had said, and the Frog slept soundly that night, knowing that her brood was safe from harm. In the meantime the Weasel grew hungry again and remembered the feast of fish. Hurrying back to the place where he had found them, he stumbled over the Frog's hiding-place, where he ate up not only the young tadpoles but the mother herself.
Sherwood in the twilight, is Robin Hood awake?
Gray and ghostly shadows are gliding through the brake;
Shadows of the dappled deer, dreaming of the morn,
Dreaming of a shadowy man that winds a shadowy horn.
Robin Hood is here again: all his merry thieves
Hear a ghostly bugle-note shivering through the leaves,
Calling as he used to call, faint and far away,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.
Merry, merry England has kissed the lips of June:
All the wings of fairyland were here beneath the moon;
Like a flight of rose-leaves fluttering in a mist
Of opal and ruby and pearl and amethyst.
Merry, merry England is waking as of old,
With eyes of blither hazel and hair of brighter gold:
For Robin Hood is here again beneath the bursting spray
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.
Love is in the greenwood building him a house
Of wild rose and hawthorn and honeysuckle boughs:
Love is in the greenwood: dawn is in the skies;
And Marian is waiting with a glory in her eyes.
Hark! The dazzled laverock climbs the golden steep:
Marian is waiting: is Robin Hood asleep?
Round the fairy grass-rings frolic elf and fay,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.
Oberon, Oberon, rake away the gold,
Rake away the red leaves, roll away the mould,
Rake away the gold leaves, roll away the red,
And wake Will Scarlett from his leafy forest bed.
Friar Tuck and Little John are riding down together
With quarter-staff and drinking-can and gray goose-feather;
The dead are coming back again; the years are rolled away
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.
Softly over Sherwood the south wind blows;
All the heart of England hid in every rose
Hears across the greenwood the sunny whisper leap,
Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep?
Hark, the voice of England wakes him as of old
And, shattering the silence with a cry of brighter gold,
Bugles in the greenwood echo from the steep,
Sherwood in the red dawn, is Robin Hood asleep?
Where the deer are gliding down the shadowy glen
All across the glades of fern he calls his merry men;
Doublets of the Lincoln green glancing through the May
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day;
Calls them and they answer: from aisles of oak and ash
Rings the Follow! Follow! and the boughs begin to crash;
The ferns begin to flutter and the flowers begin to fly;
And through the crimson dawning the robber band goes by.
Robin! Robin! Robin! All his merry thieves
Answer as the bugle-note shivers through the leaves:
Calling as he used to call, faint and far away,
In Sherwood, in Sherwood, about the break of day.
WEEK 28 |
"The old order changeth, yielding place to new."
I T was in the year 1776 that America made her famous Declaration of Independence. France was the first nation to recognise it, and she sent over men and troops to help the young country in its struggle against oppression. Side by side Frenchmen fought with the English colonists in America. With the settlement they returned to France "with their hearts full of love and their lips loud in praise of the young Republic and its simple splendid citizens."
Among those who fought for France was Lafayette, a friend of George Washington. He now came home to find that the war had cost France more than she could pay, and that something must be done at once, to save the country from hopeless debt.
"Give us the States-General," he cried. "Let the people have a voice in the government of their country."
Soon his cry resounded from one end of France to the other, until the king was obliged to listen. Now the States-General had not met for 175 years. It was a body not unlike the English Parliament, containing members of the Church, the nobles, and the people. Under the last despotic rulers of France, the voice of the people had long been silent. There was danger to the king, when he allowed this great force to be loosened in France.
It was May 5, 1789, when the States-General assembled. The sun shone brilliantly, the streets of Versailles were gay with banners, the air rang with martial music. Eager faces looked down from balcony and window on to the famous pageant. At the head of the procession walked the 600 representatives of the people—a great black-looking mass in their black coats and breeches, black stockings, short silk mantles, and three-cornered hats. Among them walked Mirabeau, with his lion locks of black hair; among them, too, might have been seen the small frail figure of Robespierre—men to play their part in the coming tragedy.
Three hundred nobles followed, in the brilliant dresses of the age—cloaks of gold and high-plumed hats. Among them was Lafayette, the hero of the American war. They were followed by the 300 clergy in "purple and fine linen," and behind all came the King, the Queen, and the Court. Here were plumes and jewels, powdered heads and painted faces, costumes resplendent in the May sunshine. The whole solemn procession filed into the church of St Louis, and next day the States-General met for business.
A heated discussion on taxation arose. The people proposed that the nobles and clergy should pay taxes as well as themselves. The nobles and clergy refused, and the people formed themselves into a separate body called the National Assembly, and assumed entire control of the State.
Angry days came and went. A cloud hung over the gay Court at Versailles, where the little eight-year-old Dauphin lay dying. But France was too much engrossed with her new life to take much note of the dying child, though he was heir to the French throne. Only Marie Antoinette wept for the drooping of the little royal head, and rained bitter tears on the lifeless body of her eldest son.
Meanwhile the conflict between the king and the National Assembly went on. At last he addressed the whole States-General—nobles, clergy, and people—collected together for the purpose. He would not sanction the National Assembly: they must disperse at once. The king left, the clergy and nobles filed out according to orders. The 600 people sat still.
"Did you hear the orders of the king?" asked one.
"Yes," roared Mirabeau; "and let me inform you, you had better employ force, for we shall only quit our seats at the bayonet's point."
These words were repeated and applauded throughout France. Through the long sultry days of July the storm gathered fast. In Paris it reached its height, and on July 12 it burst.
"To arms! to arms!" shouted one insurgent, and the cry spread like wildfire through the excited city. Military stores were broken open, muskets carried off in triumph, prisons were opened, custom-houses burned. There was none to command, none to obey. Early on the morning of the 14th the fury of the people was directed against the Bastile, the great State fortress and prison of Paris, where for centuries past prisoners had been unjustly thrown. Its double moat and massive walls should have protected it against an unruly mob, but the people were strong and determined in their wrath. Hour after hour, through that long summer day, they fired on the old grey walls, till at last the commander had to surrender.
The Bastile had fallen, and the sun set over a triumphant city of fierce insurgents. Late that night the news reached the king. He was asleep in his palace at Versailles.
"The Bastile has fallen," they told him.
"But," said poor Louis sleepily, "that is a revolt."
"Sire," answered the messenger gravely, "it is not a revolt, it is a revolution!"
The fall of the Bastile was the fall of the old monarchy. The old order passed away on that eventful evening in July. France was shaken to its depths, and the eyes of Europe and America were directed towards the struggling nation.
Three days later, the king made up his mind to go to Paris. While Marie Antoinette wept for his safety he left Versailles. He was pale and anxious. The long highway from Versailles to Paris was "choking with people." Everywhere fluttered the new colours adopted by the people of Paris—red, white, and blue. Everywhere men and even women were armed. In front of him, on a white horse, rode Lafayette. Above them fluttered the tattered banner of the Bastile.
"Long live the Nation!" was shouted on all sides. It was not until Louis reluctantly fixed a cockade of red, white, and blue on his hat that the cry "Long live the King!" was heard.
Meanwhile the National Assembly, now joined by the nobles and clergy, drew up their famous Declaration of the Rights of Man. They swept away all existing orders, declared that all were born equal in rights, that all citizens were equal in the eyes of the law, that virtue and talent entitled a man to office and not birth, that all worship should be free.
The night was far advanced. It was the 4th of August—a marked day in the history of the Revolution.
"But the king, gentlemen," said one who had listened to these sweeping reforms, "the king who has called us after the long lapse of two centuries—shall he not have his reward?"
"Let us proclaim him the restorer of French liberty," they said.
And the Twelve Hundred representatives of the French nation left the blazing hall and made their way home through the warm summer night.
E called to Grani, his proud horse; he stood up on a mound in the Heath and he sent forth a great shout. And Grani heard in the cave where Regin had left him and he came galloping to Sigurd with flowing mane and eyes flashing fire.
He mounted Grani and he rode to Fafnir's cave. When he went into the place where the Dragon was wont to lie he saw a door of iron before him. With Gram, his mighty sword, he hewed through the iron, and with his strong hands he pulled the door back. Then, before him he saw the treasure the Dragon guarded, masses of gold and heaps of shining jewels.
But as he looked on the hoard Sigurd felt some shadow of the evil that lay over it all. This was the hoard that in the far-off days the River-Maidens watched over as it lay deep under the flowing water. Then Andvari the Dwarf forced the River-Maidens to give it to him. And Loki had taken it from Andvari, letting loose as he did Gulveig the Witch who had such evil power over the Gods. For the sake of the hoard Fafnir had slain Hreidmar, his father, and Regin had plotted death against Fafnir, his brother.
Not all this history did Sigurd know. But a shadow of its evil touched his spirit as he stood there before the gleaming and glittering heap. He would take all of it away, but not now. The tale that the birds told was in his mind, and the green of the forest was more to him than the glitter of the treasure heap. He would come back with chests and load it up and carry it to King Alv's hall. But first he would take such things as he himself might wear.
He found a helmet of gold and he put it on his head. He found a great arm-ring and he put it around his arm. On the top of the arm-ring there was a small finger-ring with a rune graved upon it. Sigurd put it on his finger. And this was the ring that Andvari the Dwarf had put the curse upon when Loki had taken the hoard from him.
