WEEK 30 |
A FTER dinner all the gang turned out to hunt for turtle eggs on the bar. They went about poking sticks into the sand, and when they found a soft place they went down on their knees and dug with their hands. Sometimes they would take fifty or sixty eggs out of one hole. They were perfectly round white things a trifle smaller than an English walnut. They had a famous fried-egg feast that night, and another on Friday morning.
After breakfast they went whooping and prancing out on the bar, and chased each other round and round, shedding clothes as they went, until they were naked, and then continued the frolic far away up the shoal water of the bar, against the stiff current, which latter tripped their legs from under them from time to time and greatly increased the fun. And now and then they stooped in a group and splashed water in each other's faces with their palms, gradually approaching each other, with averted faces to avoid the strangling sprays, and finally gripping and struggling till the best man ducked his neighbor, and then they all went under in a tangle of white legs and arms and came up blowing, sputtering, laughing, and gasping for breath at one and the same time.
When they were well exhausted, they would run out and sprawl on the dry, hot sand, and lie there and cover themselves up with it, and by and by break for the water again and go through the original performance once more. Finally it occurred to them that their naked skin represented flesh-colored "tights" very fairly; so they drew a ring in the sand and had a circus—with three clowns in it, for none would yield this proudest post to his neighbor.
Next they got their marbles and played "knucks" and "ring-taw" and "keeps" till that amusement grew stale. Then Joe and Huck had another swim, but Tom would not venture, because he found that in kicking off his trousers he had kicked his string of rattlesnake rattles off his ankle, and he wondered how he had escaped cramp so long without the protection of this mysterious charm. He did not venture again until he had found it, and by that time the other boys were tired and ready to rest. They gradually wandered apart, dropped into the "dumps," and fell to gazing longingly across the wide river to where the village lay drowsing in the sun. Tom found himself writing "Becky " in the sand with his big toe; he scratched it out, and was angry with himself for his weakness. But he wrote it again, nevertheless; he could not help it. He erased it once more and then took himself out of temptation by driving the other boys together and joining them.
But Joe's spirits had gone down almost beyond resurrection. He was so homesick that he could hardly endure the misery of it. The tears lay very near the surface. Huck was melancholy, too. Tom was downhearted, but tried hard not to show it. He had a secret which he was not ready to tell, yet, but if this mutinous depression was not broken up soon, he would have to bring it out. He said, with a great show of cheerfulness:
"I bet there's been pirates on this island before, boys. We'll explore it again. They've hid treasures here somewhere. How'd you feel to light on a rotten chest full of gold and silver—hey?"
But it roused only a faint enthusiasm, which faded out, with no reply. Tom tried one or two other seductions; but they failed, too. It was discouraging work. Joe sat poking up the sand with a stick and looking very gloomy. Finally he said:
"Oh, boys, let's give it up. I want to go home. It's so lonesome."
"Oh, no, Joe, you'll feel better by and by," said Tom. "Just think of the fishing that's here."
"I don't care for fishing. I want to go home."
"But, Joe, there ain't such another swimming-place anywhere."
"Swimming's no good. I don't seem to care for it, somehow, when there ain't anybody to say I sha'n't go in. I mean to go home."
"Oh, shucks! Baby! You want to see your mother, I reckon."
"Yes, I do want to see my mother—and you would, too, if you had one. I ain't any more baby than you are." And Joe snuffled a little.
"Well, we'll let the cry-baby go home to his mother, won't we Huck? Poor thing—does it want to see its mother? And so it shall. You like it here, don't you, Huck? We'll stay, won't we?"
Huck said, "Y-e-s"—without any heart in it.
"I'll never speak to you again as long as I live," said Joe, rising. "There now!" And he moved moodily away and began to dress himself.
"Who cares!" said Tom. "Nobody wants you to. Go 'long home and get laughed at. Oh, you're a nice pirate. Huck and me ain't cry-babies. We'll stay, won't we, Huck? Let him go if he wants to. I reckon we can get along without him, per'aps."
But Tom was uneasy, nevertheless, and was alarmed to see Joe go sullenly on with his dressing. And then it was discomforting to see Huck eying Joe's preparations so wistfully, and keeping up such an ominous silence. Presently, without a parting word, Joe began to wade off toward the Illinois shore. Tom's heart began to sink. He glanced at Huck. Huck could not bear the look, and dropped his eyes. Then he said:
"I want to go, too, Tom. It was getting so lonesome anyway, and now it'll be worse. Let's us go, too, Tom."
"I won't! You can all go, if you want to. I mean to stay."
"Tom, I better go."
"Well, go 'long—who's hendering you."
Huck began to pick up his scattered clothes. He said:
"Tom, I wisht you'd come, too. Now you think it over. We'll wait for you when we get to shore."
"Well, you'll wait a blame long time, that's all."
Huck started sorrowfully away, and Tom stood looking after him, with a strong desire tugging at his heart to yield his pride and go along too. He hoped the boys would stop, but they still waded slowly on. It suddenly dawned on Tom that it was become very lonely and still. He made one final struggle with his pride, and then darted after his comrades, yelling:
"Wait! Wait! I want to tell you something!"
They presently stopped and turned around. When he got to where they were, he began unfolding his secret, and they listened moodily till at last they saw the "point" he was driving at, and then they set up a war-whoop of applause and said it was "splendid!" and said if he had told them at first, they wouldn't have started away. He made a plausible excuse; but his real reason had been the fear that not even the secret would keep them with him any very great length of time, and so he had meant to hold it in reserve as a last seduction.
The lads came gaily back and went at their sports again with a will, chattering all the time about Tom's stupendous plan and admiring the genius of it. After a dainty egg and fish dinner, Tom said he wanted to learn to smoke, now. Joe caught at the idea and said he would like to try, too. So Huck made pipes and filled them. These novices had never smoked anything before but cigars made of grapevine, and they "bit" the tongue, and were not considered manly anyway.
Now they stretched themselves out on their elbows and began to puff, charily, and with slender confidence. The smoke had an unpleasant taste, and they gagged a little, but Tom said:
"Why, it's just as easy! If I'd 'a' knowed this was all, I'd 'a' learnt long ago."
"So would I," said Joe. "It's just nothing."
"Why, many a time I've looked at people smoking, and thought well I wish I could do that; but I never thought I could," said Tom.
"That's just the way with me, hain't it, Huck? You've heard me talk just that way—haven't you, Huck? I'll leave it to Huck if I haven't."
"Yes—heaps of times," said Huck.
"Well, I have too," said Tom; "oh, hundreds of times. Once down by the slaughter-house. Don't you remember, Huck? Bob Tanner was there, and Johnny Miller, and Jeff Thatcher, when I said it. Don't you remember, Huck, 'bout me saying that?"
"Yes, that's so," said Huck. "That was the day after I lost a white alley. No, 'twas the day before."
"There—I told you so," said Tom. "Huck recollects it."
"I bleeve I could smoke this pipe all day," said Joe. "I don't feel sick."
"Neither do I," said Tom. "I could smoke it all day. But I bet you Jeff Thatcher couldn't."
"Jeff Thatcher! Why, he'd keel over just with two draws. Just let him try it once. He'd see!"
"I bet he would. And Johnny Miller—I wish I could see Johnny Miller tackle it once."
"Oh, don't I!" said Joe. "Why, I bet you Johnny Miller couldn't any more do this than nothing. Just one little snifter would fetch him."
"So do I."
"Say—boys, don't say anything about it, and some time when they're around, I'll come up to you and say, 'Joe, got a pipe? I want a smoke.' And you'll say, kind of careless like, as if it warn't anything, you'll say, 'Yes, I got my old pipe, and another one, but my tobacker ain't very good.' And I'll say, 'Oh, that's all right, if it's strong enough.' And then you'll out with the pipes, and we'll light up just as ca'm, and then just see 'em look!"
"By jings, that'll be gay, Tom! I wish it was now!"
"So do I! And when we tell 'em we learned when we was off pirating, won't they wish they'd been along?"
"Oh, I reckon not! I'll just bet they will!"
So the talk ran on. But presently it began to flag a trifle, and grow disjointed. The silences widened; the expectoration marvelously increased. Every pore inside the boys' cheeks became a spouting fountain; they could scarcely bail out the cellars under their tongues fast enough to prevent an inundation; little overflowings down their throats occurred in spite of all they could do, and sudden retchings followed every time. Both boys were looking very pale and miserable, now. Joe's pipe dropped from his nerveless fingers. Tom's followed. Both fountains were going furiously and both pumps bailing with might and main. Joe said feebly:
"I've lost my knife. I reckon I better go and find it."
"I've lost my knife. I reckon I better go and find it."
Tom said, with quivering lips and halting utterance:
"I'll help you. You go over that way and I'll hunt around by the spring. No, you needn't come, Huck—we can find it."
So Huck sat down again, and waited an hour. Then he found it lonesome, and went to find his comrades. They were wide apart in the woods, both very pale, both fast asleep. But something informed him that if they had had any trouble they had got rid of it.
They were not talkative at supper that night. They had a humble look, and when Huck prepared his pipe after the meal and was going to prepare theirs, they said no, they were not feeling very well—something they ate at dinner had disagreed with them.
About midnight Joe awoke, and called the boys. There was a brooding oppressiveness in the air that seemed to bode something. The boys huddled themselves together and sought the friendly companionship of the fire, though the dull dead heat of the breathless atmosphere was stifling. They sat still, intent and waiting. The solemn hush continued. Beyond the light of the fire everything was swallowed up in the blackness of darkness. Presently there came a quivering glow that vaguely revealed the foliage for a moment and then vanished. By and by another came, a little stronger. Then another. Then a faint moan came sighing through the branches of the forest and the boys felt a fleeting breath upon their cheeks, and shuddered with the fancy that the Spirit of the Night had gone by. There was a pause. Now a weird flash turned night into day and showed every little grass-blade, separate and distinct, that grew about their feet. And it showed three white, startled faces, too. A deep peal of thunder went rolling and tumbling down the heavens and lost itself in sullen rumblings in the distance. A sweep of chilly air passed by, rustling all the leaves and snowing the flaky ashes broadcast about the fire. Another fierce glare lit up the forest, and an instant crash followed that seemed to rend the tree-tops right over the boys' heads. They clung together in terror, in the thick gloom that followed. A few big raindrops fell pattering upon the leaves.
"Quick, boys! go for the tent!" exclaimed Tom.
They sprang away, stumbling over roots and among vines in the dark, no two plunging in the same direction. A furious blast roared through the trees, making everything sing as it went. One blinding flash after another came, and peal on peal of deafening thunder. And now a drenching rain poured down and the rising hurricane drove it in sheets along the ground. The boys cried out to each other, but the roaring wind and the booming thunderblasts drowned their voices utterly. However, one by one they straggled in at last and took shelter under the tent, cold, scared, and streaming with water; but to have company in misery seemed something to be grateful for. They could not talk, the old sail flapped so furiously, even if the other noises would have allowed them. The tempest rose higher and higher, and presently the sail tore loose from its fastenings and went winging away on the blast. The boys seized each other's hands and fled, with many tumblings and bruises, to the shelter of a great oak that stood upon the river-bank. Now the battle was at its highest. Under the ceaseless conflagration of lightning that flamed in the skies, everything below stood out in clean-cut and shadowless distinctness: the bending trees, the billowy river, white with foam, the driving spray of spume-flakes, the dim outlines of the high bluffs on the other side, glimpsed through the drifting cloud-rack and the slanting veil of rain. Every little while some giant tree yielded the fight and fell crashing through the younger growth; and the unflagging thunder-peals came now in ear-splitting explosive bursts, keen and sharp, and unspeakably appalling. The storm culminated in one matchless effort that seemed likely to tear the island to pieces, burn it up, drown it to the treetops, blow it away, and deafen every creature in it, all at one and the same moment. It was a wild night for homeless young heads to be out in.
But at last the battle was done, and the forces retired with weaker and weaker threatenings and grumblings, and peace resumed her sway. The boys went back to camp, a good deal awed; but they found there was still something to be thankful for, because the great sycamore, the shelter of their beds, was a ruin now, blasted by the lightnings, and they were not under it when the catastrophe happened.
Everything in camp was drenched, the camp-fire as well; for they were but heedless lads, like their generation, and had made no provision against rain. Here was matter for dismay, for they were soaked through and chilled. They were eloquent in their distress; but they presently discovered that the fire had eaten so far up under the great log it had been built against (where it curved upward and separated itself from the ground), that a handbreadth or so of it had escaped wetting; so they patiently wrought until, with shreds and bark gathered from the under sides of sheltered logs, they coaxed the fire to burn again. Then they piled on great dead boughs till they had a roaring furnace, and were glad-hearted once more. They dried their boiled ham and had a feast, and after that they sat by the fire and expanded and glorified their midnight adventure until morning, for there was not a dry spot to sleep on, anywhere around.
As the sun began to steal in upon the boys, drowsiness came over them, and they went out on the sand-bar and lay down to sleep. They got scorched out by and by, and drearily set about getting breakfast. After the meal they felt rusty, and stiff-jointed, and a little homesick once more. Tom saw the signs, and fell to cheering up the pirates as well as he could. But they cared nothing for marbles, or circus, or swimming, or anything. He reminded them of the imposing secret, and raised a ray of cheer. While it lasted, he got them interested in a new device. This was to knock off being pirates, for a while, and be Indians for a change. They were attracted by this idea; so it was not long before they were stripped, and striped from head to heel with black mud, like so many zebras—all of them chiefs, of course—and then they went tearing through the woods to attack an English settlement.
By and by they separated into three hostile tribes, and darted upon each other from ambush with dreadful war-whoops, and killed and scalped each other by thousands. It was a gory day. Consequently it was an extremely satisfactory one.
