WEEK 31 |
B UT there was no hilarity in the little town that same tranquil Saturday afternoon. The Harpers, and Aunt Polly's family, were being put into mourning, with great grief and many tears. An unusual quiet possessed the village, although it was ordinarily quiet enough, in all conscience. The villagers conducted their concerns with an absent air, and talked little; but they sighed often. The Saturday holiday seemed a burden to the children. They had no heart in their sports, and gradually gave them up.
In the afternoon Becky Thatcher found herself moping about the deserted school-house yard, and feeling very melancholy. But she found nothing there to comfort her. She soliloquized:
"Oh, if I only had a brass andiron-knob again! But I haven't got anything now to remember him by." And she choked back a little sob.
Presently she stopped, and said to herself:
"It was right here. Oh, if it was to do over again, I wouldn't say that—I wouldn't say it for the whole world. But he's gone now; I'll never never never see him any more."
This thought broke her down and she wandered away, with tears rolling down her cheeks. Then quite a group of boys and girls—playmates of Tom's and Joe's—came by, and stood looking over the paling fence and talking in reverent tones of how Tom did so-and-so, the last time they saw him, and how Joe said this and that small trifle (pregnant with awful prophecy, as they could easily see now!)—and each speaker pointed out the exact spot where the lost lads stood at the time, and then added something like "and I was a-standing just so—just as I am now, and as if you was him—I was as close as that—and he smiled, just this way—and then something seemed to go all over me, like—awful, you know—and I never thought what it meant, of course, but I can see now!"
Then there was a dispute about who saw the dead boys last in life, and many claimed that dismal distinction, and offered evidences, more or less tampered with by the witness; and when it was ultimately decided who did see the departed last, and exchanged the last words with them, the lucky parties took upon themselves a sort of sacred importance, and were gaped at and envied by all the rest. One poor chap, who had no other grandeur to offer, said with tolerably manifest pride in the remembrance:
"Well, Tom Sawyer he licked me once."
But that bid for glory was a failure. Most of the boys could say that, and so that cheapened the distinction too much. The group loitered away, still recalling memories of the lost heroes, in awed voices.
When the Sunday-school hour was finished, the next morning, the bell began to toll, instead of ringing in the usual way. It was a very still Sabbath, and the mournful sound seemed in keeping with the musing hush that lay upon nature. The villagers began to gather, loitering a moment in the vestibule to converse in whispers about the sad event. But there was no whispering in the house; only the funereal rustling of dresses as the women gathered to their seats disturbed the silence there. None could remember when the little church had been so full before. There was finally a waiting pause, an expectant dumbness, and then Aunt Polly entered, followed by Sid and Mary, and they by the Harper family, all in deep black, and the whole congregation, the old minister as well, rose reverently and stood, until the mourners were seated in the front pew. There was another communing silence, broken at intervals by muffled sobs, and then the minister spread his hands abroad and prayed. A moving hymn was sung, and the text followed: "I am the Resurrection and the Life."
As the service proceeded, the clergyman drew such pictures of the graces, the winning ways, and the rare promise of the lost lads, that every soul there, thinking he recognized these pictures, felt a pang in remembering that he had persistently blinded himself to them always before, and had as persistently seen only faults and flaws in the poor boys. The minister related many a touching incident in the lives of the departed, too, which illustrated their sweet, generous natures, and the people could easily see, now, how noble and beautiful those episodes were, and remembered with grief that at the time they occurred they had seemed rank rascalities, well deserving of the cowhide. The congregation became more and more moved, as the pathetic tale went on, till at last the whole company broke down and joined the weeping mourners in a chorus of anguished sobs, the preacher himself giving way to his feelings, and crying in the pulpit.
There was a rustle in the gallery, which nobody noticed; a moment later the church door creaked; the minister raised his streaming eyes above his handkerchief, and stood transfixed! First one and then another pair of eyes followed the minister's, and then almost with one impulse the congregation rose and stared while the three dead boys came marching up the aisle, Tom in the lead, Joe next, and Huck, a ruin of drooping rags, sneaking sheepishly in the rear! They had been hid in the unused gallery listening to their own funeral sermon!
Aunt Polly, Mary, and the Harpers threw themselves upon their restored ones, smothered them with kisses and poured out thanksgivings, while poor Huck stood abashed and uncomfortable, not knowing exactly what to do or where to hide from so many unwelcoming eyes. He wavered, and started to slink away, but Tom seized him and said:
"Aunt Polly, it ain't fair. Somebody's got to be glad to see Huck."