He knew that no one would cross the Heath and come to Fafnir's lair, so he did not fear to leave the treasure unguarded. He mounted Grani, his proud horse, and rode towards the forest. He would seek the House of Flame where she lay sleeping, the maiden who was the wisest and the bravest and the most beautiful in the world. With his golden helmet shining above his golden hair Sigurd rode on.
S he rode towards the forest he thought of Sigmund, his father, whose slaying he had avenged, and he thought of Sigmund's father, Volsung, and of the grim deeds that the Volsungs had suffered and wrought.
Rerir, the son of Sigi who was the son of Odin, was the father of Volsung. And Volsung when he was in his first manhood had built his hall around a mighty tree. Its branches went up to the roof and made the beams of the house and its great trunk was the centre of the hall. "The Branstock" the tree was called, and Volsung's hall was named "The Hall of the Branstock."
Many children had Volsung, eleven sons and one daughter. Strong were all his sons and good fighters, and Volsung of the Hall of the Branstock was a mighty chief.
It was through Signy, the daughter of the house, that a feud and a deadly battle was brought to Volsung and his sons. She was a wise and a fair maiden and her fame went through all the lands. Now, one day Volsung received a message from a King asking for the hand of Signy in marriage. And Volsung who knew of this King through report of his battles sent a message to him saying that he would be welcome to the Hall of the Branstock.
So King Siggeir came with his men. But when the Volsungs looked into his face they liked it not. And Signy shrank away, saying, "This King is evil of heart and false of word."
Volsung and his eleven sons took counsel together. Siggeir had a great force of men with him, and if they refused to give her he could slay them all and harry their kingdom. Besides they had pledged themselves to give Signy when they had sent him a message of welcome. Long counsel they had together. And ten of Signy's brothers said, "Let Signy wed this King. He is not as evil as he seems in her mind." Ten brothers said it. But one spoke out, saying, "We will not give our sister to this evil King. Rather let us all go down fighting with the Hall of the Branstock flaming above our heads."
It was Sigmund, the youngest of the Volsungs, who said this.
But Signy's father said: "We know nought of evil of King Siggeir. Also our word is given to him. Let him feast with us this night in the Hall of the Branstock and let Signy go from us with him as his wife." Then they looked to her and they saw Signy's face and it was white and stern. "Let it be as ye have said, my father and my brothers," she said. "I will wed King Siggeir and go with him overseas." So she said aloud. But Sigmund heard her say to herself, "It is woe for the Volsungs."
A feast was made and King Siggeir and his men came to the Hall of the Branstock. Fires were lighted and tables were spread, and the great horns of mead went around the guests. In the middle of the feasting a stranger entered the Hall. He was taller than the tallest there, and his bearing made all do him reverence. One offered him a horn of mead and he drank it. Then, from under the blue cloak that he wore, he drew a sword that made the brightness of the Hall more bright.
He went to the tree that the Hall was built around, to the Branstock, and he thrust the sword into it. All the company were hushed. Then they heard the voice of the stranger, a voice that was like the trumpet's call: "The sword is for the hand that can draw it out of the Branstock." Then he went out of the Hall.
All looked to where the sword was placed and saw a hand's breadth of wonderful brightness. This one and that one would have laid hands on the hilt, only Volsung's voice bade them stand still. "It is meet," he said, "that our guest and our son-in-law, King Siggeir, should be the first to put hands on its hilt and try to draw the sword of the stranger out of the Branstock."
King Siggeir went to the tree and laid his hands on the broad hilt. He strove hard to draw out the sword, but all his might could not move it. As he strained himself to draw it and failed, a dark look of anger came into his face.
Then others tried to draw it, the captains who were with King Siggeir, and they, too, failed to move the blade. Then Volsung tried and Volsung could not move it. One after the other, his eleven sons strained to draw out the stranger's sword. At last it came to the turn of the youngest, to Sigmund, to try. And when Sigmund laid his hand on the broad hilt and drew it, behold! The sword came with his hand, and once again the Hall was brightened with its marvelous brightness.
It was a wondrous sword, a sword made out of better metal and by smiths more cunning than any known. All envied Sigmund that he had won for himself that wonder-weapon.
King Siggeir looked on it with greedy eyes. "I will give thee its weight in gold for that sword, good brother," he said.
But Sigmund said to him proudly: "If the sword was for thy hand thou shouldst have won it. The sword was not for thine, but for a Volsung's hand."
And Signy, looking at King Siggeir, saw a look of deeper evil come into his face. She knew that hatred for all the Volsung race was in his heart.
But at the end of the feast she was wed to King Siggeir, and the next day she left the Hall of the Branstock and went with him down to where his great painted ship was drawn up on the beach. And when they were parting from her, her father and her brothers, King Siggeir invited them to come to his country, as friends visiting friends and kinsmen visiting kinsmen, and look on Signy again. And he stood on the beach and would not go on board his ship until each and all of the Volsungs gave their word that they would visit Signy and him in his own land. "And when thou comest," he said to Sigmund, "be sure thou dost bring with thee the mighty sword that thou didst win."
All this was thought of by Sigurd, the son of Sigmund, as he rode towards the fringe of the forest.
HE time came for Volsung and his sons to redeem the promise they made to King Siggeir. They made ready their ship and they sailed from the land where stood the Hall of the Branstock. And they landed on the coast of King Siggeir's country, and they drew their ship up on the beach and they made their camp there, intending to come to the King's Hall in the broad light of the day.
But in the half light of the dawn one came to the Volsung ship. A cloak and hood covered the figure, but Sigmund, who was the watcher, knew who it was. "Signy!" he said, and Signy asked that her father and her brothers be awakened until she would speak to them of a treason that was brewed against them.
"King Siggeir has made ready a great army against your coming," she told them. "He hates the Volsungs, the branch as well as the root, and it is his plan to fall upon you, my father and my brothers with his great army and slay you all. And he would possess himself of Gram, Sigmund's wonder-sword. Therefore, I say to you, O Volsungs, draw your ship into the sea and sail from the land where such treachery can be."
But Volsung, her father, would not listen. "The Volsungs do not depart like broken men from a land they have brought their ship to," he said. "We gave, each and all, the word that we would visit King Siggeir and visit him we will. And if he is a dastard and would fall upon us, why we are the unbeaten Volsungs, and we will fight against him and his army and slay him, and bear you back with us to the Hall of the Branstock. The day widens now, and we shall go to the Hall."
Signy would have spoken of the great army King Siggeir had gathered, but she knew that the Volsungs never harkened to talk of odds. She spoke no more, but bowed her head and went back to King Siggeir's hall.
Siggeir knew that Signy had been to warn her father and her brothers. He called the men he had gathered and he posted them cunningly in the way the Volsungs would come. Then he sent one to the ship with a message of welcome.
As they left their ship the army of King Siggeir fell upon the Volsungs and their followers. Very fierce was the battle that was waged on the beach, and many and many a one of King Siggeir's fierce fighters went down before the fearless ones that made Volsung's company. But at last Volsung himself was slain and his eleven sons were taken captive. And Gram, his mighty sword, was taken out of Sigmund's hands.
They were brought before King Siggeir in his hall, the eleven Volsung princes. Siggeir laughed to see them before him. "Ye are not in the Hall of the Branstock now, to dishonor me with black looks and scornful words," he said, "and a harder task will be given you than that of drawing a sword out of a tree-trunk. Before set of sun I will see you hewn to pieces with the sword."
Then Signy who was there stood up with her white face and her wide eyes, and she said: "I pray not for longer life for my brothers, for well I know that my prayers would avail them nought. But dost thou not heed the proverb, Siggeir—'Sweet to the eye as long as the eye can see'?"
And Siggeir laughed his evil laugh when he heard her. "Aye, my Queen," he said, "sweet to the eye as long as the eye may see their torments. They shall not die at once nor all together. I will let them see each other die."
So Siggeir gave a new order to his dastard troops. The order was that the eleven brothers should be taken into the depths of the forest and chained to great beams and left there. This was done with the eleven sons of Volsung.
The next day one who had watched and who was faithful to Signy came, and Signy said to him: "What has befallen my brothers?"
And the watcher said: "A great wolf came to where the chained men are, and fell upon the first of them and devoured him."
When Signy heard this no tears came from her eyes, but that which was hard around her heart became harder. She said, "Go again, and watch what befalls."
And the watcher came the second time and said: "The second of your brothers has been devoured by the wolf." Signy shed no tears this time either, and again that which was hard around her heart became harder.
And every day the watcher came and he told her what had befallen her brothers. And it came to the time when but one of her brothers was left alive, Sigmund, the youngest.
Then said Signy: "Not without device are we left at the end. I have thought of what is to be done. Take a pot of honey to where he is chained and smear Sigmund's face with the honey."
The watcher did as Signy bade him.
Again the great wolf came along the forest-ways to where Sigmund was chained. When she snuffed over him she found the honey upon his face. She put down her tongue to lick over his face. Then, with his strong teeth Sigmund seized the tongue of the wolf. She fought and she struggled with all her might, but Sigmund did not let go of her tongue. The struggle with the beast broke the beam to which he was chained. Then Sigmund seized the wolf with his hands and tore her jaws apart.