They assembled in camp toward supper-time, hungry and happy; but now a difficulty arose—hostile Indians could not break the bread of hospitality together without first making peace, and this was a simple impossibility without smoking a pipe of peace. There was no other process that ever they had heard of. Two of the savages almost wished they had remained pirates. However, there was no other way; so with such show of cheerfulness as they could muster they called for the pipe and took their whiff as it passed, in due form.
And behold, they were glad they had gone into savagery, for they had gained something; they found that they could now smoke a little without having to go and hunt for a lost knife; they did not get sick enough to be seriously uncomfortable. They were not likely to fool away this high promise for lack of effort. No, they practised cautiously, after supper, with right fair success, and so they spent a jubilant evening. They were prouder and happier in their new acquirement than they would have been in the scalping and skinning of the Six Nations. We will leave them to smoke and chatter and brag, since we have no further use for them at present.
I n the days of Marco Polo, Venice was one of the richest and most powerful cities in Europe, and nowhere else, perhaps, could one see so many magnificent palaces and churches. Venice had shrewd merchants, daring sailors, and many ships, and it was chiefly through the enormous trade which she had built up with the East that she had grown so wealthy.
Among the most enterprising of the Venetian merchants were the father and uncle of Marco Polo. Indeed, when Marco was a little boy, he used to hear stories of his father and his uncle that must have seemed to him almost like fairy tales. "They went away from Venice to make a voyage to Constantinople," the little boy's friends said, "and in Constantinople they bought a great quantity of rich jewelry. We think they must have gone into the unknown countries of Asia to trade, perhaps even to China, where the great khan lives."
When the boy was about fourteen, his father came home, and then he had stories to tell indeed. He had gone far into Asia, had sold the jewelry brought from Constantinople, had been at the court of the great Kublai Khan, ruler of China, and now he and his brother had come back to Italy with a message from the khan to the Pope. He showed the boy the khan's golden tablets which he had given to the brothers. The royal cipher was engraved upon them and a command that wherever in the khan's domain the brothers might go, his subjects should receive them with honour and should provide them with whatever they needed. The brothers were going back to China, and now the boy was happy, for his father promised that he might go with them.
Then they made the long, leisurely journey from Venice to Constantinople, and across Asia to China. They travelled through fertile valleys and sandy deserts, over stony mountains and through gloomy passes. They saw strange birds and fruits and peoples. They visited handsome cities, and lonely tribes that had no settled homes. It was a slow journey. In one place the sickness of the young Marco delayed them for many months. Sometimes they had to wait for company before they could venture through dangerous countries. Once they had to go far out of their way to avoid passing through a region where two tribes were waging war. At length they came within forty miles of the home of the great Kublai Khan, ruler of China. Here they were met by a large escort, sent out by the khan, and were brought into the city with every mark of honour that could be shown them.
The khan took a strong liking to the young Marco, and gave him a position in the royal household. The young man put on the Chinese dress, adopted the Chinese manners and customs and learned the four languages that were most used in the country. The khan was delighted with him and often gave him a golden tablet and sent him off on a journey so that on his return he could describe to him the wonderful things that he had seen. Marco's father and uncle were also given positions in the khan's service, and by his generosity they soon became exceedingly wealthy.
China was not home, however, even after they had lived in that country for many years, and they longed to see their own Venice. They begged the khan to allow them to return. "But why?" he asked. "It is a dangerous journey; you might lose your lives. Do you want money or jewels? I will give you twice as much as you now have; but I care for you too much to let you go away from me." Without the khan's tablets, the journey would be impossible; and the Polos began to fear they would never see their home again.
Some months before this the ruler of Persia had sent an embassy to beg that a granddaughter of the Great Khan might become his wife. The princess and her suite set off for Persia; but the way lay through a country that was at war, and they had to return. The Persian ambassadors, however, had been away from Persia three years, and they did not dare to remain longer at the Chinese court. Just then, Marco Polo arrived from a voyage to some of the islands off the coast. The idea occurred to the ambassadors that they might take ship and go by water to the Persian Gulf at less expense and with greater safety than by the overland way. They talked with the Polos, and found that they would be only too glad to go with them. Then they begged the khan to allow the three Venetians, who were experienced sailors, to escort them. The khan was not pleased, but he finally yielded. He gave the Polos his golden tablets, loaded them down with presents of jewels, and they and the ambassadors and the fair young princess sailed away with a fleet of fourteen vessels furnished with stores and provisions for two years. It was twenty-one months before they came to Persia. The Polos rested a year in the leisurely fashion of those days, then returned, not to China, but to Venice, having been absent twenty-four years.
At Venice there had been rumors long before that the famous travelers were dead. They were, of course, greatly changed, and they spoke Italian rather stiffly and queerly. It was hard to believe that these foreign-looking men in their long, rough Tartar coats could be the members of the wealthy family of Polo. They had some trouble in getting possession of their own palace, and even after they had succeeded, many thought they were impostors. The story is told that to convince these doubting friends, they invited them to a magnificent banquet. After the feast, the coarse, threadbare coats were brought in and quickly ripped open. There rolled out such a store of rubies and emeralds and diamonds and sapphires as the bewildered guests had never seen. The whole room blazed and sparkled with them. For the sake of safety on the dangerous journey, the Polos had brought their immense wealth in this form. Then the guests were convinced that the three men were not impostors, and they were treated with the utmost respect.
Marco Polo's Return.
War broke out between Venice and Genoa, and Marco Polo was put in command of a warship. He was taken prisoner by the Genoese and it was while he was in prison that he dictated to a gentleman of Genoa the stories of his travels. All Genoa became interested, and their famous prisoner was soon set free. Copies of his book in manuscript went everywhere. Some doubted its truth, and when the author was on his deathbed, they begged him to take back the parts of it that they thought must be exaggerated. "There is no exaggeration in the book," he declared. "On the contrary, I have not told half the amazing things that I saw with my own eyes."
O tell me, little children, have you seen her—
The tiny maid from Norway, Nikolina?
O, her eyes are blue as cornflow'rs mid the corn,
And her cheeks are rosy red as skies of morn!
Nikolina! swift she turns if any call her,
As she stands among the poppies, hardly taller,
Breaking off their scarlet cups for you,
With spikes of slender larkspur burning blue.
In her little garden many a flower is growing—
Red, gold, and purple in the soft wind blowing;
But the child that stands amid the blossoms gay
Is sweeter, quainter, brighter e'en than they.
WEEK 30 |
A FTER the plague had passed away another dreadful misfortune happened to London, at least at the time it seemed like a misfortune, but really it was a good thing. This was the Great Fire which caused much of the city to be burned to the ground. Many of the dirty houses and narrow streets were destroyed, and with them the last remains of the dreadful plague were also burned away. When the houses were built again they were made better and the streets were made wider, so that the Great Fire was not altogether a misfortune.
The fire first broke out in a baker's shop. As most of the houses were built of wood, and the summer had been unusually hot and dry, the flames spread very fast. They leaped from house to house, and the people, seeing that it was useless to try to save their dwellings, tried rather to save their furniture and belongings by carrying them to other houses. But sometimes, as soon as they had done this the fire would attack these too, and the people had to fly still further away, often in the end losing all that they possessed.
For three days and nights the fire blazed and roared. A great cloud of smoke hung over the city by day, but at night there was no darkness, for the flames made it brighter than by day. The air was hot and stifling, and at last no one could go near the fire, so great was the heat. The earth seemed a blazing furnace, and the sky as if beaten out of burning copper.
To stop the fire seemed impossible. It must burn and burn until nothing more was left to destroy. So houses were pulled down in order to make a gap between the burning ones and those which were still safe. But the work went on too slowly, and before the gap was big enough, the fire had reached the workers, and they had to flee for their lives.
At last some one thought of the plan of blowing up the houses with gunpowder. This was done, and when the hungry flames reached the open spaces left by the houses which had been destroyed, they died away, for they could not overleap the ruins and attack the houses beyond.
So the roar and crackle of the flames ceased, and the great cloud of smoke rolled away, but London, from the Tower to Temple Bar, was left a smouldering, blackened ruin and two hundred thousand people were homeless.
In memory of the Great Fire a monument was raised on the spot where it first broke out, and may still be seen to this day. So fearful were people at that time about plots, and so bitter was the feeling about religion, that many thought the fire had been caused on purpose by the Roman Catholics. But there was never any real reason for believing this, and now every one thinks that it happened by accident.
About this time the King of France became very greedy, and wanted more land and power than he had a right to possess. To prevent him succeeding in his plans to get these, three other countries in Europe joined together, forming what was called the Triple Alliance. The three countries were Britain, Holland, and Sweden. Triple means "three," and alliance means "to join together," and the Triple Alliance was called so because three countries joined together.
As you know, the French and English were old enemies, and this alliance pleased the English, so that Charles was forced to join it, although he really did not care whether the French King was powerful or not.
Charles thought most of all about his own pleasure. He spent a great deal of money, and he could not always make the Commons give him more when he wanted it. Now he thought of a new way of getting money. He wrote secret letters to the King of France, offering to break with the Triple Alliance, and to help him to fight against the Dutch. This, he said, he would do, if the King of France would promise to give him a large sum of money every year.
The King of France promised, and so Charles disgraced himself and his country, not only by breaking his word, but by becoming the servant of the King of France. Openly he pretended to be a Protestant and the friend of Protestants. Secretly he was a Roman Catholic and the friend of Roman Catholics.
For a time Charles kept up the pretence of the Triple Alliance, and by telling the Parliament that he must have more sailors, in order to keep a check upon the French King, he got a large sum of money from them. He got still more money in other wicked ways and then, to the anger of the people, he made war on the Dutch.
But if France was greedy and Britain false, Holland was strong and stubborn. Bravely she fought under her great leader, William, Prince of Orange. In two years Charles came to the end of his money, and he was forced to sign a peace called the Peace of Westminster, and leave France to fight alone. But he still continued to receive money from the French King.
Charles was called the Merry Monarch, because he was gay and laughter-loving. The people were glad at first to have so gay a King, for they were tired of the stern ways of Cromwell and the Puritans. But they soon found out that Charles was selfish and wicked as well as gay, and his reign proved a very unhappy one for Britain.
There was constant discontent, there were constant plots. The King plotted, Parliament plotted, Protestants plotted, and Catholics plotted. But out of all the misery and discontent and injustice of these years one good thing at least grew.
This good thing was the passing of the Habeas Corpus Act. It
was indeed no new act, it was as old as the Great Charter of
King John, but like much in that great charter it had been
set aside by king after king. By this Act no person could be
put into prison and left there as long as the King pleased,
or until he was forgotten by all his friends. It commanded
that every person should be brought to trial, and either
punished or set free. Habeas Corpus is Latin for "have his
body," and means that the body of the prisoner must be
brought into court at a certain time to be tried, instead of
being left in prison for a long, long time or perhaps sent
into slavery and exile without any trial or any chance of
proving himself innocent. This Act is at least one good
thing to remember of the reign of
He died as he had lived, careless, witty, laughter-loving. He was clever, and it is said that he never said a foolish thing, and never did a wise one. He was lazy, selfish, and deceitful, a bad man, and a bad king. Yet Charles found both men and women to love him during his life, and to sorrow for him at his death because he was clever, good-tempered, and had pleasant manners.
"W E have stopped the plumers," said the game-warden, "and we are holding the market-hunters to something like decency; but there's a pot-hunter yonder on Pelican Point that I've got to do up or lose my job."
Pelican Point was the end of a long, narrow peninsula that ran out into the lake, from the opposite shore, twelve miles across from us. We were in the Klamath Lake Reservation in southern Oregon, one of the greatest wild-bird preserves in the world.
Over the point, as we drew near, the big white pelicans were winging, and among them, as our boat came up to the rocks, rose a colony of black cormorants. The peninsula is chiefly of volcanic origin, composed of crumbling rock and lava, and ends in well-stratified cliffs at the point. Patches of scraggly sagebrush grew here and there, and out near the cliffs on the sloping lava sides was a field of golden California poppies.
The gray, dusty ridge in the hot sun, with cliff swallows and cormorants and the great pouched pelicans as inhabitants, seemed the last place that a pot-hunter would frequent. What could a pot-hunter find here? I wondered.
We were pulling the boat up on the sand at a narrow neck in the peninsula, when the warden touched my arm. "Up there near the sky-line among the sage! What a shot!"
I was some seconds in making out the head and shoulders of a coyote that was watching us from the top of the ridge.
"The rascal knows," went on the warden, "I have no gun; he can smell a gun clear across the lake. I have tried for three years to get that fellow. He's the terror of the whole region, and especially of the Point; if I don't get him soon, he'll clean out the pelican colony.
"Why don't I shoot him? Poison him? Trap him? I have offered fifty dollars for his hide. Why don't I? I'll show you. Now you watch the critter as I lead you up the slope toward him."
We had not taken a dozen steps when I found myself staring hard at the place where the coyote had been, but not at the coyote, for he was gone. He had vanished before my eyes. I had not seen him move, although I had been watching him steadily.
"Queer, isn't it?" said the warden. "It's not his particular dodge, for every old coyote that has been hunted learns to work it; but I never knew one that had it down so fine as this sinner. There's next to nothing here for him to skulk behind. Why, he has given my dog the slip right here on the bare rock! But I'll fix him yet."
I did not have to be persuaded to stay overnight with the warden for the coyote-hunt the next day. The warden, I found, had fallen in with a Mr. Harris, a homesteader, who had been something of a professional coyote-hunter. Harris had just arrived in southern Oregon, and had brought with him his dogs, a long, graceful greyhound, and his fighting mate, a powerful Russian wolfhound; both were crack coyote dogs from down Saskatchewan. He had accepted the warden's offer of fifty dollars for the hide of the coyote of Pelican Point, and was now on his way round the lake.