"And so they shall.
Suddenly the minister shouted at the top of his voice: "Praise God
from whom all blessings
And they did. Old Hundred swelled up with a triumphant burst, and while it shook the rafters Tom Sawyer the Pirate looked around upon the envying juveniles about him and confessed in his heart that this was the proudest moment of his life.
As the "sold" congregation trooped out they said they would almost be willing to be made ridiculous again to hear Old Hundred sung like that once more.
Tom got more cuffs and kisses that day—according to Aunt Polly's varying moods—than he had earned before in a year; and he hardly knew which expressed the most gratefulness to God and affection for himself.
H undreds of thousands of men returned from the crusades with their minds full of new ideas. They had seen the distant countries of the East with their mountains, rivers, plains, and seas. In the great cities they had gazed upon hundreds of handsome buildings different from anything in their own lands. Many of the French, German, and English crusaders had gone to Venice to take ship to cross the Mediterranean, and there they had seen most superb structures of coloured marble. The outside of the Venetian palaces was generally adorned with bas-relief, and the groundwork was often coloured a deep, rich blue, while the sculpture was covered with gold leaf. Moreover, the crusaders had learned that their own ways of living were not always the best and most comfortable. They had found that there were kinds of food and materials for clothing better than those to which they had been accustomed; that there were beautiful furnishings for houses of which they had never dreamed. Having seen such things or heard of them, people wished to buy them. The cities about the Adriatic Sea, especially Venice and Genoa, were ready to supply all these newly discovered needs. Long before this, the Venetians had driven the pirates from the Adriatic and had claimed the sea as their own. To symbolize this victory, they had a poetical custom. Every Ascension Day the doge, or ruler of the city, sailed out in a vessel most magnificently decorated, and with a vast amount of ceremony dropped a golden ring into the water to indicate that the city had become the bride of the sea.
The Ceremony of Making Venice the "Bride of the Sea."
Venice had built ships and carried the armies of crusaders across the water. She had gained stations on the eastern shore of the Adriatic, and might fairly claim to rule the whole sea. She had used her ships for other purposes, however, than carrying armies, for she had an enormous trade, as we have said, in the beautiful things that were made in the distant lands of the East. She brought home cargoes of rich tapestries and silks, jewels, glassware, and most exquisite pieces of work in iron and gold and enamel. Her workmen copied them and found in them hints and suggestions for other work. These things were carried over Europe, and even to far-away England.
The crusades not only taught people about other lands and other customs, but they taught them to wish to see more of the world, to know what men of other countries were doing and thinking. People began to have more interest in what was written in books. They had thought that a man encased in armour, carrying a sword and a lance, and set upon a horse, was the ideal hero. Now they began to have a glimmering idea that the man who had noble thoughts and could put them into noble words was greater than the man with the sword.
The most famous scholar of the age was an Italian poet called Petrarch. Even as a boy he loved the writings of the early Latin and Greek authors. His father wished him to become a lawyer, and the boy listened to some lectures on law; but all the while he was saving his money to buy the works of Cicero and Virgil. His father threw the precious manuscripts into the fire; but when he saw the grief of the boy, he snatched them out again. Thus Petrarch slowly won his way to being a poet and scholar. He became a great collector of manuscripts, especially of the Greek and Roman writers; and, moreover, he showed people how to study them. Before his day, even students had felt that if two copies of an author's work did not agree, one was as likely to be correct as the other. Petrarch taught people to compare manuscripts, to study them, and so learn whether one was copied from another, or whether those in existence had all been copied from some older writing that was lost.
Princes and other great men of Italy admired his poetry and showed him much respect, but there were two special honors for which he longed. One was to be crowned as poet by the Roman senate; the other was to wear a similar crown in Paris. On one happy September day invitations to receive both these crowns came to him. He had always taught that it was wrong for a man not to make the most of himself, and even when he was seventy, he did not think of giving up work. His physicians said, "You must rest"; but, instead of resting, he engaged five or six secretaries and worked as hard as ever. One morning he was found in his library, his head lying on an open book. He was dead.
(From an old painting)
His influence, however, did not die. Others, too, began to collect the long-forgotten manuscripts of the Greek and Roman authors. They searched monasteries and churches and made many copies of the precious writings. Italy was all alive with interest in the great works of the ancient writers. The Italian students thought wistfully of the manuscripts that must be stored away in Greece. They did not know how soon they would be able to read them for themselves and without leaving their own country.