The watcher saw this happening and told of it to Signy. A fierce joy went through her, and she said: "One of the Volsungs lives, and vengeance will be wrought upon King Siggeir and upon his house."
Still the watcher stayed in the ways of the forest, and he marked where Sigmund built for himself a hidden hut. Often he bore tokens from Signy to Sigmund. Sigmund took to the ways of the hunter and the outlaw, but he did not forsake the forest. And King Siggeir knew not that one of the Volsungs lived and was near him.
"Good for nothing," the farmer said,
As he made a sweep at the burdock's head;
"But then, it is best, no doubt,
To come some day and root her out."
So he lowered his scythe, and went his way,
To see his corn or gather his hay;
And the weed grew safe and strong and tall,
Close by the side of the garden wall.
"Good for home," cried the little toad,
As he hopped up out of the dusty road.
He had just been having a dreadful fright,—
The boy who gave it was yet in sight.
Here it was cool, and dark and green,
The safest kind of a leafy screen.
The toad was happy, "For," said he,
"The burdock was plainly meant for me."
"Good for a prop," the spider thought,
And to and fro with care he wrought,
Till he fastened it well to an evergreen,
And spun his cables fine between.
'Twas a beautiful bridge,—a triumph of skill,—
The flies came round, as idlers will;
The spider lurked in his corner dim;
The more that came the better for him.
"Good for play," said the child perplext
To know what frolic was coming next;
So she gathered the burrs, that all despised,
And her city playmates were quite surprised
To see what a beautiful basket or chair
Could be made, with a little time and care.
They ranged their treasures about with pride,
And played all day by the burdock's side.
Nothing is lost in this world of ours;
Honey comes from the idle flowers;
The weed which we pass in utter scorn,
May save a life by another morn;
Wonder awaits us at every turn.
We must be silent and gladly learn,
No room for recklessness or abuse,
Since even a burdock has its use.
WEEK 28 |
A CROSS the wide sea-ocean, on the further side of high mountains, beyond thick forests, in a village that faced the sky, there once lived an old peasant who had three sons. The eldest, Danilo, was the most knowing lad in the place; the second, Gavrilo, was neither clever nor dull; and the youngest, who was named Ivan, was called a dullard, because while his brothers, after they had sowed their wheat and threshed it, drove to town and went merrymaking, he cared to do nothing but lie in the corner on the stove and sleep. So the whole neighborhood called him "Little Fool Ivan."
Now one morning when the peasant went to his stack, he found to his dismay that someone in the night had stolen some of the hay, so that evening he sent his eldest son to watch for the thief.
Danilo, accordingly, took his ax and his hayfork and went to the field. On this night there was a biting frost and heavy snow, and he said to himself, "Why should I freeze myself stiff to save a little worthless fodder?" So, finding a warm corner, he lay down, wrapped himself in his thick fur coat and went to sleep.
In the morning he saw that some of the hay had been stolen. He rolled himself well in the snow, went home and knocked at the door till his father let him in.
"Didst thou see the thief?" asked the peasant.
"I heard him prowling not far off," answered Danilo; "but I shouted and he dared not come nearer. However, I have had a terrible night, thou mayst be sure! It was bitter cold and I am frozen to the marrow!"
His father praised him, calling him a good son, and the next night sent his second son to watch.
So Gavrilo took his hatchet and his long knife and went to the field. Now on this night it was raining, and he said to himself, "They say my brother is cleverer than I, but I am at least knowing enough to take care of myself, and why should I stand all night wet to the skin for the sake of a little dried grass?" So, having found a sheltered spot, he lay down, covered himself with his warm cloak and went to sleep.
In the morning he saw that more of the hay had been stolen. He went to a brook, poured water over his clothing so that it was drenched, went home and knocked at the door till it was opened.
"Didst thou see the thief?" asked his father.
"I did," Gavrilo answered, "and laid hold of his coat and gave him such a beating that he will remember it. But the rascal tore away and ran so fast that I could not catch him. But I have had a night for my pains, I can tell you! The rain poured every minute and I am soaked to the bones!"
His father praised him likewise, calling him a brave fellow till he was as proud as a cock with five hens, and the next evening said to Little Fool Ivan: "Now, my son, it is thy turn to watch, but thou art such a simpleton thou canst not even keep the sparrows from the peas. It will be small use for thee to go."
However, Little Fool Ivan climbed down from the stove, put a crust of bread under his coat and went whistling off to the field. He did not lie down as his brothers had done, but went about the whole field, looking on every side, and when the moon rose he sat down under a bush, counted the stars in the sky and ate his crust with a good appetite. Suddenly, just at midnight, he heard the neigh of a horse, and looking out from the bush he saw a wonderful mare, as white as snow, with a golden mane curled in little rings.
"So," said Little Fool Ivan to himself, "thou art, then, the thief of our hay! Only come a little nearer and I will be on thy back as tight as a locust!" The mare came nearer and nearer and at last, choosing the right moment, Ivan leaped out, seized her tail and jumped on to her back, wrong side before.
The white mare's eyes darted forth lightning. She curled her neck like a snake, reared on her hind legs and shot off like an arrow. She raced over fields, she flew like a bird over ditches, she galloped like the wind along mountains and dashed through thick forests. But run as she would, and rear and snort as she might, she could not throw off Little Fool Ivan. He clung to her tail and stuck to her back like a burr.
At last, just as day was beginning to dawn, the mare stopped and, panting, spoke to him with a human voice. "Well, Ivan," she said, "since thou canst sit me, it seems thou must possess me. Take me home and give me a place to rest for three days. Only, each morning, just at sunrise, let me out to roll in the dew. And when the three days are up, I will bear thee three such colts as were never heard of before. Two of them will be Tzar's horses, of brown and gray, and these thou mayst sell if thou choosest. But the third will be a little humpbacked stallion only three feet high, with ears a foot long, and him thou shalt neither sell for gold nor give as a gift to anyone whatsoever. So long as thou art in the white world he shall be thy faithful servant. In winter he will show thee how to be warm, and when thou dost hunger he will show thee where to find bread. In return for these three colts, thou shalt release me and give me my freedom."
Little Fool Ivan agreed. He rode the white mare home, hid her in an empty shepherd's corral, whose entrance he covered with a horse-cloth, and went home and knocked at the door till his brothers let him in.
When they saw him, they began to question him. "Well, no doubt thou didst see the thief! Perhaps thou didst even catch him! Tell us."
"To be sure I did," he replied. "I jumped on the thief's back and laid hold of the villain's tail, and we ran a thousand versts or more. My neck was nearly broken in the end and ye may believe I am tired!" So saying he climbed on to the stove without taking off even his bark sandals, and went to sleep, while his brothers and his father roared with laughter at the story, not a word of which, of course, they believed.
Little Fool Ivan kept the white mare hidden from all other eyes. For three mornings he rose at daybreak and let her out to roll on the dewy meadow and on the fourth morning, when he went to the corral, he found beside her, as she had promised, three colts. Two were most beautiful to see; they were of brown and gray, their eyes were like blue sapphires, their manes and tails were golden and curled in little rings, and their hoofs were of diamond, studded with pearls. But the third was a tiny horse like a toy, with two humps on his back and ears a foot long.
Ivan was overjoyed. He thanked the white mare and she, released, curled her neck like a snake, reared on her hind legs and shot off like an arrow. Then he began to admire the three colts, especially the little humpbacked one which frisked like a dog about Ivan's knees, clapping his long ears together from playfulness and dancing up and down on his little hoofs. He kept them hidden, as he had the white mare, in the shepherd's corral, letting them out each morning at sunrise to roll in the dew and spending many hours petting them, talking to them, currying their coats till they shone like silver and braiding their golden manes.
Time went on (but whether it was three weeks or three years that flew away matters little, since one need not run after them) till it befell, one day, that his eldest brother, Danilo, who had been to town for a holiday, returned late at night and missing his way in the darkness, stumbled into the shepherd's corral. Hearing a sound, he made a light and to his astonishment saw the three young horses.
"So—ho!" he thought. "Now I understand why Little Fool Ivan spends so much time in this old corral!" He ran to the house and woke his brother Gavrilo. "Come quickly," he said, "and see what three horses our young idiot of a brother has found for himself!" And Gavrilo followed him as fast as he could, straight across a nettle-field barefoot, since he did not wait to put on his boots.
When they came to the corral the two fine horses were neighing and snorting. Their eyes were burning like beautiful blue candles and their curling gold manes and tails and their hoofs of diamond and pearls filled the two brothers with envy. Each looked at them so long that he was nearly made blind of one eye. Then Danilo said:
"They say it takes a fool to find a treasure. But where in the white world could Little Fool Ivan have got these marvelous steeds? As for thee and me, brother, we might search our heads off and we would find not even two roubles!"
"That is true," answered Gavrilo. "We should have the horses, and not Little Fool Ivan. Now I have an idea. Next week is the Fair at the capital. Many foreigners will come in ships to buy linen and it is said that even Tzar Saltan will be there. Let us come here by night and take the horses thither and sell them. They will fetch a great price and we will divide it equally between us two. Thou knowest what a good time we could have with the money, and while we are slapping our full purses and enjoying ourselves our dolt of an Ivan will not be able to guess where his horses have gone visiting. What sayest thou? Let us shake hands upon it."