The outfit appeared late the next day, and consisted of the two dogs, a horse and buckboard, and a big, empty dry-goods box.
I had hunted possums in the gum swamps of the South with a stick and a gunny-sack, but this rig, on the rocky, roadless shores of the lake—a dry-goods box for coyotes!—beat any hunting combination I had ever seen.
We had pitched the tent on the south shore of the point where the peninsula joined the mainland, and were finishing our supper, when not far from us, back on shore, we heard the doleful yowl of the coyote.
We were on our feet in an instant.
"There he is," said the warden, "lonesome for a little play with your dogs, Mr. Harris."
There was still an hour and a half of good light, and Harris untied his dogs. I had never seen the coyote hunted, and was greatly interested. Harris, with his dogs close in hand, led us directly away from where we had heard the coyote bark. Then we stopped and sat down. At my look of inquiry, Harris smiled.
"Oh, no, we're not after coyotes to-night, not that coyote, anyhow," he said. "You know a coyote is made up of equal parts of curiosity, cowardice, and craft; and it's a long hunt unless you can get a lead on his curiosity. We are not out for him. He sees that. In fact, we'll amble back now—but we'll manage to get up along the crest of that little ridge where he is sitting, so that the dogs can follow him whichever way he runs. You hunt coyotes wholly by sight, you know."
The little trick worked perfectly. The coyote, curious to see what we were doing, had risen to his feet, and stood, plainly outlined against the sky. He was entirely unsuspecting, and as we approached, only edged and backed, more apparently to get a sight of the dogs behind us than through any fear.
Suddenly Harris stepped from before the dogs, pointed them toward the coyote, and slipped their leashes. The hounds were trained to the work. There was just an instant's pause, a quick yelp, then two doubling, reaching forms ahead of us, with a little line of dust between.
The coyote saw them coming, and started to run, not hurriedly, however, for he had had many a run before. He was not afraid, and kept looking behind to see what manner of dog was after him this time.
But he was not long in making up his mind that this was an entirely new kind, for in less than three minutes the hounds had halved the distance that separated him from them. At first, the big wolfhound was in the lead. Then, as if it had taken him till this time to find all four of his long legs, the greyhound pulled himself together, and in a burst of speed that was astonishing, passed his heavier companion.
We raced along the ridge to see the finish. But the coyote ahead of the dogs was no novice. He knew the game perfectly. He saw the gap closing behind him. Had he been young, he would have been seized by fear; would have darted right and left, mouthing and snapping in abject terror. Instead of that, he dug his nails into the shore, and with all his wits about him, sped for the desert. The greyhound was close behind him.
I held my breath. Harris, I think, would have taken his fifty dollars then and there! And the warden would have handed it to him, despite his past experience with the beast; but suddenly the coyote headed straight off for a low manzanita bush that stood up amid the scraggly sagebrush back from the shore.
The hunt was now going directly from us, with the dust and the wolfhound behind, following the line in front. The gap between the greyhound and the coyote seemed to have closed, and when the hound took the low manzanita with a bound that was half-somersault, Harris exclaimed, "He's nailed him!" and we ran ahead to see the wolfhound complete the job.
The wolfhound, however, kept right on across the desert; the greyhound lagged uncertainly far behind; in the lead, ahead of the big grizzled wolfhound, bobbed the form of a fleeing jack-rabbit!
The look of astonishment and then of disgust on Harris's face was amusing to see. The warden may have been disappointed, but he did not take any pains to repress a chuckle.
Harris said nothing. He was searching the stunted sagebrush off to the left of us. We followed his eyes, and he and the warden, both experienced plainsmen, picked out the skulking, shadowy shape of the coyote, as the creature, with belly to the ground, slunk off out of sight.
It was too late for any further attempt that night.
"An old stager, sure," Harris commented, as we returned to camp. "Knows a trick or two for every one of mine. But I'll fix him."
Nothing was seen of the coyote all the early part of the next day, and no effort was made to find him; but toward the middle of the afternoon, Harris hitched up the bronco, and, unpacking a flat package in the bottom of the buckboard, showed us a large glass window, which he fitted as a door into one end of the big dry-goods box. Then into the glass-ended box he put the two hounds.
"Now, gentlemen," he said, "I'm going to invite you to take a sight-seeing trip on this auto out into the sagebrush. Incidentally, if you chance to see a coyote, don't mention it."
If all the coyotes, jack-rabbits, gophers, and pelicans of the territory had come out to see us thump and bump over the dry, uneven desert, I should not have been surprised; and so, on coming back to camp, it was with no wonder at all that I discovered the coyote, out on the point, staring at us from across the neck of the peninsula. Nothing like this had happened on his side of the lake before.
Harris saw him instantly, and was quick to recognize our advantage. We had the coyote cornered—out on the long, narrow peninsula, where the dogs must run him down. The wily creature had so far forgotten himself as to get caught between us and the ridge alongshore, and, partly in curiosity, had kept running ahead and stopping to look at us, until now he was past the place where he could skulk back without our seeing him, into the open plain.
Even yet all depended upon our getting so close to him that the dogs could keep him constantly in sight. The crumbling ledges at the end of the point were full of holes and crevices into which the beast could dodge.
We were not close enough, however. With one of us watching the coyote, should he happen to run, Harris turned the bronco slowly round until the glass end of the box in the back of the buckboard was pointing directly at the creature. There was a scramble of feet inside the box. The dogs had sighted the beast. Then Harris started as if to drive away, the coyote watching us all the time.
Instead of driving off, he made a circle, and coming back slowly toward the coyote, gained the top of a little knoll. Had the coyote seen the dogs in the box, he would have vanished instantly; but the box interested and puzzled him.
He stood looking with all his eyes as the procession turned, and once more the glass end of the box was pointed directly toward him. The dogs evidently knew what was expected of them. They were silent, but ready. Suddenly, without stopping the pony, Harris pulled open the glass door, and yelled, "Go!"
And go they did. I never saw hundred-yard runners leap from the mark as those two hounds leaped from that box. The coyote, in his astonishment, actually turned a back handspring and started for the point.
The dogs were hardly two hundred yards behind him, and were making short work of the space between. It seemed hardly fair, and I must say that I felt something like sympathy for the under dog, wild dog though he was; the odds against him were so great.
But the coyote knew his track thoroughly, and was taking advantage of the rough, loose, shelving ground. For the farther out toward the end of the point they ran, the narrower, rockier, and steeper grew the peninsula, the more difficult and dangerous the footing.
The coyote slanted along the side of the ridge, and took a sloping slab of rock ahead of him with a slow side-step and a climb that brought the dogs close up behind him. They took the rock at a leap, slid halfway across, and scrambling, rolled several yards down the slope—and lost all the gain they had made.
Things began to even up. The chase began to be interesting. Here judgment was called for, as well as speed. The cliff swallows swarmed out of their nests under the overhanging rocks; the black cormorants and great-winged pelicans saw their old enemy coming, and rose, flapping, over the water; the circling gulls dropped low between the runners; their strange clangor and the stranger tropical shapes thick in the air gave the scene a wildness altogether new to me.
On fled the coyote; on bounded the dogs. He would never escape! Nothing without wings could ever do it! Mere feet could never stand such a test! The chances that pursued and pursuers took—the leaps—the landings! The whole slope seemed rolling with stones, started by the feet of the runners.
They were nearing the high, rough rocks of the tip of the point. Between them and the ledges of the point, and reaching from the edge of the water nearly to the top of the ridge, lay the steep golden garden of California poppies, blooming in the dry lava soil that had crumbled and drifted down on the rocky side.
The coyote veered, and dashed down toward the middle of the poppies; the hounds hit the bed two jumps behind. There was a cloud of dust, and in it we saw an avalanche of dogs ploughing a wide furrow through the flowers nearly down to the water. Climbing slowly out near the upper edge of the bed was the coyote, again with a good margin of lead.
But the beast was at the end of the point, and nearing the end of his race. Had we been out of the way, he might have turned and yet given the dogs the slip—for behind us lay the open desert.
Straight toward the rocks he headed, with the hounds laboring up the slope after him. He was running to the very edge of the point, as if he were intending to leap off the cliff to death in the lake below, and I saw Harris's face tighten as his hounds topped the ridge, and senselessly tore on toward the same fearful edge. But the race was not done yet. The coyote hesitated, turned down the ledges on the south slope, and leaping in among the cormorant nests, started back toward us.
He was surer on his feet than were the hounds, but this hesitation on the point had cost him several yards. The hounds would pick him up in the little cove of smooth, hard sand that lay, encircled by rough rocks, just ahead, unless—no, he must cross the cove, he must take the stretch. He was taking it—knowingly, too, and with a burst of power that he had not shown upon the slopes. He was flinging away his last reserve.
The hounds were nearly across; the coyote was within fifty feet of the boulders, when the greyhound, lowering his long, flat head, lunged for the spine of his quarry.
The coyote heard him coming, spun on his fore feet, offering his fangs to those of his foe, and threw himself backward just as the jaws of the wolfhound clashed at him and flecked his throat with foam.
The two great dogs collided and bounded wide apart, startling a jack rabbit that dived between them into a hole among the rocks. The coyote, on his feet in an instant, caught the motion of the rabbit, and like his shadow, leaped into the air after him for the hole.
He was as quick as thought, quicker than either of the hounds. He sprang high over them,—safely over them, we thought,—when, in mid-air, at the turn of the dive, he twisted, heeled half-over, and landed hard against the side of the hole; and the wolfhound pulled him down.
It was over; but there was something strange, almost unfair, it seemed, about the finish.
Before we got down to the cove both of the dogs had slunk back, cowering from the dead coyote. Then there came to us the buzz of a rattlesnake—a huge, angry reptile that lay coiled in the mouth of the hole. The rabbit had struck and roused the snake. The coyote in his leap had caught the warning whir, but caught it too late to clear both snake and hounds. His twist in the air to clear the snake had cost him his life. So close is the race in the desert world.
Hamelin Town's in Brunswick,
By famous Hanover city;
The river Weser, deep and wide,
Washes its wall on the southern side;
A pleasanter spot you never spied;
But, when begins my ditty,
Almost five hundred years ago,
To see the townsfolk suffer so
From vermin, was a pity.
They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the women's chats
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats.
At last the people in a body
To the Town Hall came flocking:
" 'T is clear," cried they, "our Mayor's a noddy;
And as for our Corporation—shocking
To think we buy gowns lined with ermine
For dolts that can't or won't determine
What's best to rid us of our vermin!
You hope, because you're old and obese,
To find in the furry civic robe ease?
Rouse up, sirs! Give your brains a racking
To find the remedy we're lacking,
Or, sure as fate, we'll send you packing!"
At this the Mayor and Corporation
Quaked with a mighty consternation.
An hour they sat in council;
At length the Mayor broke silence:
"For a guilder I'd my ermine gown sell,
I wish I were a mile hence!
It's easy to bid one rack one's brain—
I'm sure my poor head aches again,
I've scratched it so, and all in vain.
Oh for a trap, a trap, a trap!"
Just as he said this what should hap
At the chamber door but a gentle tap?
"Bless us," cried the Mayor, "what 's that?"
(With the Corporation as he sat,
Looking little though wondrous fat;
Nor brighter was his eye, nor moister
Than a too-long-opened oyster,
Save when at noon his paunch grew mutinous
For a plate of turtle green and glutinous)
"Only a scraping of shoes on the mat?
Anything like the sound of a rat
Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!"
"Come in!"—the Mayor cried, looking bigger
And in did come the strangest figure!
His queer long coat from heel to head
Was half of yellow and half of red,
And he himself was tall and thin,
With sharp blue eyes, each like a pin,
And light loose hair, yet swarthy skin,
No tuft on cheek nor beard on chin,
But lips where smiles went out and in;
There was no guessing his kith and kin:
And nobody could enough admire
The tall man and his quaint attire.
Quoth one: "It's as my great-grandsire,
Starting up at the Trump of Doom's tone,
Had walked this way from his painted tombstone!"
He advanced to the council table:
And, "Please your honors," said he, "I'm able,
By means of a secret charm, to draw
All creatures living beneath the sun,
That creep or swim or fly or run,
After me so as you never saw!
And I chiefly use my charm
On creatures that do people harm,
The mole and toad and newt and viper;
And people call me the Pied Piper."
(And here they noticed round his neck
A scarf of red and yellow stripe,
To match with his coat of the selfsame check;
And at the scarf's end hung a pipe;
And his fingers, they noticed, were ever straying
As if impatient to be playing
Upon this pipe, as low it dangled
Over his vesture so old-fangled.)
"Yet," said he, "poor piper as I am,
In Tartary I freed the Cham,
Last June, from his huge swarms of gnats;
I eased in Asia the Nizam
Of a monstrous brood of vampire bats:
And as for what your brain bewilders,
If I can rid your town of rats
Will you give me a thousand guilders?"
One? fifty thousand!"—was the exclamation
Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.
Into the street the Piper stepped,
Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept
In his quiet pipe the while;
Then, like a musical adept,
To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled,
Like a candle flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling.
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, gray rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives—
Followed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped advancing,
And step for step they followed dancing,
Until they came to the river Weser,
Wherein all plunged and perished!
Save one who, stout as Julius Caesar,
Swam across and lived to carry
(As he, the manuscript he cherished)
To Rat-land home his commentary:
Which was, "At the first shrill notes of the pipe,
I heard a sound as of scraping tripe,
And putting apples, wondrous ripe,
Into a cider press's gripe:
And a moving away of pickle-tub boards,
And a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards,
And a drawing the corks of train-oil flasks,
And a breaking the hoops of butter casks:
And it seemed as if a voice
(Sweeter far than by harp or by psaltery
Is breathed) called out, 'O rats, rejoice!
The world is grown to one vast drysaltery!
So munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon,
Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon!'
And just as a bulky sugar puncheon,
All ready staved, like a great sun shone
Glorious scarce an inch before me,
Just as methought it said: 'Come, bore me!'
—I found the Weser rolling o'er me."
You should have heard the Hamelin people
Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple.
"Go," cried the Mayor, "and get long poles,
Poke out the nests and block up the holes!
Consult with carpenters and builders,
And leave in our town not even a trace
Of the rats!"—when suddenly, up the face
Of the Piper perked in the market place,
With a, "First, if you please, my thousand guilders!"
A thousand guilders! The Mayor looked blue;
So did the Corporation too.
For council dinners made rare havoc
With Claret, Moselle, Vin-de-Grave, Hock;
And half the money would replenish
Their cellar's biggest butt with Rhenish.
To pay this sum to a wandering fellow
With a gypsy coat of red and yellow!
"Beside," quoth the Mayor with a knowing wink,
"Our business was done at the river's brink;
We saw with our eyes the vermin sink,
And what's dead can't come to life, I think.
So, friend, we're not the folks to shrink
From the duty of giving you something for drink,
And a matter of money to put in your poke;
But as for the guilders, what we spoke
Of them, as you very well know, was in joke.
Beside, our losses have made us thrifty.
A thousand guilders! Come, take fifty!"
The Piper's face fell, and he cried
"No trifling! I can't wait, beside!
I've promised to visit by dinner time
Bagdat, and accept the prime
Of the Head Cook's pottage, all he's rich in,
For having left, in the Caliph's kitchen,
Of a nest of scorpions no survivor;
With him I proved no bargain driver,
With you, don't think I'll bate a stiver!
And folks who put me in a passion
May find me pipe after another fashion."
"How?" cried the Mayor, "d' ye think I brook
Being worse treated than a Cook?
Insulted by a lazy ribald
With idle pipe and vesture piebald?
You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst,
Blow your pipe there till you burst!"
Once more he stept into the street
And to his lips again
Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane;
And ere he blew three notes (such sweet
Soft notes as yet musician's cunning
Never gave the enraptured air)
There was a rustling that seemed like a bustling
Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling;
Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering,
Little hands clapping and little tongues chattering.
And, like fowls in a farmyard when barley is scattering,
Out came the children running.
All the little boys and girls,
With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,
And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.
The Mayor was dumb, and the Council stood
As if they were changed into blocks of wood,
Unable to move a step, or cry
To the children merrily skipping by,
—Could only follow with the eye
That joyous crowd at the Piper's back.
But how the Mayor was on the rack,
And the wretched Council's bosoms beat,
As the Piper turned from the High Street
To where the Weser rolled its waters
Right in the way of their sons and daughters!
However, he turned from south to west,
And to Koppelberg Hill his steps addressed,
And after him the children pressed;
Great was the joy in every breast.
"He never can cross that mighty top!
He's forced to let the piping drop,
And we shall see our children stop!"
When, lo, as they reached the mountain-side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast,
Did I say, all? No! One was lame,
And could not dance the whole of the way;
And in after years, if you would blame
His sadness, he was used to say,—
"It's dull in our town since my playmates left!
I can't forget that I'm bereft
Of all the pleasant sights they see,
Which the Piper also promised me,
For he led us, he said, to a joyous land,
Joining the town and just at hand,
Where waters gushed, and fruit trees grew,
And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
And everything was strange and new;
The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
And honey-bees had lost their stings,
And horses were born with eagles' wings:
And just as I became assured
My lame foot would be speedily cured,
The music stopped and I stood still,
And found myself outside the hill,
Left alone against my will,
To go now limping as before,
And never hear of that country more!"
Alas, alas for Hamelin!
There came into many a burgher's pate
A text which says that heaven's gate
Opes to the rich at as easy rate
As the needle's eye takes a camel in!
The Mayor sent east, west, north, and south,
To offer the Piper, by word of mouth,
Whenever it was men's lot to find him,
Silver and gold to his heart's content,
If he'd only return the way he went,
And bring the children behind him.
But when they saw 't was a lost endeavor,
And Piper and dancers were gone forever,
They made a decree that lawyers never
Should think their records dated duly
If, after the day of the month and year,
These words did not as well appear,
"And so long after what happened here
On the Twenty-second of July,
Thirteen hundred and seventy-six":
And the better in memory to fix
The place of the children's last retreat,
They called it, the Pied Piper's Street—
Where any one playing on pipe or tabor
Was sure for the future to lose his labor.
Nor suffered they hostelry or tavern
To shock with mirth a street so solemn;
But opposite the place of the cavern
They wrote the story on a column,
And on the great church-window painted
The same, to make the world acquainted
How their children were stolen away,
And there it stands to this very day.
And I must not omit to say
That in Transylvania there's a tribe
Of alien people who ascribe
The outlandish ways and dress
On which their neighbors lay such stress,
To their fathers and mothers having risen
Out of some subterraneous prison
Into which they were trepanned
Long time ago in a mighty band
Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick land,
But how or why, they don't understand.
So, Willy, let me and you be wipers
Of scores out with all men—especially pipers!
And, whether they pipe us free from rats or from mice,
If we've promised them aught, let us keep our promise!
WEEK 30 |
"A LL venomous creatures act in the same way as the bee, wasp, and hornet. With a special weapon—needle, fang, sting, lancet—placed sometimes in one part of the body, sometimes in another, according to the species, they make a slight wound into which is instilled a drop of venom. The weapon has no other effect than that of opening a route for the venomous liquid, and this is what causes the injury. For the poison to act on us, it must come in contact with our blood by a wound which opens the way for it. But it has positively no effect on our skin, unless there is already a gash, a simple scratch, that permits it to penetrate into the flesh and mingle with the blood. The most terrible venom can be handled without any danger if the skin is not broken. Moreover, it can be put on the lips, on the tongue, even swallowed without any bad results. Placed on the lips, the hornet's venom produces no more effect than clear water; but if there is the slightest scratch the pain is atrocious. The viper's venom is equally harmless as long as it does not mingle with the blood. Courageous experimenters have tasted, swallowed it, and yet afterward were no worse off than before."
"Is that true, Uncle? People have had the courage to swallow a viper's venom? Ah! I should not have been so brave." This from Claire.
"It is fortunate, my girl, that others have been so for us; and we ought to be very grateful to them, for by so doing they have taught us, as you will see, the most prompt and one of the most efficacious means to employ in case of accident."
"This viper's venom, which has no effect on the hand, lips, and tongue, is it much to be feared if it mingles with the blood?"
"It is terrible, my young lady, and I was just going to tell you about it. Let us suppose that some imprudent person disturbs the formidable reptile sleeping in the sun. Suddenly the creature uncoils itself in circles one above another, unwinds with the suddenness of a spring, and, with its jaws wide open, strikes you on the hand. It is done in the twinkling of an eye. With the same rapidity the viper refolds its spiral and draws back, continuing to menace you with its head in the center of the coil. You do not wait for a second attack, you flee; but, alas! the damage is done. On the wounded hand are seen two little red points, almost insignificant, mere needle pricks. It is not very alarming; you reassure yourself if you are in ignorance of what I so earnestly desire to teach you. Delusive innocuousness! See the red spots becoming encircled with a livid ring. With dull pains the hand swells, and the swelling extends gradually to the arm. Soon come cold sweats and nausea; respiration becomes painful, sight troubled, mind torpid, a general yellowness shows itself, accompanied by convulsions. If help does not arrive in time, death may come."
"You give us goose-flesh, Uncle," said Jules, with a shudder. "What should we poor things do if such a misfortune happened to us away from you, away from home! They say there are vipers in the underbrush of the neighboring hills."
"May God guard you from such a mischance, my poor children!
But, if it befalls you, you must bind tight the finger,
hand, arm, above the wounded part to prevent the diffusion
of the venom in the blood; you must make the wound bleed by
pressing round it; you must suck it hard to extract the
venomous liquid. I told you venom has no effect on the skin.
To suck it, therefore, is harmless if the mouth has no
scratch. You can see that if, by hard suction and by
pressure that makes the blood flow, you succeed in
extracting all the venom from the wound, the wound itself is
thenceforth of no importance. For greater surety, the wound
should be cauterized as soon as possible with a corrosive
liquid, aqua fortis or ammonia, or even with a
"You reassure me, Uncle. Those precautions are not difficult to take, if one does not lose one's presence of mind."
"Therefore it is important that we should all acquire the
habit of using our reason in time of danger, and not let
ourselves be overcome by
After his victory over the clergymen, Patrick Henry had all the business he could attend to. Whoever got into trouble hastened to ask the young lawyer to help him get out of it.
His fees increased. He soon became so rich that he loaned money to his father, and then he loaned to Sarah's father.
He could not throw off his old habits at once. He still loved to hunt and to fish. Sometimes he was away in the forest whole days at a time.
Sometimes he came into the court-room with his gun in his hand and his buckskin clothes red with the blood of the deer he had killed. But he studied hard and read a great deal of history, and talked much with the people as he traveled about from court to court.
Now just at that very time there was good reason for talking. The king and his Parliament were beginning to make trouble. They saw the colonies getting richer and richer.
Ship after ship came over the sea laden with furs, wheat, tobacco, and rice from America. Even cotton was beginning to be profitable.
"Those colonies across the sea shall be taxed," said the king.
So Parliament, with the king's advice, made a law that required all legal papers in America to be stamped. If a man made a deed of his farm, or wrote out a will on his death bed, or got a license to marry, he had to use stamped paper bought in England. The price to be paid for the paper was much greater than the cost of it, and thus a large tax might be collected.
The Americans said that they alone had the right to vote a tax. They were willing to vote for a tax, but Parliament should not do it for them.
Almost all the colonies sent petitions to the king against the Stamp Act. The province of Virginia sent a petition signed by George Washington and many others. But the king gave no answer. What should be done?
If the tax were paid once, it would have to be paid twice.
"We must fight the law," said someone.
"But most of the burgesses are the mere tools of the king," said another; "let us elect Patrick Henry a burgess. He is bold and will defend our rights."
And so it came about that Patrick Henry was sent to the House of Burgesses to speak for the people of his county against the oppressions of the king and his Parliament.
It was a fine day in May when Patrick Henry came into Williamsburg to sit in the House of Burgesses.
No one paid the least attention to the young man in homespun as he rode along on his lean horse. There was too much else to think about.
The king had not listened to any petitions. The Stamp Act had become a law, and everybody on the streets was wondering what the burgesses would do.
When the House assembled, some of the burgesses said there should be nothing done until the other colonies were heard from.
Others said that, because the Stamp Act was now a law, it was best to obey it. And then the most of them sank back in their seats as if the question were settled.
But Patrick Henry rose to his feet. He looked very tall and awkward. He held in his hand the yellow leaf of an old law book, on which he had written some resolutions.
These resolutions declared that if a law was unjust it should be opposed; that the Virginians had a charter from the king granting the rights of English subjects; that English subjects had the right to tax themselves, and so the Virginians had that right; and that whoever claimed that Parliament could tax the Virginians without their consent was an enemy to the colony!
Those were very bold words to use about a law made by the king!
The most timid of the burgesses fairly trembled with fear as they listened.
Then Patrick Henry made a great speech. Nothing like it had ever been heard in Williamsburg.
It was all against the unjust tax, and he closed it
with flashing eye, saying: "Caesar had his Brutus,
Charles the First his Cromwell, and George the
"Treason! treason!" shouted the friends of the king.
"And George the Third," he repeated, "may profit by their example—If that be treason, make the most of it!" he cried in tones that echoed through the hall.
Thomas Jefferson, the law student, who was in the lobby, almost cheered aloud when he heard the brave words.
George Washington, who sat with the burgesses, nodded his head; and so many others believed what Patrick Henry had said that the bold resolutions were adopted.
From that day Patrick Henry, the most eloquent man in Hanover County, was called the most eloquent man in Virginia.
When cats run home and light is come,
And dew is cold upon the ground,
And the far-off stream is dumb,
And the whirring sail goes round,
And the whirring sail goes round;
Alone and warming his five wits,
The white owl in the belfry sits.
When merry milkmaids click the latch,
And rarely smells the new-mown hay,
And the cock hath sung beneath the thatch
Twice or thrice his roundelay,
Twice or thrice his roundelay;
Alone and warming his five wits,
The white owl in the belfry sits.
WEEK 30 |
"Father, Father!" called Eileen the morning after the boat ride, as she ran out of the round wattled house where she and her mother had slept.
She had caught sight of a tall man coming swiftly toward her, and in a moment he stooped and kissing her rosy cheek three times lifted her in his arms so she could nestle her golden head on his bosom in the pretty Celtic fashion of greeting those one loved.
"O, father," she said, as hand in hand they went to meet her mother, Fianna, who had just stepped out into the sunshine, "isn't this the day you sing your song before the high king?"
"Yes, child," answered her father smiling, "but do not be too sure I will win the prize. There are many fine poets here and everybody thinks the prize will not be the jeweled ring only, but that Brian Boru will choose the winner for his chief poet in place of Niall who is dead. You know I told you Niall was a great master of his art, so the high king will not be easy to please."
Eileen laughed confidently, "So are you a master!" she declared. Then, "Where is Ferdiad?" she asked.
"He will be along in a minute," answered her father; "the poets' house was so crowded last night he went off and slept in the tent with his friend Conn and his foster-father."
As the three stood waiting for Ferdiad, you would have thought them a handsome family. Eileen's yellow curls, white skin and oval face were like her mother's, and she was dressed in much the same fashion only that her close-fitting tunic and narrow clinging skirt of figured green and white linen were not so long as her mother's yellow and white ones, and her bratt (which was the Celtic name for the loose mantle almost everyone wore), was blue instead of green striped. Her head was bare while her mother's was partly covered with folds of fine filmy linen; but both had the same kind of sandals on their feet.