So the two brothers agreed, kissed each other, crossed themselves and went home planning how to spend the money they should get for the horses.
When the next week came round, accordingly, they said a prayer before the holy images, asked their father's blessing and departed to the Fair. When they had gone some distance, however, they returned to the village secretly after nightfall, took the two fine horses out of the corral and again set out for the capital.
Next morning, when Ivan came to the corral, he found to his grief that the beautiful pair had vanished. There was left only the little humpbacked horse that was turning round and round before him, capering, clapping his long ears together and dancing up and down from joy. Ivan began to weep salt tears. "O my horses, brown and gray!" he cried; "my good steeds with golden manes! Did I not caress you enough? What wretch—may he tumble through a bridge!—hath stolen you away?"
At this the humpbacked horse neighed and spoke in a human voice: "Don't worry, little master," he said. "It was thy brothers who took them away and I can take thee to them. Sit on my back and hold fast by my ears, and have a care not to fall off!" So Little Fool Ivan sat on his back, holding up his feet lest they drag on the ground, and laid hold of his ears, and the pony shook himself till his little mane quivered, reared on his hind legs, snorted three times and shot away like an arrow, so fast that the dust curled under his feet. And almost before Ivan had time to take breath, he was versts away on the highroad to the capital.
When his brothers saw Little Fool Ivan coming after them like the wind on his toy horse, they knew not what to do. "For shame, ye rascals!" shouted he as he overtook them. "Ye may be more clever than I, but I have never stolen your steeds!"
"Our dear little brother!" said Danilo. "There is little use denying. We took thy two horses, but we did so with no thought of wrong to thee. As thou knowest, this has been a poor season with our crops and a bad harvest, and for despair I and Gavrilo have been like to hang ourselves. When we came by chance upon these two steeds, we considered that thou hadst little knowledge of bargaining and trading, and doubtless knew not their worth, whereas we could get for them at least a thousand roubles at the Fair. With this money we could help our little father, as thou wouldst wish, and we purposed to buy besides for thee a red cap and new boots with red heels. So if we have erred, do thou forgive us."
"Well," answered Little Fool Ivan, "thy words sound fair enough. If this was your thought, go and sell my two horses, but I will go with you." So, though they wished him well strangled, the two brothers had no choice but to take him with them, and thus they came to the capital.
Now when they reached the market-place where the traders were assembled, so wonderful were the two steeds that the people swarmed about them, buzzing like bees in a hive, till for the press no one could pass either in or out, and there was great commotion. Perceiving this the head man sent a crier who blew on a gold trumpet and shouted in a loud voice: "O merchants and buyers! crowd not, but disperse one and all!" But they would not move from the horses. Then the head man rode out himself, in slippers and fur cap, with a body of soldiers who cleared the way with their whips, so that he came to the middle of the market and saw the horses with his own eyes.
"God's world is wonderful!" he cried, rubbing his head. "What marvels doth it hold!" And bidding the crier proclaim that no buyer should buy them, he rode to the Palace, came to the presence of the Tzar, and told him of them.
The Tzar could not sit still for curiosity. He ordered his state carriage and rode at once to the market, and when he saw the horses, tugging at their halters and gnawing their bits, with their eyes shining like sapphires, their curling golden manes, and hoofs of diamond and pearls, he could not take his eyes from them. He examined them on both sides, called to them with caressing words, patted their backs and stroked their manes, and asked who owned them.
"O Tzar's Majesty," said Little Fool Ivan, "I am their master."
"What wilt thou take for them?" asked the Tzar.
"Thrice five caps full of silver," answered Ivan, "and five roubles beside."
"Good," said the Tzar, and ordered the money given him. Then ten grooms, with gray hair and golden uniforms, led the pair to the royal stables. On the way, however, the horses knocked the grooms down, bit to pieces their bridles, and ran neighing back to Ivan.
Then the Tzar called him to his presence, and said: "It seems that my wonderful steeds will obey only thee. There is no help but that I make thee my Chief Equerry and Master of my Stables." And he ordered the crier at once to proclaim the appointment. So Little Fool Ivan called his brothers Danilo and Gavrilo, gave to them the fifteen caps full of silver, and the five roubles beside, kissed them, bade them not neglect their father but to care for him in his old age, and led the two horses to the royal stables, while a great throng of people followed, watching the little humpbacked horse who went dancing after them up the street.
The telling of a tale is quick but time itself passes slowly. Five weeks went by, while Ivan wore red robes, ate sweet food and slept his fill. Each morning at sunrise he took the horses to roll in the dew on the open field, and fed them with honey and white wheat till their coats shone like satin. But the more the Tzar praised him, the more envious many in the Court were of him. As the saying is, one need not be rich only so he have curly hair and is clever; and because Little Fool Ivan had succeeded so easily people hated him, and the one who hated him most was the officer who had been the Tzar's Master of Horse before his coming. Each day this man pondered how he might bring about Ivan's ruin, and at night he would creep to the stables and lie hid in the wheat bins, hoping to catch his rival in some fault.
When this failed, he went to all those Court officials who were envious of the new favorite and bade them hang their heads and go about with sorrowful faces, promising, when the Tzar asked the cause, to tell him what would ruin Little Fool Ivan. They did so, and the Tzar, noticing their sad looks asked:
"O Boyars, why are ye cast down and crestfallen?"
Then he who had given this counsel stood forth, and said: "O Tzar's Majesty! not for ourselves do we grieve, but we fear thy new Master of the Stables is a wizard and an evil-doer and familiar with Black Magic. For he doth boast openly that he could fetch thee, if he chose, in addition to thy two wonderful steeds, the fabled Pig with the Golden Bristles and the Silver Tusks, with her twenty sucklings, who live in the hidden valley of the Land of the South."
Hearing this, the Tzar was wroth. "Bring before me this wild boaster," he said, "and he shall make good his words without delay!" Thereupon they ran to the stables, where Little Fool Ivan lay asleep, and kicked him wide awake and brought him to the Tzar, who looked at him angrily, and said: "Hear my command. If in three days thou hast not brought hither, from the hidden valley of the Land of the South, the Pig with the Golden Bristles and Silver Tusks, together with her twenty sucklings, I will deliver thee to an evil death!"
Little Fool Ivan went out to the stable weeping bitterly. Hearing him coming, the little humpbacked horse began to dance and to flap its ears together for joy, but as soon as he saw his master's tears he almost began to sob himself. "Why art thou not merry, little master?" he asked. "Why does thy head hang lower than thy shoulders?"
Ivan embraced and kissed the little horse, and told him the task the Tzar had laid upon him. "Do not weep," said the pony; "I can help thee. Nor is this service so hard a one. Go thou to the Tzar and ask of him a bucket of golden corn, a bucket of silver wheat, and a silken lasso."
So Ivan went before the Tzar and asked, as he had been bidden, for the wheat, the corn, and the silken lasso, and brought them to the stables. "Now," said the little humpbacked horse, "lie down and sleep, for the morning holds more wisdom than the evening."
Little Fool Ivan lay down to sleep, and next morning the pony waked him at dawn. "Mount me now," he said, "with thy grain and thy silken rope, and we will be off, for the way is far."
Ivan put the silver wheat and the golden corn into stout bags, slung them across the pony's neck, and with his silken lasso wound about his waist, mounted, and the little humpbacked horse darted away like an eagle. He scoured wide plains, leaped across swift rivers, and sped along mountain ridges, and after running without pause for a day and a night, he stopped in a deep valley on the edge of a dreary wood, and said: "Little master, this is the Land of the South, and in this valley lives the Pig with the Golden Bristles. She comes each day to root in this forest. Take thou the golden corn and the silver wheat and pour them on the ground in two piles, at some distance apart, and conceal thyself. When the Pig comes she will run to the corn, but the sucklings will begin to eat the wheat, and while the mother is not by, thou mayst secure them. Bring them to me and tie them to my saddle with the silken lasso and I will bear thee back. As for the Pig, she will follow her sucklings."
Little Fool Ivan did all as the little horse bade him. He entered the forest, put the corn and wheat in two piles, hid himself in a thicket near the latter, and rested till evening, when there came a sound of grunting and the Pig with the Golden Bristles and Silver Tusks led her young into the forest. She saw the corn, and at once began to eat it, while the twenty sucklings ran to the wheat. He caught them, one by one, tied them with the silken lasso, and, hastening to the little horse, made them fast to his saddle-bow. Scarce had he mounted when the Pig perceived them, and seeing her sucklings borne away, came running after them, erecting her golden bristles and gnashing her silver tusks.
The little humpbacked horse sped away like a flash back along the road they had come, with the Pig pursuing them, and, after running without stop for a night and a day, they arrived after dark at the Tzar's capital. Little Fool Ivan rode to the Palace courtyard, set down there the twenty suckling-pigs, still tied by the silken lasso, went to the stables and fell asleep.
In the morning the Tzar was greatly astonished to see that Little Fool Ivan had performed the task and was delighted to possess the new treasure. He sent for his Master of Horse and praised him and gave him a rich present, so that the envious ones thereat were made still more envious.