Angus, Eileen's father, was tall and straight; his long light hair was parted and hung over his shoulders in carefully twisted strands while his beard also was parted and curled in fork-shape, a very fashionable way. He wore a crimson jacket, olive green trousers, and shoes of brown leather embroidered in gold; round his jacket was a saffron-colored girdle, his cape was of checkered turquoise blue and black, fastened with a large silver brooch, and on his head was a saffron yellow pointed cap with a very narrow brim. Now if you have counted the colors in his clothes you will know there were six; and any Celt could have told you that meant that poets were thought so much of that they ranked next to kings; for no one else was allowed to wear six colors at once. To do so was considered a great honor, for everybody delighted in the brightest colors; but people who were neither kings nor poets had to be satisfied with five or less, according to their rank, down to the poor slaves, who could wear only a single coarse garment of gray.
Eileen's father carried in his hand a small quaintly shaped harp with strings of bronze; though he was not playing on it, yet as he walked along there was always a sweet tinkling sound. That was because fastened to his pointed cap was a musical branch such as all Celtic poets wore. It was curving like a little bough from a tree, only it was made of silver and in place of leaves was hung with tiny silver bells. This meant that Angus ranked as an ollave, or master poet, and had studied his art for seven years. If he had been a poet less skillful his musical branch would have been bronze, while, on the other hand, the chief poet of the high king wore one of pure gold.
But Ferdiad had already come up and been kissed three times by Angus and Fianna, and then they began planning the day, for next morning they were to return home.
"Eileen," said her mother, "you and I will go to the merchants' booths. I want to buy some things before we go home, and perhaps I will get a new necklace and bracelets for you; then we must see the embroidering women, for the queen's ladies say they make beautiful things."
Eileen had half wanted to go along with Ferdiad and Conn, but her eyes sparkled at the prospect of buying some new finery, so she was quite satisfied with her mother's plan.
"Then you boys can put in the morning together," said Angus, "and I will be free to practice my new song for the contest."
"O, father," cried Eileen, "can't we hear it?"
"No," answered Angus, "that is to be in the Hall of Feasting this evening, and only the chief grown folks will be there. But then," he added, seeing the disappointment in her face, "there are to be story-tellers on the fair green this afternoon, and you children can go there."
So presently off they scattered, Angus strolling down to a quiet place on the river bank, Eileen tripping along beside her mother, while Ferdiad hurried over to the race course where he was to meet Conn.
"Well," said the latter, who was eagerly watching for him, "you are just in time for the morning races. They are to be with horses and chariots to-day insead of hounds."
Sure enough, there was a tremendous squeaking of axles as a number of two-wheeled chariots were being driven toward the track. All were made of wicker strengthened by a framework of wood, and their seven-spoked wheels were rimmed with bronze. Some were quite open and others gayly canopied, and each held two persons; one who merely rode, and the charioteer who sat nearest the front and drove the horses.
As chariot after chariot came along, the boys looked at them with interest. "Just see that one!" Ferdiad said, "how fine the wickerwork is and what handsome bridle reins all covered with red enamel!"
"Yes," said Conn, "and there comes another just as fine with a blue canopy and silver trimmed reins."
All the while the crowd was becoming larger and larger and presently an extra loud squeaking arose.
"My!" exclaimed Ferdiad, "that must be somebody important coming! Do hear what a noise his chariot makes!" For Celtic people thought it very fine to attract attention as they drove along and the more noise their wheels made the better they liked it.
By this time everybody was looking in the same direction and as the chariot came nearer, "I should think it is somebody important!" said Conn. "Why, that is the high king! I've often seen him at Kinkora; you know his palace is there."
It was Brian Boru, who had just come to the fair. In front of him walked four stalwart soldiers each carrying a battle axe. His chariot was of the finest wicker with a purple canopy embroidered in gold, and the two horses drawing it were snow-white with ears dyed scarlet while their long manes and tails were royal purple and their harness was richly decorated with gold.
The chariot stopped at a wooden pavilion overlooking the race course, and the high king alighted and took his place on a seat piled with deerskin cushions.
The boys had been staring hard at everything. "I didn't remember Brian Boru was so old!" whispered Ferdiad, who had only glimpsed the high king at the fair the year before. "But he's handsome yet!"
"Yes," said Conn, "he's far past eighty but he's mighty good-looking." Indeed, most Celtic kings were; for the simple reason that they were not allowed to reign if they bore the slightest blemish on face or body.
The high king was of course dressed in six colors and his mantle of purple silk fringed with gold was fastened with a wonderful brooch so large that it reached from shoulder to shoulder. His long beard was parted fork-shape and from beneath his crown, which covered his head like a golden hat, his hair fell in twisted strands ornamented with hollow golden balls, which were thought very stylish. Around his neck was a handsome golden torque and many rich bracelets covered his arms.
When the high king had seated himself a group of men who had followed his chariot ranged themselves behind him, while the soldiers stood at each side as guard.
"Who do you suppose all those people are around the high king?" said Conn. "There are ten, not counting the soldiers."
"Well," said Ferdiad, "my foster-father told me that at important places like this at least ten people always go around with the high king. Let me see,—one must be a bishop,—"
"Yes," interrupted Conn, "he must be the one with the top of his head shaved and the little gold box hanging to his necklace. You know bishops carry bits of parchment with verses from the bible written on them in those boxes."
"Then," went on Ferdiad, "one must be a chief,—maybe it's that one with the red and green spotted bratt and the fine torque. And there's always a poet, but, of course, since Niall's dead and the high king hasn't chosen a new one yet, I guess that must be another chief standing where the poet belongs."
"And that one with the harp and trumpets anybody knows is a musician," put in Conn, "and it's easy enough, too, to tell that the tall man with the leather herb bag at his girdle is a doctor, but who are those two standing beside him?"
"I don't know which is which," said Ferdiad looking perplexed, "but they must be the historian and lawyer, for you can see from their looks and the color of their clothes that those other three are servants."
By this time a number of other kings and their followers had seated themselves in the pavilion, while in another one nearby were various queens and their ladies all in the brightest colors and with many flashing ornaments of gold.
Presently the high king's musician began blowing one of his great trumpets and the races began. There was a sudden thud of bronze-shod hoofs swiftly printing the ground, a glimpse of flying manes and tails, of panting nostrils and taut glittering reins, of rushing chariots and charioteers straining forward with long whips in their hands, and, above all, the excited shouting of the crowd; all of which proves, as I have told you, that the Celtic people of long ago liked racing and managed it at their fairs surprisingly the same as we do.
Of course Ferdiad and Conn stayed till the last race; then they got something to eat and went over to the fair green where they were to meet Eileen and hear the story-teller. On their way they saw the high king's chariot going toward the mound where stood the great Hall of Feasting.
"Why," said Conn, "I thought the feast wasn't to be till this evening?"
"It isn't, boy," said a man wearing a soldier's helmet and tunic with a short sword stuck into his girdle; one arm was thrust through the leather holder of a small round shield, though he carried these things only because it was the custom of soldiers, not that he expected to fight at the fair, for that, as you know, was forbidden. "The high king is going to the meeting of all the kings and chiefs which they have every year in that hall over there. They hold the meeting to talk over the affairs of Ireland,—and there's enough to talk about now, youngsters!" went on the soldier. "The way those pirate Danes are coming over here in their long ships and fighting and robbing and burning folks' houses has got to be stopped some way," and the soldier's eyes flashed as he fiercely shook his round shield.
"That's what my foster-father thinks!" cried Ferdiad. "He says they have been growing bolder and bolder ever since they captured the fort at the Ford of the Hurdles." (This fort was on the river Liffey where the city of Dublin now stands.) "He says, too, he wouldn't be surprised any day to see them come up the Blackwater in their long boats and raid us!"
"Why don't your king drive them off?" asked Conn.
"Well," said Ferdiad, "I guess our king of Meath is as brave as anybody. But my foster-father says it will take more than one king's army to drive off those Danes!"
"That's a true word, son!" said the soldier. "It's work for our best Celtic fighters, and I guess that is what the high king will tell them. And I hope the battle will soon be on!" And the soldier strode off looking very fierce and warlike.
A troop of Apes once lived on a mountain, where they fed upon fruits and herbs. When the winter came on, the cold drove them down into the valleys. As they were wandering about here, looking for food and shelter, one of them came upon a Glow-Worm in the bushes. "Come quickly," he called to his brother Apes, "and bring a large pile of driftwood. I have found a spark of fire, and we shall soon be warm now!"
From all directions the Apes came, running and scrambling along the ground, their arms full of driftwood. A few moments later, the huge pile was heaped on top of the Glow-Worm, and the Apes sat around in a circle waiting for the wood to catch fire.
As they were waiting, a Popinjay in a tree called out,—
"You silly Apes, you may sit there with your teeth chattering until Doomsday, but that pile will never catch fire. That was not a spark that you found, but only a worm with a shining light in his tail!"
"Foolish bird," retorted the Apes, "do you think that we do not know a worm from a spark of fire?"
"It is not a spark," repeated the Popinjay. "It is not a spark. It is not a spark." And she flew down into their midst, still crying, "It is not a spark."
Whereupon the foolish Apes in anger sprang upon the Popinjay and tore her to pieces, feather by feather and bone by bone, until there was nothing left of her.
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 30 |
"When France in wrath, her giant limbs upraised,
And with that oath which smote air, earth, and sea,
Stamped her strong foot and said she would be free."
G UARDS were now placed inside the palace of the Tuileries as well as outside, sentinels stood in every passage, and the door of each room was kept open day and night. The king and queen dared not venture beyond the gardens for fear of insult and humiliation. From time to time they gave way to outbursts of tears, as they realised the agony of their position.
On June 20, 1792, a mob attacked the Tuileries, burst into the palace, and the royal family barely escaped with their lives.
Meanwhile the Revolution outside was becoming more and more fierce. Mirabeau, the man who might have saved for France her king, was dead. "I carry with me the ruin of a monarchy," he said with prophetic insight as he lay dying.
Lafayette, who had urged moderation, was no longer a power in the land. The country was practically in the hands of three men,—Marat, Danton, and Robespierre,—men whose desire it was, to see the monarchy overturned and a complete Republic established in France.
"Let us depose the king," was their cry.
Gradually Louis was stripped of every emblem of royalty. He was deprived of his sword, his orders of knighthood were taken from him. He was separated from his wife and children. At last he was accused of treason, for having conspired against the will of the people. His trial dragged on amid fierce discussion. When the verdict was given, he was found guilty of treason, and his punishment was death. A last agonised meeting with Marie Antoinette and his weeping children, a passionate entreaty to the little dauphin never to revenge his death, and Louis XVI. of France was led forth to die.
It was a bitter January day in the year 1793 when he was beheaded by the guillotine, a machine erected in a public square in Paris, and used largely during the Revolution.
"Frenchmen, I die innocent," cried the unhappy king to the vast crowds collected to see him die. I pardon my enemies."
"It is done! It is done!" muttered the Frenchmen who had ordained it, rubbing their hands as the crowds dispersed. But as yet they did not realise to the full what they had done. All Europe shuddered with horror at their deed.
"Let us cast down before Europe, as the gauntlet of battle, the head of a king," Danton had cried recklessly.
Austrian and Prussian armies had already collected on the frontiers of France. England, Holland, and Spain now joined in making war on France. Alone stood the stricken nation—alone against the powers of Europe, and rent by quarrels within.
A true Reign of Terror now broke over the whole country. The monarchy had fallen, the Republic was not yet established. The National Assembly, now called the Convention, ruled the country with absolute sway. Violent and ignorant men resolved to blot out all royalists from the country, by means of the guillotine, to accomplish their end. The cry, "Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!" rang from end to end of France. All titles were abolished. Every man and woman, whether noble or shoeblack, was addressed as "Citizen." Numbers left France to take refuge in England and other countries, but numbers were thrown into prison and afterwards guillotined, without even a show of trial. They were carried in carts, with their hands tied behind them, to the place of public execution, often hardly knowing the reason of their death. Peasant girls were beheaded for humming the tune of a royalist song, women for speaking with pity of the victims already perished. All traces of royalty must be swept from the land, cried the tyrants, and swiftly and surely the guillotine did its cruel work. Little children and aged men, ladies of title and women of wealth—all suffered alike. And still the cry rang through the land, "Liberty! Equality! Fraternity!"
At last the queen herself was sentenced. Already the beautiful little dauphin had been torn from her arms, and she had been sent to the common prison. As she passed through the low door she had hit her head. Her attendant had asked if she were hurt.
"No," she answered bitterly; "nothing can hurt me now."
All day long she sat in a kind of stupor, in a dungeon unfit for human use.
On October 13, 1793, she was brought forth to her trial. Aged and bent beyond her years, the once beautiful Marie Antoinette stood proudly before her accusers. The trial was short. Three days later, seated in a common cart, her hands bound, she was drawn from prison to the public square where the guillotine stood. There Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, was beheaded. "Oh Liberty! Liberty! How many crimes are committed in thy name!" exclaimed a well-known French lady, Madame Roland, who suffered death on the same spot three weeks later.
One day, when the troubles of the reign of terror were at their height, a young girl, Charlotte Corday, travelled from Normandy to Paris. She had heard of the crimes committed by the leaders of the Convention in the name of Liberty, and she reasoned to herself, if the tyrants could be disposed of, true liberty might be gained for France. She selected Marat for her victim. Going to his house, she obtained an interview with him, and as they talked she drew out a knife and killed him.
"I killed one man," she said, as she faced the death, that her act justly merited—"I killed one man to save a hundred thousand,—to give repose to my country."