So, after some days, these came to the Tzar and said: "Thy Master of Horse, O Tzar's Majesty, doth boast now that the bringing of the wonderful Pig with her twenty sucklings was but a small service, and that he could, if he but chose, bring to thee the Mare with Seven Manes and her seven fierce stallions that graze on a green meadow between the crystal hills of the Caucasus."
Then, in more anger than before, the Tzar bade them bring Little Fool Ivan to his presence and said sternly: "Heed my royal word. If in seven days thou hast not brought hither from between the crystal hills of the Caucasus the Seven-Maned Mare with her seven stallions, I will send thee where the crows shall pick thy bones!"
Little Fool Ivan went weeping to the little humpbacked horse and told him of the Tzar's new command. "Grieve not, little master," said the other; "let not thy bright head droop. I can aid thee. Nor is this service too hard a one. Go thou to the Tzar and demand that he prepare at once a stone stable with one door opening into it and another opening out. Ask also for a horse's skin and an iron hammer of twelve poods' weight."
Ivan obeyed. He demanded the stable, the horse's skin and the iron hammer, and when all was ready the little horse said: "Lie down and sleep now, little master. The morning is wiser than the evening." Little Fool Ivan lay down and slept, and next morning at daybreak the pony waked him. Ivan tied the horse's skin to the saddle-bow, slung the hammer about his neck and mounted, and the little humpbacked horse darted away like a swallow, till the dust curled about his legs like a whirlwind. When he had run three days and four nights without rest, he stopped between two crystal hills and said:
"Yonder lies the green meadow whereon each evening grazes the Mare with Seven Manes and her seven fierce stallions. Take now thy horse's skin and sew me within it, and presently the mare will come and will set upon me with her teeth. While she rends the skin from me, do thou run and strike her between her two ears with thy twelve pood hammer, so that she will be stunned. Mount me then in haste, and thou mayst lead her after thee, and as for the seven stallions, they will follow."
So Little Fool Ivan sewed the little horse in the horse's skin, and when the mare with the seven stallions came, the stallions stood afar off, but the mare set upon him and rent the skin from him. Then Ivan ran and struck her with the iron hammer and stunned her, and instantly, holding by her seven manes, leaped to the back of the little humpbacked horse.
Scarce had he mounted, when the seven fierce stallions saw him, and came galloping after them, screaming with rage. But the little humpbacked horse was off like a dart back along the road they had come, and when they had traveled without stopping three nights and four days, they arrived at the Tzar's capital. Little Fool Ivan rode to the stone stable that had been built, went in at one door, and leaving therein the Mare with the Seven Manes, rode out of the other and barred it behind him, and the seven stallions, following the mare, were caught. Then Ivan went to his own place and went to sleep.
When they reported to the Tzar that this time also Little Fool Ivan had performed his task, the Tzar was more rejoiced than before and bestowed high rank and all manner of honors upon him, till, for hatred and malice the envious ones were beside themselves.
They conferred together and coming before the Tzar, they said: "O Tzar's Majesty to bring thee the mare and the stallions, thy Master of Horse boasteth now, was but a small service, saying that, if he willed, he could fetch thee from across three times nine lands, where the little red sun rises, the beautiful Girl-Tzar, whom thou hast so long desired for thy bride, who lives on the sea-ocean in a golden boat, which she rows with silver oars."
Then was the Tzar mightily angered. "Summon this boaster again before me," he commanded, and when Little Fool Ivan was come in, he bade him bring him the lovely Girl-Tzar within twelve days or pay the forfeit with his head. So, for the third time, Ivan went weeping to the little humpbacked horse and told him the Tzar's will.
"Dry thy tears, little master," said the other, "for I can assist thee. This is not, after all, the hardest service. Go thou to the Tzar and ask for two handkerchiefs cunningly embroidered in gold, a silken tent woven with gold thread and with golden tent-poles, gold and silver dishes, and all manner of wines and sweetmeats."
Ivan lost no time in obeying and when they were ready brought them to the stables. "Lie down and sleep now," said the little horse. "To-morrow is wiser than to-day." Accordingly Little Fool Ivan lay down and slept till the little horse woke him at daybreak. He put all that had been prepared into a bag and mounted, and the little humpbacked horse sped away like the wind.
For six days they rode, a hundred thousand versts, till they reached a forest at the very end of the world, where the little red sun rises out of the blue sea-ocean. Here they stopped and Ivan alighted.
"Pitch now thy tent on the white sand," said the little horse. "In it spread thy embroidered handkerchiefs and on them put the wine and the gold and silver plates piled with sweetmeats. As for thee, do thou hide behind the tent and watch. From her golden boat the Girl-Tzar will see the tent and will approach it. Let her enter it and eat and drink her fill. Then go in, seize and hold her, and call for me." So saying, he ran to hide himself in the forest.
Ivan pitched the tent, prepared the food and wine, and lying down behind the tent, made a tiny hole in the silk through which to see, and waited. And before long the golden boat came sailing over the blue sea-ocean. The beautiful Girl-Tzar alighted to look at the splendid tent and seeing the wine and sweetmeats, entered and began to eat and drink. So graceful and lovely was she that no tale could describe her and Little Fool Ivan could not gaze enough. He forgot what the little horse had told him and he was still peering through the hole in the silk when the beautiful maiden sprang up, left the tent, leaped into her golden boat, and the silver oars carried her far away on the sea-ocean.
When the little humpbacked horse came running up, Ivan too late repented of his folly. "I am guilty before thee!" he said. "And now I shall never see her again!" and he began to shed tears.
"Never mind," said the little horse. "She will come again to-morrow, but if thou failest next time we must needs go back without her and thy head will be lost."
Next day Little Fool Ivan spread the wines and sweetmeats and lay down to watch as before; and again the lovely Girl-Tzar came rowing in her golden boat and entered the tent and began to regale herself. And while she ate and drank Ivan ran in and seized and held her and called to the little horse. The girl cried out and fought to be free, but when she saw how handsome Little Fool Ivan was, she quite forgot to struggle. He mounted and put her before him on the saddle, and the humpbacked horse dashed away like lightning along the road they had come.
They rode six days and on the seventh they came again to the capital, and Little Fool Ivan—with a sad heart, since he had fallen in love with her himself—brought the lovely girl to the Palace.
The Tzar was overjoyed. He came out to meet them, took the maiden by her white hand, seated her beside him beneath a silken curtain on a cushion of purple velvet, and spoke to her tender words. "O Girl-Tzar, to whom none can be compared!" he said. "My Tzaritza that is to be! For how long have I not slept, either by night or in the white day, for thinking of thine eyes!"
But the beautiful Girl-Tzar turned from him and would not answer and again and again he tried his wooing, till at length she said: "O Tzar, thou art wrinkled and gray, and hast left sixty years behind thee, while I am but sixteen. Should I wed thee, the Tzars of all Tzardoms would laugh, saying that a grandfather had taken to wife his grandchild."
Hearing this, the Tzar was angry. "It is true," he said, "that flowers do not bloom in winter and that I am no longer young. But I am nevertheless a great Tzar."
Then she replied: "I will wed no one who hath gray hairs and who lacks teeth in his head. If thou wilt but grow young again, then will I wed thee right willingly."
"How can a man grow young again?" he asked.
"There is a way, O Tzar," she said, "and it is thus: Order three great caldrons to be placed in thy courtyard. Fill the first with cold water, the second with boiling water, and the third with boiling mare's milk. He who bathes one minute in the boiling milk, two in the boiling water, and three in the cold water, becomes instantly young and so handsome that it cannot be told. Do this and I will become thy Tzaritza, but not otherwise."
The Tzar at once bade them prepare in the courtyard the three caldrons, one of cold water, one of boiling water, and one of boiling mare's milk, minded to make the test. The envious courtiers, however, came to him and said: "O Tzar's Majesty! this is a strange thing and we have never heard that a man can plunge into boiling liquid and not be scalded. We pray thee, therefore, bid thy Master of Horse bathe before thee; then mayest thou be assured that all is well." And this counsel seemed to the Tzar good and he straightway summoned Little Fool Ivan and bade him prepare to make the trial.
When Ivan heard the Tzar's command he said to himself, "So I am to be killed like a sucking-pig or a chicken!" and he went sorrowfully to the stables and told the little humpbacked horse. "Thou hast found for me the Pig with the Golden Bristles," he said, "the Seven-Maned Mare, and the beautiful Girl-Tzar; but now these are all as nothing and my life is as worthless as a boot sole!" And he began to weep bitterly.
"Weep not, little master," said the little horse. "This is indeed a real service that I shall serve thee. Now listen well to what I say. When thou goest to the courtyard, before thou strippest off thy clothes to bathe, ask of the Tzar to permit them to bring to thee thy little humpbacked horse, that thou mayest bid him farewell for the last time. He will agree and when I am brought there I shall gallop three times around the three kettles, dip my nose in each and sprinkle thee. Lose not a moment then, but jump instantly in the caldron of boiling milk, then into the boiling water, and last into the cold water."