Thus fell one of the leaders. The fate of the others was not far distant. Their violence had disgusted even their own party. Both Danton and Robespierre perished by that guillotine to which they had sent so many of their fellow-countrymen.
So the reign of terror ended. At last the object for which so many thousands of lives had been sacrificed was accomplished—France was a Republic. There was no king, there were no nobles. The government was conducted by five Presidents under the name of the Directory.
ND now Sinfiotli had come to his full strength and it was time to take vengeance on King Siggeir for the slaying of Volsung and the dread doom he had set for Volsung's ten sons. Sigmund and Sinfiotli put helmets on their heads and took swords in their hands and went to King Siggeir's Hall. They hid behind the casks of ale that were at the entrance and they waited for the men-at-arms to leave the Hall that they might fall upon King Siggeir and his attendants.
The younger children of King Siggeir were playing in the Hall and one let fall a ball. It went rolling behind the casks of ale. And the child peering after the ball saw two men crouching with swords in their hands and helmets on their heads.
The child told a servant who told the King. Then Siggeir arose, and he drew his men-at-arms around him, and he set them on the men who were hiding behind the barrels. Sigmund and Sinfiotli sprang up and fought against the men of King Siggeir, but they were taken captives.
Now they might not be slain there and then, for it was unlawful to slay captives after sunset. But for all that, King Siggeir would not leave them above ground. He decreed that they should be put in a pit, and a mound made over them so that they would be buried alive.
The sentence was carried out. A great flagstone was put down to divide the pit in two, so that Sigmund and Sinfiotli might hear each other's struggle and not be able to give help to each other. All was done as the King commanded.
But while his thralls were putting sods over the pit, one came amongst them, cloaked and hooded, and dropped something wrapped in straw into the side of the pit where Sinfiotli lay. And when the sky was shut out from them with the turf and soil that was put over the pit, Sinfiotli shouted to Sigmund: "I shall not die, for the queen has thrown down to me meat wrapped in a parcel of straw."
And a while afterwards Sinfiotli shouted to Sigmund: "The queen has left a sword in the meat which she flung down to me. It is a mighty sword. Almost I think it is Gram, the sword you told me of."
"If it be Gram," Sigmund said, "it is a sword that can cut through the flagstone. Thrust the blade against the stone and try."
Sinfiotli thrust the blade against the stone and the blade went through the stone. Then, one on each side, they took hold of the sword and they cut the great stone in two. Afterwards, working together, it was easy to shift the turf and soil. The two came out under the sky.
Before them was the Hall of King Siggeir. They came to the Hall and they set dry wood before it and they fired the wood and made the Hall blaze up. And when the Hall was in a blaze King Siggeir came to the door and shouted, "Who is it that has fired the house of the King?"
And Sigmund said, "I, Sigmund, the son of Volsung, that you may pay for the treason wrought on the Volsungs."
Seeing Sigmund there with Gram, the great sword, in his hands, Siggeir went back into his hall. Then Signy was seen with her white face and her stern eyes, and Sigmund called to her, "Come forth, come forth. Sigmund calls. Come out of Siggeir's blazing house and together we will go back to the Hall of the Branstock."
But Signy said, "All is finished now. The vengeance is wrought and I have no more to keep me in life. The Volsung race lives on in you, my brother, and that is my joy. Not merrily did I wed King Siggeir and not merrily did I live with him, but merrily will I die with him now."
She went within the hall; then the flames burst over it and all who were within perished. Thus the vengeance of the Volsungs was wrought.
ND Sigurd thought on the deed that Sigmund, his father, and Sinfiotli, the youth who was his father's kinsman, wrought, as he rode the ways of the forest, and of the things that thereafter befell them.
Sigmund and Sinfiotli left King Siggeir's land and came back to the land where was the Hall of the Branstock. Sigmund became a great King and Sinfiotli was the Captain of his host.
And the story of Sigmund and Sinfiotli goes on to tell how Sigmund wed a woman whose name was Borghild, and how Sinfiotli loved a woman who was loved by Borghild's brother. A battle came in which the youths were on opposite sides, and Sinfiotli killed Borghild's brother, and it was in fair combat.
Sinfiotli returned home. To make peace between him and the Queen Sigmund gave Borghild a great measure of gold as compensation for the loss of her brother. The Queen took it and said, "Lo, my brother's worth is reckoned at this; let no more be said about his slaying." And she made Sinfiotli welcome to the Hall of the Branstock.
But although she showed herself friendly to him her heart was set upon his destruction.
That night there was a feast in the Hall of the Branstock and Borghild the Queen went to all the guests with a horn of mead in her hand. She came to Sinfiotli and she held the horn to him. "Take this from my hands, O friend of Sigmund," she said.
But Sinfiotli saw what was in her eyes and he said, "I will not drink from this horn. There is venom in the drink."
Then, to end the mockery that the Queen would have made over Sinfiotli, Sigmund who was standing by took the horn out of Borghild's hand. No venom or poison could injure him. He raised the horn to his lips and drained the mead at a draught.
The Queen said to Sinfiotli, "Must other men quaff thy drink for thee?"
Later in the night she came to him again, the horn of mead in her hand. She offered it to Sinfiotli, but he looked in her eyes and saw the hatred that was there. "Venom is in the drink," he said. "I will not take it."
And again Sigmund took the horn and drank the mead at a draught. And again the Queen mocked Sinfiotli.
A third time she came to him. Before she offered the horn she said, "This is the one who fears to take his drink like a man. What a Volsung heart he has!" Sinfiotli saw the hatred in her eyes, and her mockery could not make him take the mead from her. As before Sigmund was standing by. But now he was weary of raising the horn and he said to Sinfiotli, "Pour the drink through thy beard."
He thought that Sigmund meant that he should pour the mead through his lips that were bearded and make trouble no more between him and the Queen. But Sigmund did not mean that. He meant that he should pretend to drink and let the mead run down on the floor. Sinfiotli, not understanding what his comrade meant, took the horn from the Queen and raised it to his lips and drank. And as soon as he drank, the venom that was in the drink went to his heart, and he fell dead in the Hall of the Branstock.
Oh, woeful was Sigmund for the death of his kinsman and his comrade. He would let no one touch his body. He himself lifted Sinfiotli in his arms and carried him out of the Hall, and through the wood, and down to the sea-shore. And when he came to the shore he saw a boat drawn up with a man therein. Sigmund came near to him and saw that the man was old and strangely tall. "I will take thy burthen from thee," the man said.
Sigmund left the body of Sinfiotli in the boat, thinking to take a place beside it. But as soon as the body was placed in it the boat went from the land without sail or oars. Sigmund, looking on the old man who stood at the stern, knew that he was not of mortal men, but was Odin All-Father, the giver of the sword Gram.
Then Sigmund went back to his Hall. His Queen died, and in time he wed with Hiordis, who became the mother of Sigurd. And now Sigurd the Volsung, the son of Sigmund and Hiordis, rode the ways of the forest, the sword Gram by his side, and the Golden Helmet of the Dragon's Hoard above his golden hair.
Upon the mountain's distant head,
With trackless snows forever white,
Where all is still and cold and dead,
Late shines the day's departing light.
But far below those icy rocks,
The vales in summer bloom arrayed,
Woods full of birds, and fields of flocks,
Are dim with mist and dark with shade.
'Tis thus, from warm and kindly hearts,
And eyes whose generous meanings burn,
Earliest the light of life depart,
But lingers with the cold and stern.
WEEK 30 |
NCE upon a time there was a Queen who had a son, so ugly and misshapen that it was doubted for a long time whether his form was really human. A fairy, who was present at his birth, affirmed, nevertheless, that he would be worthy to be loved, as he would have an excellent wit; she added, moreover, that by virtue of the gift she had bestowed upon him, he would be able to impart equal intelligence to the one whom he loved best. All this was some consolation to the poor Queen, who was much distressed at having brought so ugly a little monkey into the world. It is true that the child was no sooner able to speak than he said a thousand pretty things, and that in all his ways there was a certain air of intelligence, with which everyone was charmed. I had forgotten to say that he was born with a little tuft of hair on his head, and so he came to be called Riquet with the Tuft; for Riquet was the family name.
About seven or eight years later, the Queen of a neighboring kingdom had two daughters. The elder was fairer than the day, and the Queen was so delighted that it was feared some harm might come to her from her great joy. The same fairy who had assisted at the birth of little Riquet was present upon this occasion, and in order to moderate the joy of the Queen she told her that this little Princess would have no gifts of mind at all, and that she would be as stupid as she was beautiful. The Queen was greatly mortified on hearing this, but shortly after, she was even more annoyed when her second little daughter was born and proved to be extremely ugly. "Do not distress yourself, madam," said the fairy to her, "your daughter will find compensation, for she will have so much intelligence that her lack of beauty will scarcely be perceived."
"Heaven send it may be so!" replied the Queen; "but are there no means whereby a little more understanding might be given to the elder, who is so lovely?" "I can do nothing for her in the way of intelligence, madam," said the fairy, "but everything in the way of beauty; as, however, there is nothing in my power I would not do to give you comfort, I will bestow on her the power of conferring beauty on any man or woman who shall please her." As these two Princesses grew up their endowments also became more perfect, and nothing was talked of anywhere but the beauty of the elder and the intelligence of the younger. It is true that their defects also greatly increased with their years. The younger became uglier every moment, and the elder more stupid every day. She either made no answer when she was spoken to, or else said something foolish. With this she was so clumsy that she could not even place four pieces of china on a mantel shelf without breaking one of them, or drink a glass of water without spilling half of it on her dress. Notwithstanding the attraction of beauty, the younger, in whatever society they might be, nearly always bore away the palm from her sister. At first everyone went up to the more beautiful to gaze at and admire her; but they soon left her for the cleverer one, to listen to her many pleasant and amusing sayings; and people were astonished to find that in less than a quarter of an hour the elder had not a soul near her, while all the company had gathered around the younger. The elder, though very stupid, noticed this, and would have given, without regret, all her beauty for half the sense of her sister. Discreet as she was, the Queen could not help often reproaching her with her stupidity, which made the poor Princess ready to die of grief.
One day, when she had gone by herself into a wood to weep over her misfortune, she saw approaching her a little man of very ugly and unpleasant appearance, but magnificently dressed. It was the young Prince Riquet with the Tuft, who, having fallen in love with her from seeing her portraits, which were sent all over the world, had left his father's kingdom that he might have the pleasure of beholding her and speaking to her. Enchanted at meeting her thus alone, he addressed her with all the respect and politeness imaginable. Having remarked, after paying her the usual compliments, that she was very melancholy, he said to her: "I cannot understand, madam, how a person as beautiful as you are can be so unhappy as you appear; for, although I can boast of having seen an infinite number of beautiful people, I can say with truth that I have never seen one whose beauty could be compared with yours."
"You are pleased to say so, sir," replied the Princess, and there she stopped.
"Beauty," continued Riquet, "is so great an advantage that it ought to take the place of every other, and, possessed of it, I see nothing that can have power to afflict one."
"I would rather," said the Princess, "be as ugly as you are and have intelligence, than possess the beauty I do and be as stupid as I am."
"There is no greater proof of intelligence, madam, than the belief that we have it not; it is the nature of that gift, that the more we have, the more we believe ourselves to be without it."
"I do not know how that may be," said the Princess, "but I know well enough that I am very stupid, and this is the cause of the grief that is killing me."
"If that is all that troubles you, madam, I can easily put an end to your sorrow."
"And how would you do so?" said the Princess.
"I have the power, madam," said Riquet with the Tuft, "to give as much intelligence as it is possible to possess to the person whom I love best; as you, madam are that person, it will depend entirely upon yourself whether or not you become gifted with this amount of intelligence—provided that you are willing to marry me."
The Princess was stricken dumb with astonishment, and replied not a word.
"I see," said Riquet with the Tuft, "that this proposal troubles you, I am not surprised, but I will give you a full year to consider it."
The Princess had so little sense, and at the same time was so anxious to have a great deal, that she thought the end of that year would never come; so she at once accepted the offer that was made her. She had no sooner promised Riquet with the Tuft that she would marry him that day twelve months than she felt herself quite another person from what she had previously been. She found she was able to say whatever she pleased, with a readiness past belief, and to say it in a clever, but easy and natural manner. She immediately began a sprightly and well-sustained conversation with Riquet with the Tuft, and was so brilliant in her talk that the Prince began to think he had given her more wit than he had reserved for himself. On her return to the palace, the whole court was puzzled to account for a change so sudden and extraordinary; for instead of the number of foolish things which they had been accustomed to hear from her, she now made as many sensible and exceedingly witty remarks. All the court was in a state of joy not to be described. The younger sister alone was not altogether pleased, for, having lost her superiority over her sister in the way of intelligence, she now appeared by her side merely as a very unpleasing-looking person.
The King now began to be guided by his elder daughter's advice, and at times even held his council in her apartments. The news of the change of affairs was spread abroad, and all the young princes of the neighboring kingdoms exerted themselves to gain her affection, and nearly all of them asked her hand in marriage. She found none of them, however, intelligent enough to please her, and she listened to all of them without engaging herself to one.
At length arrived a prince so rich and powerful, so clever and so handsome, that she could not help listening willingly to his addresses. Her father, having perceived this, told her that he left her at perfect liberty to choose a husband for herself, and that she had only to make known her decision. As the more intelligence we possess, the more difficulty we find in making up our mind on such a matter as this, she begged her father, after having thanked him, to allow her time to think about it.