Scarcely had he instructed him when the Boyars came to bring Ivan to the courtyard. All the Court Ministers were there to see and the place was crowded with people, while the Tzar looked on from a balcony. The two caldrons were boiling hot and servants fed the great fires beneath them with heaps of fuel. Little Fool Ivan bowed low before the Tzar and prepared for the bath.
But having taken off his coat, he bowed again and said: "O Tzar's Majesty! I have but one favor to ask. Bid them bring hither my little humpbacked horse that I may embrace him once more for the last time!" The Tzar was in good humor thinking he was so soon to regain his youth, and he consented, and presently the little horse came running into the courtyard, dancing up and down and clapping his long ears together. But as soon as he came to the three caldrons he galloped three times round them, dipped his nose into each and sprinkled his master; and without waiting a moment Little Fool Ivan threw off his clothes and jumped into the caldrons, one after the other. And while he had been good-looking before, he came from the last caldron so handsome that his beauty could neither be described with a pen nor written in a tale.
Now when the Tzar saw this, he could wait no longer. He hastened down from the balcony and without waiting to undress, crossed himself and jumped into the boiling milk. But the charm did not work in his case, and he was instantly scalded to death.
Seeing the Tzar was dead, the Girl-Tzar came to the balcony and spoke to the people, saying: "Thy Tzar chose me to be his Tzaritza. If thou wilt, I will rule this Tzardom, but it shall be only as the wife of him who brought me from mine own!"
The people, well pleased, shouted: "Health to Tzar Ivan!" And so Little Fool Ivan led the lovely Girl-Tzar to the church and they were married that same day.
Then Tzar Ivan ordered the trumpeters to blow their hammered trumpets and the butlers to open the bins, and he made in the Palace a feast like a hill, and the Boyars and Princes sat at oak tables and drank from golden goblets and made merry till they could not stand on their feet.
But Little Fool Ivan, with his Tzaritza, ruled the Tzardom wisely and well, and grew never too wise to take counsel of his little humpbacked horse.
T HE nest was about an inch long when it was finished, and the tunnel inside was no larger around than Theodore's little finger.
"What now?" asked Theodore.
"Oh! you wait," said Uncle Will, "don't try to hurry the affairs of the universe."
"You said it was a house for her children, but where are the children?"
"Not ready yet," answered Uncle Will; "you'll see!"
"But what is this," asked Theodore as Pelopaeus came bearing something that was not mud.
"She is carrying in her baby," he went on in an eager whisper.
The wasp certainly had something new, something with legs.
"I don't wonder you think so," said Uncle Will, "but you are as much mistaken as if you thought the moon was made of green cheese. That is not a wasp-child. It is a thanksgiving turkey for the young wasp to eat. See, Pelopaeus has gone into the cell, way in so you can just see the tip of her tail—she will stow away the spider she has brought and then go and find another."
"What for?" asked Theodore in astonishment, as the wasp came
backing out of the nest and went away
"Have I not told you?"
"Oh, Uncle Will! that story about the turkey was just nonsense, you know."
"Not entirely," replied Uncle Will, in the serious tone that Theodore knew meant telling what was just so.
"Get down now and let us sit on the sawhorse out in the sun and watch for her to come back."
When they had seated themselves, Uncle Will went on with the story.
"You see," he said, "this is the way of it. When the nest is
done, it must be provisioned, for Pelopaeus is going to
leave it, and the young
"Ugh!" groaned Theodore.
"But you must remember spiders are what her imprisoned child
likes best of anything in the world. Every one to his taste,
you know. She goes out and catches the spiders and brings
them home one by
"Why don't they crawl away as soon as her back is turned?" asked Theodore. "I am sure she went off and left the cave quite open."
"They can't move," was Uncle Will's answer.
"Oh! she kills them then?"
"No, indeed, she knows better than that! Dead spiders
wouldn't keep very well, or they might dry up and not be
worth much as food. No, she has a better plan than that.
cannot put them in just as she finds them, for then they
would run away, or if she succeeded in getting them walled
up they might do the eating, and consume her child. No, when
she finds a nice fat spider just to her liking, she darts
upon it and stings it in a tender spot. She knows just the
right place to strike, and no sooner is the sting well in
than she squeezes a drop of poison from her poison bag into
the wound. This paralyzes the spider so that it cannot move
and doubtless cannot feel. You see, it is thus kept fresh
and juicy for the
"Canned spider!" shouted Theodore in delight.
"Preserved spider, I should say," amended Uncle Will.
"What would happen if she should sting us, Uncle Will? Would it paralyze us?"
"No, indeed," said Uncle Will, "we are too big for that. Her short little sting could not reach into our nerve centers even if she had enough poison to do us harm. She can only sting us on the skin."
"But it would hurt, I guess!"
"Well, I should say so!" agreed Uncle Will. "You may have a chance to know from experience before we get through with this wasp business."
"Well," said Theodore, "it makes me squirm to think of it, and yet I do hope I shall get stung sometime—just to know how it is."
"I have no doubt the wasps will accommodate you sooner or later," said Uncle Will, dryly. "But how long Pelopaeus is—she must have had a good hunt for her next spider—ah! here she comes—see, she has a nice little striped fellow in her claws"; and Uncle Will and Theodore hurried into the shed to see her stow it away.
"But where is her child?" Theodore wanted to know.
"Be patient—all in good time. Very likely she is this minute laying an egg on the abdomen of the spider. After a while, when the cell is full of spiders, and all nicely sealed up, the egg will hatch. No sooner will the little grub have hatched out of the egg—we call it a larva, you know—than it will begin to eat spider. How it will eat and how it will grow! When it has finished on spider, legs and all, it will start on another and eat that, legs and all, and so on until it has eaten every spider in the nest. You see, there is nothing for it to do in its safe little cave but to eat and sleep."
"And grow," added Theodore.
"Yes, and grow," assented Uncle Will.
"When everything is eaten up, what then?" Theodore wanted to know.
"Well, then it takes a long and happy sleep during which it becomes a 'pupa', which you know means 'doll'."
"Precisely so," said Uncle Will; "and just before it goes to sleep it spins a thin silken blanket all about itself."
"Where does it get the silk, Uncle Will? Is it in its mouth, as it is in the mouth of the baby bees?"
"Yes, just the same. The young wasp larva moves its head back and forth, attaching the liquid silk—which you remember dries quickly as soon as the air touches it—to one spot and another and drawing it out into fine, glistening threads. Thus it spins and weaves and spins and weaves until the neat soft covering quite surrounds its little body. Then it goes to sleep and remains as snug as you please while the change takes place within its body that transforms it from a larva to a pupa, and from a pupa to a perfect wasp. Then—you know what happens then."
"Yes, I suppose it comes out of its pupa shell just like the young bee; but do, please, go on and tell it," begged Theodore, and Uncle Will went on.
"When the pupa has turned into a wasp it stretches and
struggles until it has drawn itself quite free from the
delicate pupa shell, then it gnaws at the outer end of its
clay nest with its strong little jaws until it has made a
hole large enough to crawl out of, just opens the door, you
see, and sallies
forth. What went in as a little white egg
comes out as a
"How long does it take, Uncle Will?"
"Only a short time for these that are started in the spring. But the nests made in the autumn keep their tenants through the winter. The young wasp remains in the pupa state until the flowers open in the spring, and the insects that supply it come forth."
"I should like to see the young wasp coming out into the world," said Theodore.
"Well, maybe you can," said Uncle Will, "and anyway, you can see it hunting; look there!" and he pointed to where Pelopaeus was flying up and down along the side of the walk where the bushes grew.
"Oh!" cried Theodore, "did you see that? Did you see her pounce on that spider and scramble round with it and snatch it out of its web? But when did she sting it?"
"I suppose in that scramble, when she first struck it; it all happened so quickly it was hard to see. I wish we had been closer."
"My! so do I!" cried Theodore.
"But anyway we are glad we saw the hunter capture her prey,"
said Uncle Will, "and we saw something more—we saw Madam
Spider standing in her doorway with her silvery silken
curtains drawn about her waiting for dinner. And then—what
was that? a whir of wings! Madam Spider started up, all
attention. Dinner was coming! But alas for little Madam
Spider with the golden girdle about her waist and her full
petticoat all embroidered with black and brown and yellow—alas
for her! The insect she hoped to have for dinner
was a strong and relentless huntress that sprang upon Madam
Spider before she could collect her wits enough to
escape,—yes, she sprang upon her and threw a poisoned dart into
her vitals, and snatched her away from her
"Uncle Will," said Theodore, rather soberly, "when you talk like that I don't know who to be sorry for. The wasp hunts the spider for her children's food, and first you feel glad for her, and then you feel sorry for the spider; and then the spider catches the fly so cleverly, and you feel glad and sorry again—and so it goes. Which of them ought we to feel glad over, Uncle Will?"
But Uncle Will only laughed and started towards the house, while Theodore trailed on behind.
The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright—
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.
The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done—
"It 's very rude of him," she said,
"To come and spoil the fun!"
The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead—
There were no birds to fly.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand:
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"
"If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year,
Do you suppose," the Walrus said,
"That they could get it clear?"
"I doubt it," said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.
"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."
The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head—
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.
But four young Oysters hurried up
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat—
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.
Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more—
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings."
"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.
"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed—
Now, if you 're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."
"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?
"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf—
I've had to ask you twice!"
"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"
"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You 've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?"
But answer came there none—
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.
WEEK 28 |
Matthew viii: 19 to 22;
Luke ix: 57 to 62; x: 38 to 42; xvii: 11 to 19;
John vii: 2 to 52.
N the fall of every year there was held at Jerusalem "The Feast of Tabernacles." It was kept to remind the people of the time when the Israelites came out of Egypt and lived for forty years in the wilderness, more than a thousand years before the days when Jesus was on the earth. At this feast the people from all parts of the land came up to Jerusalem, and worshipped in the Temple. And as the Israelites had lived in tents in the wilderness, the people during the feast did not sleep in-doors, but made arbors and huts from green boughs on the roofs of the houses, and on the hills around the city, and slept in them at night.
Jesus and his disciples went from Galilee to Jerusalem to attend this feast. Just as Jesus was leaving, a man who had heard Jesus said to him, "Master, I will follow thee wherever thou goest."
And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has not a place where he can lay his head."
There was another man to whom Jesus had said, "Follow me." This man said, "Lord, let me go and bury my father, who is very old and must die very soon, and then I will follow thee."
Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but do you go and preach the kingdom of God."
And another said, "Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go home and say 'good-bye' to those who are in my house."
Jesus said to him, "No man who has put his hand to the plow, and looks back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
On his way to Jerusalem Jesus went through the country of Samaria, where the people hated the Jews. In one place the Samaritans would not let Jesus and his disciples come into their village, because they saw that they were Jews going up to Jerusalem. The disciples were very angry at such treatment of their Master; and James and John said to him, "Lord, shall we call down fire from heaven, to destroy this village, as Elijah the prophet did once?"
But Jesus would not allow them to do this to their enemies. He said to them, "Your spirit is not the spirit of my kingdom. The Son of man has not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."
And they went to another village to find a resting place. At one town they met outside the gate ten men with the dreadful disease of leprosy, of which we read in the story of Naaman (Story 86). These men had heard of Jesus and his power to heal; and when they saw him they cried out aloud, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"
Jesus said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests."
If ever a leper became well, he went to the priest, and offered a sacrifice, and then was allowed to go to his home. These men obeyed the word of Jesus, believing that he would cure them; and as soon as they started to go to the priests they found that they were already well. All but one of the men went on their way, but one turned, and came back to Jesus, and fell at his feet, giving praise to God; and this man was not a Jew, but a Samaritan. Jesus said as he saw him, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there none who came back to give glory to God, except this stranger?"
Then he said to the man, "Rise up, and go your way; your faith has saved you."
Jesus came to Jerusalem not on the first day of the feast, but in the middle, for the feast was held for a week. He stood in the Temple, and taught the people, and all wondered at his words. On the last and greatest day of the feast, when they were bringing water and pouring it out in the Temple, Jesus cried aloud, "If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink! He that believes on me, out of him shall flow rivers of living water."
While Jesus was teaching in Jerusalem he often went out of the city to the village of Bethany, on the Mount of Olives. There he stayed with the family of Martha, her sister Mary, and their brother Lazarus. These were friends of Jesus, and he loved to be with them. One day, while Jesus was at the house, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, listening to his words; but Martha was busy with work, and full of cares. Martha came to Jesus, and said, "Master, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to come to help me!"
Jesus at the home of Mary and Martha.
But Jesus said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. Only one thing is needful; for Mary has chosen the good part which shall not be taken away from her."
A S the princess lay and sobbed, she kept feeling the thread mechanically, following it with her finger many times up the stones in which it disappeared. By and by she began, still mechanically, to poke her finger in after it between the stones as far as she could. All at once it came into her head that she might remove some of the stones and see where the thread went next. Almost laughing at herself for never having thought of this before, she jumped to her feet. Her fear vanished; once more she was certain her grandmother's thread could not have brought her there just to leave her there; and she began to throw away the stones from the top as fast as she could, sometimes two or three at a handful, sometimes taking both hands to lift one. After clearing them away a little, she found that the thread turned and went straight downward. Hence, as the heap sloped a good deal, growing of course wider toward its base, she had to throw away a multitude of stones to follow the thread. But this was not all, for she soon found that the thread, after going straight down for a little way, turned first sideways in one direction, then sideways in another, and then shot, at various angles, hither and thither inside the heap, so that she began to be afraid that to clear the thread, she must remove the whole huge gathering. She was dismayed at the very idea, but, losing no time, set to work with a will; and with aching back, and bleeding fingers and hands, she worked on, sustained by the pleasure of seeing the heap slowly diminish, and begin to show itself on the opposite side of the fire. Another thing which helped to keep up her courage was, that as often as she uncovered a turn of the thread, instead of lying loose upon the stones, it tightened up; this made her sure that her grandmother was at the end of it somewhere.
She had got about half way down when she started, and nearly fell
with fright. Close to her ears as it seemed, a voice broke out
"Jabber, bother, smash!
You'll have it all in a crash.
Jabber, smash, bother!
You'll have the worst of the pother.
Here Curdie stopped, either because he could not find a rhyme to jabber, or because he remembered what he had forgotten when he woke up at the sound of Irene's labors, that his plan was to make the goblins think he was getting weak. But he had uttered enough to let Irene know who he was.
"It's Curdie!" she cried joyfully.
"Hush, hush!" came Curdie's voice again from somewhere. "Speak softly."
"Why, you were singing loud!" said Irene.
"Yes. But they know I am here, and they don't know you are. Who are you?"
"I'm Irene," answered the princess. "I know who you are quite well. You're Curdie."
"Why, how ever did you come here, Irene?"
"My great-great-grandmother sent me; and I think I've found out why. You can't get out, I suppose?"
"No, I can't. What are you doing?"
"Clearing away a huge heap of stones."
"There's a princess!" exclaimed Curdie, in a tone of delight, but still speaking in little more than a whisper. "I can't think how you got here, though."
"My grandmother sent me after her thread."
"I don't know what you mean," said Curdie; "but so you're there, it doesn't much matter."
"Oh, yes it does!" returned Irene. "I should never have been here but for her."
"You can tell me all about it when we get out, then. There's no time to lose now," said Curdie.
And Irene went to work, as fresh as when she began.
"There's such a lot of stones!" she said. "It will take me a long time to get them all away."
"How far on have you got?" asked Curdie.
"I've got about the half away, but the other half is ever so much bigger."
"I don't think you will have to move the lower half. Do you see a slab laid up against the wall?"
Irene looked and felt about with her hands, and soon perceived the outlines of the slab.
"Yes," she answered, "I do."
"Then, I think," rejoined Curdie, "when you have cleared the slab about half way down, or a little more, I shall be able to push it over."
"I must follow my thread," returned Irene, "whatever I do."
"What do you mean?" exclaimed Curdie.
"You will see when you get out of here," answered the princess, and went on harder than ever.
But she was soon satisfied that what Curdie
wanted done, and what
the thread wanted done, were one and the same thing. For she not
only saw that by following the turns of the thread she had been
clearing the face of the slab, but that, a little more than
half way down, the thread went through the chink between the slab
and the wall into the place where Curdie was confined, so that she
could not follow it any farther until the slab was out of her way.
As soon as she found this, she said in a right joyous
"Now, Curdie! I think if you were to give a great push, the slab would tumble over."
"Stand quite clear of it then," said Curdie, "and let me know when you are ready."
Irene got off the heap, and stood on one side of it.
"Now, Curdie!" she cried.
Curdie gave a great rush with his shoulder against it. Out tumbled the slab on the heap, and out crept Curdie over the top of it.
"You've saved my life, Irene!" he whispered.
"Oh, Curdie! I'm so glad! Let's get out of this horrid place as fast as we can."
"That's easier said than done," returned he.
"Oh, no! it's quite easy," said Irene. "We have only to follow my thread. I am sure that it's going to take us out now."
She had already begun to follow it over the fallen slab into the hole, while Curdie was searching the floor of the cavern for his pickaxe.
"Here it is!" he cried. "No, it is not!" he added, in a disappointed tone. "What can it be then?—I declare it's a torch. That is jolly! It's better almost than my pickaxe. Much better if it weren't for those stone shoes!" he went on, as he lighted the torch by blowing the last embers of the expiring fire.
When he looked up, with the lighted torch casting a glare into the great darkness of the huge cavern, he caught sight of Irene disappearing in the hole out of which he had himself just come.
"Where are you going there?" he cried. "That's not the way out. That's where I couldn't get out."
"I know that," whispered Irene. "But this is the way my thread goes, and I must follow it."
"What nonsense the child talks!" said Curdie to himself. "I must follow her, though, and see that she comes to no harm. She will soon find she can't get out that way, and then she will come with me."
So he crept over the slab once more into the hole with his torch in
his hand. But when he looked about in it, he could see her
nowhere. And now he discovered that although the hole was narrow,
it was much larger than he had supposed; for in one direction the
roof came down very low, and the hole went off in a narrow passage,
of which he could not see the end. The princess must have crept in
there. He got on his knees and one hand, holding the torch with
the other, and crept after her. The hole twisted about, in some
parts so low that he could hardly get through, in others so high
that he could not see the roof, but everywhere it was narrow—far
too narrow for a goblin to get through, and so I presume they never
thought that Curdie might. He was beginning to feel very
uncomfortable lest something should have befallen the princess,
when he heard her voice almost close to his ear,
"Aren't you coming, Curdie?"