She went by chance to walk in the same wood in which she had met Riquet with the Tuft, in order to meditate more uninterruptedly over what she had to do. While she was walking, deep in thought, she heard a dull sound beneath her feet, as of many persons running to and fro and busily occupied. Having listened more attentively she heard one say, "Bring me that saucepan"; another, "Give me that kettle"; another, "Put some wood on the fire." At the same moment the ground opened, and she saw beneath her what appeared to be a large kitchen, full of cooks, scullions, and all sorts of servants necessary for the preparation of a magnificent banquet. There came forth a band of about twenty to thirty cooks, who went and established themselves in an avenue of the wood, at a very long table, and who, each with the larding pin in his hand and the tail of his fur cap over his ear, set to work, keeping time to a harmonious song.
The Princess, astonished at this sight, asked the men for whom they were working.
"Madam," replied the chief among them, "for Prince Riquet with the Tuft, whose marriage will take place tomorrow." The Princess, still more surprised than she was before, and suddenly recollecting that it was just a twelve-month from the day on which she had promised to marry Prince Riquet with the Tuft, was overcome with trouble and amazement. The reason of her not having remembered her promise was, that when she made it she had been a very foolish person, and since she became gifted with the new mind that the Prince had given her, she had forgotten all her follies.
She had not taken another thirty steps when Riquet with the Tuft presented himself before her, gaily and splendidly attired, like a prince about to be married. "You see, madam," said he, "I keep my word punctually, and I doubt not that you have come hither to keep yours, and to make me, by the giving of your hand, the happiest of men."
"I confess to you frankly," answered the Princess, "that I have not yet made up my mind on that matter, and that I doubt if I shall ever be able to do so in the way you wish."
"You astonish me, madam," said Riquet with the Tuft.
"I have no doubt that I do," said the Princess; "and assuredly, had I to deal with a stupid person, with a man without intelligence, I should feel greatly perplexed. 'A Princess is bound by her word,' he would say to me, 'and you must marry me, as you have promised to do so.' But as the person to whom I speak is, of all men in the world, the one of greatest sense and understanding, I am certain he will listen to reason. You know that, when I was no better than a fool, I nevertheless could not decide to marry you—how can you expect, now that I have the mind which you have given me, and which renders me much more difficult to please than before, that I should take to-day a resolution which I could not then? If you seriously thought of marrying me you did very wrong to take away my stupidity, and so enable me to see more clearly than I saw then."
"If a man without intelligence," replied Riquet with the Tuft, "who reproached you with your breach of promise, might have a right, as you have just intimated, to be treated with indulgence, why would you, madam, that I should receive less consideration in a matter which affects the entire happiness of my life? Is it reasonable that persons of intellect should be in a worse position than those who have none? Can you assert this—you who have so much, and who so earnestly desired to possess it? But let us come to the point, if you please. Setting aside my ugliness, is there anything in me that displeases you? Are you dissatisfied with my birth, my understanding, my temper, or my manners?"
"Not in the least," replied the Princess; "I admire in you everything you have mentioned."
"If that is so," rejoined Riquet with the Tuft, "I shall soon be happy, as you have it in your power to make me the most pleasing-looking of men."
"How can that be done?" asked the Princess.
"It can be done," said Riquet with the Tuft, "if you love me sufficiently to wish that it should be. And in order, madam, that you should have no doubt about it, know that the same fairy who, on the day I was born, endowed me with the power to give intelligence to the person I chose, gave you also the power to render handsome the man you should love, and on whom you should wish to bestow this favor."
"If such be the fact," said the Princess, "I wish, with all my heart, that you should become the handsomest and most lovable Prince in the world, and I bestow the gift on you to the fullest extent in my power."
The Princess had no sooner pronounced these words than Riquet with the Tuft appeared to her eyes, of all men in the world, the handsomest, the best-made, and most attractive she had ever seen.
There are some who assert that it was not the spell of the fairy, but love alone that caused this metamorphosis. They say that the Princess, having reflected on the perseverance of her lover, on his prudence, and on all the good qualities of his heart and mind, no longer saw the deformity of his body, or the ugliness of his features; that his hump appeared to her nothing more than a good-natured shrug of his shoulders, and that instead of noticing, as she had done, how badly he limped, she saw in him only a certain lounging air, which charmed her. They say also that his eyes, which squinted, only seemed to her the more brilliant for this; and that the crookedness of his glance was to her merely expressive of his great love; and, finally, that his great red nose had in it, to her mind, something martial and heroic. However this may be, the Princess promised on the spot to marry him, provided he obtained the consent of the King, her father. The King, having learned that his daughter entertained a great regard for Riquet with the Tuft, whom he also knew to be a very clever and wise Prince, received him with pleasure as his son-in-law. The wedding took place the next morning, as Riquet with the Tuft had foreseen, and according to the orders which he had given a long time before.
No beauty, no talent, has power above
Some indefinite charm discern'd only by love.
"I S there more than one kind of Pelopaeus, Uncle Will?" Theodore asked after a pause.
"Oh, yes; don't you remember that deep-blue wasp we saw the other day?"
"I guess I do remember!" said Theodore. "It was bluer than indigo, and how it did shine! And it had a slender waist too."
"The Pelopaeus people all have slender waists," said Uncle Will. "That is one way we know them when we meet them. But it is also the wings that decide to which family the different wasps belong. Peopaeus has flat wings that lie close along her back; but the true wasps, as they are called, can fold their wings up long and narrow, like little fans."
"My!" said Theodore, "where can we find some? I want to see little wings fold up like fans."
"So you shall, all in good time, but just now we will devote ourselves to Madam Pelopaeus, who has not yet told us all about herself. There are her eyes, you know. Have you looked at them?"
"They are big, bulging eyes." answered Theodore. "I have seen that much. And they are brown, and on the sides of her face, just like a bee's eyes. Oh, say, Uncle Will, has she three little eyes on top of her head?"
"That she has," assented Uncle Will.
"And are the big eyes compound, made of three thousand six hundred facets?"
Uncle Will laughed. "I am sure I do not know the exact number, but the two big eyes are compound and are made of many facets."
"And the three little eyes are simple, like the eyes on the top of the bee's head," added Theodore.
"Exactly right," said Uncle Will. "You will find that the wasps are made very much like the bees, and yet are very different in their habits."
"I wish you would draw me a picture of an insect's eye, the way you did when we were talking about bees," begged Theodore. And so Uncle Will took out his pencil and drew the following picture on the back of an envelope.
"The long hairs on it are to keep out the dust," said Theodore, looking at it. Then he added, "It does seem strange that a wasp can see out of a whole cluster of eyes. I should think things would look awfully mixed up."
"No more than they do with our two eyes," said Uncle Will.
"Everything has eyes," mused Theodore, "lions and grasshoppers and toads and wasps and people."
"Yes, everything needs to see."
"All excepting the fishes that live in dark caves," said Theodore; "they have no eyes."
"And moles that burrow under the ground," added Uncle Will. "They have no eyes because they do not need them."
"If people lived in caves, would they have no eyes?"
"If they lived for a great many generations where sunlight never came to them, I think they would in time lose their sight," said Uncle Will. "And if people do not use their eyes well and think about what they see, they are almost as badly off as if they had not eyes, for after a while they lose the power to see and think well."
"I know," said Theodore, "you must work your eyes and your thoughts and everything you have if you want them to be strong."
"Just so," said Uncle Will. "Here comes Pelopaeus; see how hard she has to work! There, the wind has blown her away! There she comes again! She cannot get in at the shed door, the wind is so strong."
"See, she is trying again!" screamed Theodore excitedly. "And back she goes. Poor Pelopaeus! come and sit in the sun by us here, out of the wind."
"She won't do that," said Uncle Will. "She is too intent on
"She bites out her ball of clay and chews it up and makes it into plaster," said Theodore, musingly. "She must have strong jaws. Do they work sideways, like the bee's jaws?"
"Oh, yes indeed; their jaws are very much like bee's jaws. All insects have jaws very much alike, you know."
"Yes, I remember," said Theodore; "but I thought some jaws were more alike than others."
"That's true too," agreed Uncle Will, laughing. "And the wasp's jaws are very much like the bee's jaws. You remember how they look, don't you?" and Uncle Will drew a piece of paper from his pocket and made a little picture. "There, that is how it is—hard little cutters that cut out clay and bite meat and other food."
"I should think they would suck up honey like the bees, Uncle Will; why don't they?"
"Oh, they like nectar too, but they are not satisfied to live on sweets alone. Some kinds of wasps are very fond of meat, as you will doubtless discover before long."
"But don't they ever make honey, Uncle Will?"
"Not as a rule, though there are wasps in parts of the world that make a little. Wasps, however, are not honey-makers, although adult wasps like honey and plum juice and all such good things and are quick enough to smell them out. You see the wasps have no separate honey sac, such as the bees have, to carry their sweets in, and they have no bread baskets on their legs. Because they preferred another kind of life they came to be provided with other tools; and so some of them have strong legs for digging holes in the ground, and some have strong jaws for biting wood, but none of them have long mouth tubes to put into flowers to suck out the honey as the bees have."
"Tongues they have to taste with," said Theodore, "and smellers they have to find their food, but no noses—Ah! I know how you manage, little Mrs. Pelopaeus, you smell with your antennae, like the bees!"
"Yes, that is it!" assented Uncle Will.
"What long antennae Pelopaeus has!" and Theodore got very close to the wasp, that had flown out of the shed and lighted on the stone where he was sitting. She seemed to know him and to have no fear of his coming close. "See!" he suddenly added, "she is drawing one of them through the bend of her elbow to clean it! Oh, Uncle Will, has she a little cleaner such as the bees have on their fore legs?"
"Judge for yourself"; and Uncle Will pulled a dead wasp out of his pocket and handed it to Theodore. Then he took out his magnifying glass, and Theodore, who knew just where to look, applied the glass. After looking for a few minutes he handed both to his uncle.
"Oh," he said, "see how cunning it is! The pretty little
comb drops down when the leg is bent over the
"And when Madam Wasp pulls her feeler through the comb-girt hole—lo, it must be cleaned, willy nilly," finished Uncle Will, as he looked through the glass and saw the enlarged joint where the little cleaner was attached. "She is a very handsome little lady," he went on, as he slowly moved the magnifying glass over the whole wasp, "a very handsome little lady with the yellow stripe around her brown body and her little slender wings."
"I should think her waist would break in two when the wind blows," said Theodore. "Why is it so slender?"
"I don't know why," replied Uncle Will. "I have often wondered. It must be easier for her to fly with those little wings of hers than if her waist were thick and heavy. Besides, what an elegant wasp figure she cuts with that long slender waist like a stiff hair connecting the two parts of the body. And yet, small as it is, through that little waist go nerves and the tiny food tube, and everything necessary to connect the head end with the tail end. If you doubt it, just touch her head and see how quickly the sting in the end of the tail will respond!"
"If I were a spider, I suppose I should feel her pretty quickly without touching her."
"Yes, but that is only another proof of the connection between the parts of the body. She sees the spider with her eyes—the message is at once sent along the nerves into the sting that at once works—but the order to work must come from the head, you know."
"She doesn't sting first and think afterwards, then?" asked Theodore, mischievously.
"Sometimes it seems so, she acts so quickly," answered Uncle Will, laughing.
Timothy Tiggs and Tomothy Toggs,
They both went
They both went
Because they were wishing
To see how the creatures would turn into frogs.
Timothy Tiggs and Tomothy Toggs,
They both got stuck in the bogothybogs;
They caught a small minnow,
And said 'twas a sin oh!
That things with no legs should pretend to be frogs.
WEEK 30 |
John x: 1 to 41;
Luke x: 1 to 37.
FTER the cure of the man born blind, Jesus gave to the people in Jerusalem the parable or story of "The Good Shepherd."
"Verily, verily (that is, "in truth, in truth"), I say to you, if any one does not go into the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, it is a sign that he is a thief and a robber. But the one who comes in by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. The porter opens the door to him, and the sheep know him, and listen to his call, for he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out to the pasture-field. And when he has led out his sheep, he goes in front of them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. The sheep will not follow a stranger, for they do not know the stranger's voice."
The people did not understand what all this meant, and as Jesus explained it to them. He said:
"Verily, verily, I say to you, I am the door that leads to the sheepfold. If any one comes to the sheep in any other way than through me and in my name, he is a thief and a robber; but those who are the true sheep will not hear such. I am the door; if any man goes into the fold through me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and go out, and shall find pasture.
"The thief comes to the fold that he may steal, and rob the sheep and kill them; but I come to the fold that they may have life, and may have all that they need. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd will give up his own life to save his sheep; and I will give up my life that my sheep may be saved.
"I am the good shepherd; and just as a true shepherd knows all the sheep in his flock, so I know my own, and my own know me, even as I know the Father, and the Father knows me; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must lead, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."
The good shepherd.
The Jews could not understand these words of Jesus; but they became very angry with him, because he spoke of God as his Father. They took up stones to throw them at him, and tried to seize him, intending to kill him. But Jesus escaped from their hands, and went away to the land beyond Jordan, at the place called Bethabara, or "Bethany beyond Jordan," the same place where he had been baptized by John the Baptist more than two years before, as we read in Story 114. From this place Jesus wished to go out through the land on the east of the Jordan, a land which was called "Perea," a word that means "beyond." But before going out himself through this land, Jesus sent out seventy chosen men from among his followers to go to all the villages, and to make the people ready for his own coming afterward. He gave to these seventy the same commands that he had given to the twelve disciples, when he sent them through Galilee, of which we read in Story 126, and sent them out in pairs, two men to travel and to preach together. He said:
"I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no bag for food, no shoes except those that you are wearing. Do not stop to talk with people by the way; but go through the towns and the villages, healing the sick, and preaching to the people, 'The kingdom of God is coming.' He that hears you, hears me; and he that refuses you, refuses me; and he that will not hear me, will not hear him that sent me."
And after a time the seventy men came again to Jesus, saying, "Lord, even the evil spirits obey our words in thy name!"