And when he turned the next corner, there she stood waiting for him.
"I knew you couldn't go wrong in that narrow hole, but now you must keep by me, for here is a great wide place," she said.
"I can't understand it," said Curdie, half to himself, half to Irene.
"Never mind," she returned. "Wait till we get out."
Curdie, utterly astonished that she had already got so far, and by a path he had known nothing of, thought it better to let her do as she pleased.
"At all events," he said again to himself, "I know nothing about the way, miner as I am; and she seems to think she does know something about it, though how she should, passes my comprehension. So she's just as likely to find her way as I am, and as she insists on taking the lead, I must follow. We can't be much worse off than we are, anyhow."
Reasoning thus, he followed her a few steps, and came out in another great cavern, across which Irene walked in a straight line, as confidently as if she knew every step of the way. Curdie went on after her, flashing his torch about, and trying to see something of what lay around them. Suddenly he started back a pace as the light fell upon something close by which Irene was passing. It was a platform of rock raised a few feet from the floor and covered with sheep skins, upon which lay two horrible figures asleep, at once recognized by Curdie as the king and queen of the goblins. He lowered his torch instantly lest the light should awake them. As he did so, it flashed upon his pickaxe, lying by the side of the queen, whose hand lay close by the handle of it.
"Stop one moment," he whispered. "Hold my torch, and don't let the light on their faces."
Irene shuddered when she saw the frightful creatures whom she had passed without observing them, but she did as he requested, and turning her back, held the torch low in front of her. Curdie drew his pickaxe carefully away, and as he did so, spied one of her feet, projecting from under the skins. The great clumsy granite shoe, exposed thus to his hand, was a temptation not to be resisted. He laid hold of it, and with cautious efforts, drew it off. The moment he succeeded, he saw to his astonishment that what he had sung in ignorance, to annoy the queen, was actually true: she had six horrible toes. Overjoyed at his success, and seeing by the huge bump in the sheep skins where the other foot was, he proceeded to lift them gently, for, if he could only succeed in carrying away the other shoe as well, he would be no more afraid of the goblins than of so many flies. But as he pulled at the second shoe, the queen gave a growl and sat up in bed. The same instant the king awoke also, and sat up beside her.
"Run, Irene!" cried Curdie, for though he was not now in the least afraid for himself, he was for the princess.
Irene looked once round, saw the fearful creatures awake, and like
the wise princess she was, dashed the torch on the ground and
extinguished it, crying
"Here, Curdie, take my hand."
He darted to her side, forgetting neither the queen's shoe nor his pickaxe, and caught hold of her hand, as she sped fearlessly where her thread guided her. They heard the queen give a great bellow; but they had a good start, for it would be some time before they could get torches lighted to pursue them. Just as they thought they saw a gleam behind them, the thread brought them to a very narrow opening, through which Irene crept easily, and Curdie with difficulty.
"Now," said Curdie; "I think we shall be safe."
"Of course we shall," returned Irene.
"Why do you think so?" asked Curdie.
"Because my grandmother is taking care of us."
"That's all nonsense," said Curdie. "I don't know what you mean."
"Then if you don't know what I mean, what right have you to call it nonsense?" asked the princess, a little offended.
"I beg your pardon, Irene," said Curdie; "I did not mean to vex you."
"Of course not," returned the princess. "But why do you think we shall be safe?"
"Because the king and queen are far too stout to get through that hole."
"There might be ways round," said the other.
"To be sure there might; we are not out of it yet," acknowledged Curdie.
"But what do you mean by the king and queen?" asked the princess. "I should never call such creatures as those a king and a queen."
"Their own people do, though," answered Curdie.
The princess asked more questions, and Curdie, as they walked leisurely along, gave her a full account, not only of the character and habits of the goblins, so far as he knew them, but of his own adventures with them, beginning from the very night after that in which he had met her and Lootie upon the mountain. When he had finished, he begged Irene to tell him how it was that she had come to his rescue. So Irene too had to tell a long story, which she did in rather a roundabout manner, interrupted by many questions concerning things she had not explained. But her tale, as he did not believe more than half of it, left everything as unaccountable to him as before, and he was nearly as much perplexed as to what he must think of the princess. He could not believe that she was deliberately telling stories, and the only conclusion he could come to was that Lootie had been playing the child tricks, inventing no end of lies to frighten her for her own purposes.
"But how ever did Lootie come to let you go into the mountain alone?" he asked.
"Lootie knows nothing about it. I left her fast asleep—at least I think so. I hope my grandmother won't let her get into trouble, for it wasn't her fault at all, as my grandmother very well knows."
"But how did you find your way to me?" persisted Curdie.
"I told you already," answered Irene;—"by keeping my finger upon my grandmother's thread, as I am doing now."
"You don't mean you've got the thread there?"
"Of course I do. I have told you so ten times already. I have hardly—except when I was removing the stones—taken my finger off it. There!" she added, guiding Curdie's hand to the thread, "you feel it yourself—don't you?"
"I feel nothing at all," replied Curdie.
"Then what can be the matter with your finger? I feel it perfectly. To be sure it is very thin, and in the sunlight looks just like the thread of a spider, though there are many of them twisted together to make it—but for all that I can't think why you shouldn't feel it as well as I do."
Curdie was too polite to say he did not believe there was any
thread there at all. What he did say
"Well, I can make nothing of it."
"I can, though, and you must be glad of that, for it will do for both of us."
"We're not out yet," said Curdie.
"We soon shall be," returned Irene confidently.
And now the thread went downward, and led Irene's hand to a hole in the floor of the cavern, whence came a sound of running water which they had been hearing for some time.
"It goes into the ground now, Curdie," she said, stopping.
He had been listening to another sound, which his practiced ear had caught long ago, and which also had been growing louder. It was the noise the goblin miners made at their work, and they seemed to be at no great distance now. Irene heard it the moment she stopped.
"What is that noise?" she asked. "Do you know, Curdie?"
"Yes. It is the goblins digging and burrowing," he answered.
"And don't you know for what purpose they do it?"
"No; I haven't the least idea. Would you like to see them?" he asked, wishing to have another try after their secret.
"If my thread took me there, I shouldn't much mind; but I don't want to see them, and I can't leave my thread. It leads me down into the hole, and we had better go at once."
"Very well. Shall I go in first?" said Curdie.
"No; better not. You can't feel the thread," she answered, stepping down through a narrow break in the floor of the cavern. "Oh!" she cried, "I am in the water. It is running strong—but it is not deep, and there is just room to walk. Make haste, Curdie."
He tried, but the hole was too small for him to get in.
"Go on a little bit," he said, shouldering his pickaxe.
In a few moments he had cleared a larger opening and followed her. They went on, down and down with the running water, Curdie getting more and more afraid it was leading them to some terrible gulf in the heart of the mountain. In one or two places he had to break away the rock to make room before even Irene could get through—at least without hurting herself. But at length they spied a glimmer of light, and in a minute more, they were almost blinded by the full sunlight into which they emerged. It was some little time before the princess could see well enough to discover that they stood in her own garden, close by the seat on which she and her king-papa had sat that afternoon. They had come out by the channel of the little stream. She danced and clapped her hands with delight.
They had come out by the channel of the little stream.
"Now, Curdie!" she cried, "won't you believe what I told you about my grandmother and her thread?"
For she had felt all the time that Curdie was not believing what she had told him.
"There!—don't you see it shining on before us?" she added.
"I don't see anything," persisted Curdie.
"Then you must believe without seeing," said the princess; "for you can't deny it has brought me out of the mountain."
"I can't deny we are out of the mountain, and I should be very ungrateful indeed to deny that you had brought me out of it."
"I couldn't have done it but for the thread," persisted Irene.
"That's the part I don't understand."
"Well, come along, and Lootie will get you something to eat. I am sure you must want it very much."
"Indeed I do. But my father and mother will be so anxious about me, I must make haste—first up the mountain to tell my mother, and then down into the mine again to acquaint my father."
"Very well, Curdie; but you can't get out without coming this way, and I will take you through the house, for that is nearest."
They met no one by the way, for indeed, as before, the people were
here and there and everywhere searching for the princess. When
they got in, Irene found that the thread, as she had half expected,
went up the old stair-case, and a new thought struck her. She
turned to Curdie and
"My grandmother wants me. Do come up with me, and see her. Then you will know that I have been telling you the truth. Do come—to please me, Curdie. I can't bear you should think I say what is not true."
"I never doubted you believed what you said," returned Curdie. "I only thought you had some fancy in your head that was not correct."
"But do come, dear Curdie."
The little miner could not withstand this appeal, and though he felt shy in what seemed to him such a huge grand house, he yielded, and followed her up the stair.
When the voices of children are heard on the green,
And whisperings are in the dale,
The days of my youth rise fresh in my mind,
My face turns green and pale.
"Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise;
Your spring and your day are wasted in play,
And your winter and night in disguise."