And Jesus said to them, "I saw Satan, the king of the evil spirits, falling down like lightning from heaven. I have given you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions; and nothing shall harm you. Still, do not rejoice because the evil spirits obey you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." And at that time, one of the scribes,—men who wrote copies of the books of the Old Testament, and studied them, and taught them,—came to Jesus and asked him a question, to see what answer he would give. He said, "Master, what shall I do to have everlasting life?"
Jesus said to the scribe, "What is written in the law? You are a reader of God's law; tell me what it says?"
Then the man gave this answer, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
Jesus said to the man, "You have answered right; do this, and you shall have everlasting life."
But the man was not satisfied. He asked another question, "And who is my neighbor?"
To answer this question, Jesus gave the parable or story of "The Good Samaritan." He said, "A certain man was going down the lonely road from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, who stripped him of all that he had, and beat him; and then went away, leaving him almost dead. It happened that a certain priest was going down that road; and when he saw the man lying there, he passed by on the other side. And a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw the man, he too, went by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he was going down, came where this man was; and as soon as he saw him he felt a pity for him. He came to the man, and dressed his wounds, pouring oil and wine into them. Then he lifted him up, and set him on his own beast of burden, and walked beside him to an inn. There he took care of him all night; and the next morning he took out from his purse two shillings, and gave them to the keeper of the inn, and said, "Take care of him; and if you need to spend more than this, do so; and when I come again I will pay it to you."
The good Samaritan aiding the man who had been robbed.
"Which one of these three do you think showed himself a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?"
The scribe said, "The one who showed mercy on him."
Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do thou likewise."
By this parable Jesus showed that "our neighbor" is the one who needs the help that we can give him, whoever he may be.
C URDIE went up the mountain neither whistling nor singing, for he was vexed with Irene for taking him in, as he called it; and he was vexed with himself for having spoken to her so angrily. His mother gave a cry of joy when she saw him, and at once set about getting him something to eat, asking him questions all the time, which he did not answer so cheerfully as usual. When his meal was ready, she left him to eat it, and hurried to the mine to let his father know he was safe. When she came back, she found him fast asleep upon her bed; nor did he wake until the arrival of his father in the evening.
"Now, Curdie," his mother said, as they sat at supper, "tell us the whole story from beginning to end, just as it all happened."
Curdie obeyed, and told everything to the point where they came out upon the lawn in the garden of the king's house.
"And what happened after that?" asked his mother. "You haven't told us all. You ought to be very happy at having got away from those demons, and instead of that, I never saw you so gloomy. There must be something more. Besides, you do not speak of that lovely child as I should like to hear you. She saved your life at the risk of her own, and yet somehow you don't seem to think much of it."
"She talked such nonsense!" answered Curdie, "and told me a pack of things that weren't a bit true; and I can't get over it."
"What were they?" asked his father. "Your mother may be able to throw some light upon them."
Then Curdie made a clean breast of it, and told them everything.
They all sat silent for some time, pondering the strange tale. At last Curdie's mother spoke.
"You confess, my boy," she said, "there is something about the whole affair you do not understand?"
"Yes, of course, mother," he answered, "I cannot understand how a child knowing nothing about the mountain, or even that I was shut up in it, should come all that way alone, straight to where I was; and then, after getting me out of the hole, lead me out of the mountain too, where I should not have known a step of the way if it had been as light as in the open air."
"Then you have no right to say what she told you was not true. She did take you out, and she must have had something to guide her: why not a thread as well as a rope, or anything else? There is something you cannot explain, and her explanation may be the right one."
"It's no explanation at all, mother; and I can't believe it."
"That may be only because you do not understand it. If you did, you would probably find it was an explanation, and believe it thoroughly. I don't blame you for not being able to believe it, but I do blame you for fancying such a child would try to deceive you. Why should she? Depend upon it, she told you all she knew. Until you had found a better way of accounting for it all, you might at least have been more sparing of your judgment."
"That is what something inside me has been saying all the time," said Curdie, hanging down his head. "But what do you make of the grandmother? That is what I can't get over. To take me up to an old garret, and try to persuade me against the sight of my own eyes that it was a beautiful room, with blue walls and silver stars, and no end of things in it, when there was nothing there but an old tub and a withered apple and a heap of straw and a sunbeam! It was too bad! She might have had some old woman there at least who could pass for her precious grandmother!"
"Didn't she speak as if she saw those other things herself, Curdie?"
"Yes. That's what bothers me. You would have thought she really meant and believed that she saw every one of the things she talked about. And not one of them there! It was too bad, I say."
"Perhaps some people can see things other people can't see, Curdie," said his mother very gravely. "I think I will tell you something I saw myself once—only perhaps you won't believe me either!"
"Oh, mother, mother!" cried Curdie, bursting into tears; "I don't deserve that, surely!"
"But what I am going to tell you is very strange," persisted his mother; "and if having heard it, you were to say I must have been dreaming, I don't know that I should have any right to be vexed with you, though I know at least that I was not asleep."
"Do tell me, mother. Perhaps it will help me to think better of the princess."
"That's why I am tempted to tell you," replied his mother. "But first, I may as well mention, that according to old whispers, there is something more than common about the king's family; and the queen was of the same blood, for they were cousins of some degree. There were strange stories told concerning them—all good stories—but strange, very strange. What they were I cannot tell, for I only remember the faces of my grandmother and my mother as they talked together about them. There was wonder and awe—not fear, in their eyes, and they whispered, and never spoke aloud. But what I saw myself, was this: Your father was going to work in the mine, one night, and I had been down with his supper. It was soon after we were married, and not very long before you were born. He came with me to the mouth of the mine, and left me to go home alone, for I knew the way almost as well as the floor of our own cottage. It was pretty dark, and in some parts of the road where the rocks overhung, nearly quite dark. But I got along perfectly well, never thinking of being afraid, until I reached a spot you know well enough, Curdie, where the path has to make a sharp turn out of the way of a great rock on the left-hand side. When I got there, I was suddenly surrounded by about half-a-dozen of the cobs, the first I had ever seen, although I had heard tell of them often enough. One of them blocked up the path, and they all began tormenting and teasing me in a way it makes me shudder to think of even now."
"If I had only been with you!" cried father and son in a breath.
The mother gave a funny little smile, and went on.
"They had some of their horrible creatures with them too, and I must confess I was dreadfully frightened. They had torn my clothes very much, and I was afraid they were going to tear myself to pieces, when suddenly a great white soft light shone upon me. I looked up. A broad ray, like a shining road, came down from a large globe of silvery light, not very high up, indeed not quite so high as the horizon—so it could not have been a new star or another moon or anything of that sort. The cobs dropped persecuting me, and looked dazed, and I thought they were going to run away, but presently they began again. The same moment, however, down the path from the globe of light came a bird, shining like silver in the sun. It gave a few rapid flaps first, and then, with its wings straight out, shot sliding down the slope of the light. It looked to me just like a white pigeon. But whatever it was, when the cobs caught sight of it coming straight down upon them, they took to their heels and scampered away across the mountain, leaving me safe, only much frightened. As soon as it had sent them off, the bird went gliding again up the light, and just at the moment it reached the globe, the light disappeared, just the same as if a shutter had been closed over a window, and I saw it no more. But I had no more trouble with the cobs that night, or at any time afterward."
"How strange!" exclaimed Curdie.
"Yes, it is strange; but I can't help believing it, whether you do or not," said his mother.
"It's exactly as your mother told it to me the very next morning," said his father.
"You don't think I'm doubting my own mother!" cried Curdie.
"There are other people in the world quite as well worth believing as your own mother," said his mother. "I don't know that she's so much the fitter to be believed that she happens to be your mother, Mr. Curdie. There are mothers far more likely to tell lies than that little girl I saw talking to the primroses a few weeks ago. If she were to lie I should begin to doubt my own word."
"But princesses have told lies as well as other people," said Curdie.
"Yes, but not princesses like that child. She's a good girl, I am certain, and that's more than being a princess. Depend upon it you will have to be sorry for behaving so to her, Curdie. You ought at least to have held your tongue."
"I am sorry now," answered Curdie.
"You ought to go and tell her so, then."
"I don't see how I could manage that. They wouldn't let a miner boy like me have a word with her alone; and I couldn't tell her before that nurse of hers. She'd be asking ever so many questions, and I don't know how many the little princess would like me to answer. She told me that Lootie didn't know anything about her coming to get me out of the mountain. I am certain she would have prevented her somehow if she had known it. But I may have a chance before long, and meantime I must try to do something for her. I think, father, I have got on the track at last."
"Have you, indeed, my boy?" said Peter. "I am sure you deserve some success; you have worked very hard for it. What have you found out?"
"It's difficult you know, father, inside the mountain, especially in the dark, and not knowing what turns you have taken, to tell the lie of things outside."
"Impossible, my boy, without a chart, or at least a compass," returned his father.
"Well, I think I have nearly discovered in what direction the cobs are mining. If I am right, I know something else that I can put to it, and then one and one will make three."
"They very often do, Curdie, as we miners ought to be well aware. Now tell us, my boy, what the two things are, and see whether we can guess at the same third as you."
"I don't see what that has to do with the princess," interposed his mother.
"I will soon let you see that, mother. Perhaps you may think me
foolish, but until I am sure there is nothing in my present fancy,
I am more determined than ever to go on with my observations. Just
as we came to the channel by which we got out, I heard the miners
at work somewhere near—I think down below us. Now since I began
to watch them, they have mined a good half mile, in a straight
line; and so far as I am aware, they are working in no other part
of the mountain. But I never could tell in what direction they
were going. When we came out in the king's garden, however, I
thought at once whether it was possible they were working toward
the king's house; and what I want to do
to-night is to make sure
whether they are or not. I will take a light
"Oh, Curdie," cried his mother, "then they will see you."
"I'm no more afraid of them now than I was before," rejoined Curdie,—"now that I've got this precious shoe. They can't make another such in a hurry, and one bare foot will do for my purpose. Woman as she may be, I won't spare her next time. But I shall be careful with my light, for I don't want them to see me. I won't stick it in my hat."
"Go on, then, and tell us what you mean to do."
"I mean to take a bit of paper with me and a pencil, and go in at the mouth of the stream by which we came out. I shall mark on the paper as near as I can the angle of every turning I take until I find the cobs at work, and so get a good idea in what direction they are going. If it should prove to be nearly parallel with the stream, I shall know it is toward the king's house they are working."
"And what if you should? How much wiser will you be then?"
"Wait a minute, mother, dear. I told you that when I came upon the royal family in the cave, they were talking of their prince—Harelip, they called him—marrying a sun-woman—that means one of us—one with toes to her feet. Now in the speech one of them made that night at their great gathering, of which I heard only a part, he said that peace would be secured for a generation at least by the pledge the prince would hold for the good behavior of her relatives: that's what he said, and he must have meant the sun-woman the prince was to marry. I am quite sure the king is much too proud to wish his son to marry any but a princess, and much too knowing to fancy that his having a peasant woman for a wife would be of any material advantage to them."
"I see what you are driving at now," said his mother.
"But," said his father, "the king would dig the mountain to the plain before he would have his princess the wife of a cob, if he were ten times a prince."
"Yes; but they think so much of themselves!" said his mother. "Small creatures always do. The bantam is the proudest cock in my little yard."
"And I fancy," said Curdie, "if they once get her, they would tell the king they would kill her except he consented to the marriage."
"They might say so," said his father, "but they wouldn't kill her; they would keep her alive for the sake of the hold it gave them over our king. Whatever he did to them, they would threaten to do the same to the princess."
"And they are bad enough to torment her just for their own amusement—I know that," said his mother.
"Anyhow, I will keep a watch on them, and see what they are up to," said Curdie. "It's too horrible to think of. I daren't let myself do it. But they shan't have her—at least if I can help it. So, mother dear—my clue is all right—will you get me a bit of paper and a pencil and a lump of pease-pudding, and I will set out at once. I saw a place where I can climb over the wall of the garden quite easily."
"You must mind and keep out of the way of the men on the watch," said his mother.
"That I will. I don't want them to know anything about it. They would spoil it all. The cobs would only try some other plan—they are such obstinate creatures! I shall take good care, mother. They won't kill and eat me either, if they should come upon me. So you needn't mind them."
His mother got him what he asked for, and Curdie set out. Close beside the door by which the princess left the garden for the mountain, stood a great rock, and by climbing it Curdie got over the wall. He tied his clue to a stone just inside the channel of the stream, and took his pickaxe with him. He had not gone far before he encountered a horrid creature coming toward the mouth. The spot was too narrow for two of almost any size or shape, and besides Curdie had no wish to let the creature pass. Not being able to use his pickaxe, however, he had a severe struggle with him, and it was only after receiving many bites, some of them bad, that he succeeded in killing him with his pocket knife. Having dragged him out, he made haste to get in again before another should stop up the way.
I need not follow him farther in this night's adventures. He returned to his breakfast, satisfied that the goblins were mining in the direction of the palace—on so low a level that their intention must, he thought, be to burrow under the walls of the king's house, and rise up inside it—in order, he fully believed, to lay hands on the little princess, and carry her off for a wife to their horrid Harelip.
Say what you like,
All things love me!
I pick no flowers—
That wins the Bee.
The Summer's Moths
Think my hand one—
To touch their wings—
With Wind and Sun.
The garden Mouse
Comes near to play;
Indeed, he turns
His eyes away.
The Wren knows well
I rob no nest:
When I look in,
She still will rest.
The hedge stops Cows,
Or they would come
After my voice
Right to my home.
The Horse can tell,
Straight from my lip,
My hand could not
Hold any whip.
Say what you like,
All things love me!
Horse, Cow, and Mouse,
Bird, Moth and Bee.