Thus it was that, although the crusaders did not win Jerusalem and though the Holy City is even to-day in the hands of the Mohammedans, yet the crusades did much to encourage commerce, to give people new ideas on many subjects, and to prepare them to receive the knowledge that was coming to them slowly from the East.
There was an old woman
Went blackberry picking
Along the hedges
From Weep to Wicking.
Half a pottle—
No more she had got,
When out steps a Fairy
From her green grot;
And says, "Well, Jill,
Would 'ee pick 'ee mo?"
And Jill, she curtseys,
And looks just so.
"Be off," says the Fairy,
"As quick as you can,
Over the meadows
To the little green lane,
That dips to the hayfields
Of Farmer Grimes:
I've berried those hedges
A score of times;
Bushel on bushel
I'll promise 'ee, Jill,
This side of supper
If 'ee pick with a will."
She glints very bright,
And speaks her fair;
Then lo, and behold!
She has faded in air.
Be sure old Goodie
She trots betimes
Over the meadows
To Farmer Grimes.
And never was queen
With jewellery rich
As those same hedges
From twig to ditch;
Like Dutchmen's coffers,
Fruit, thorn, and flower—
They shone like William
And Mary's bower.
And be sure Old Goodie
Went back to Weep,
So tired with her basket
She scarce could creep.
When she comes in the dusk
To her cottage door,
There's Towser wagging
As never before,
To see his Missus
So glad to be
Come from her fruit-picking
Back to he.
And soon as next morning
Dawn was grey,
The pot on the hob
Was simmering away;
And all in a stew
And a hugger-mugger
Towser and Jill
A-boiling of sugar,
And the dark clear fruit
That from Faërie came,
For syrup and jelly
And blackberry jam.
Twelve jolly gallipots
Jill put by;
And one little teeny one,
One inch high;
And that she's hidden
A good thumb deep,
Half way over
From Wicking to Weep.
WEEK 31 |
HEN Charles II. died, he left no sons who might succeed him,
so his brother James, Duke of York, came to the throne.
James was a Roman Catholic. During the reign of
James promised that he would not hurt the Protestant churches. He allowed a bishop of the Church of England to crown him, but part of the coronation service was missed—that part at which the King used to receive a Bible and be told to read and believe it.
The new King's cruel character soon began to show itself. By
his orders and in the name of religion, Claverhouse
continued to murder and torture the Scots in most terrible
ways because they refused again to accept the teaching of
the English Church. More wicked still, in England, a man
But James was not allowed to take possession of the kingdom
without a struggle. In Holland, numbers of Protestants who
had been driven out of Britain in the reign of
One of these exiled Protestants, a brave Scotchman called the Earl of Argyle, agreed to raise an army in Scotland, and an English noble, called the Duke of Monmouth, agreed to raise one in England. Monmouth thought that he had a better right to the throne than James, and with the help of Argyle he hoped to be able to drive James from the throne and become King himself. The English people knew and loved Monmouth, and indeed during the life of Charles, there had been a plot to set him upon the throne.
When everything was arranged, the Earl of Argyle sailed from Holland with his little band of followers, and landed in Scotland. He was one of the most powerful of the Scottish nobles. Although, when he had fled from the country in the reign of Charles, the King had taken his land and money from him, he knew that he could trust to his clan to rise and follow him as soon as he returned.
In those days there were no telegraphs and no postmen. There were even few roads among the wild Highlands of Scotland and few people could read. So when a chief had need of his men he gathered them by means of a sign which all could understand. This sign was the Fiery Cross.
A rough cross was made from the wood of a
On and on it went through all the countryside, the men in each village and farmhouse understanding what was needed of them and, without a word, gathering to their chief.
So it was that the Clan Campbell gathered round their chieftain Mac Callum More, as they loved to call Argyle.
But although the Earl's men were loyal to him, those who had come from Holland with him to serve as his captains would not agree and would not obey. Their foolish jealousy of their leader was so great that his army became disheartened and was scattered almost before there had been any real fighting.
The Earl was once more forced to flee. Dressed as a peasant and followed by only one faithful friend he tried to escape. But as they were crossing a little river they were seized by some of the King's soldiers. The Earl to save himself sprang into the water, but the soldiers followed him. He was armed only with pistols, and in his spring into the water the powder had been wet and they would not fire. He was struck to the ground and taken prisoner.
When Argyle saw that it was useless to struggle any more he called out, "I am the Earl of Argyle." He knew what a great name his was, and he hoped that even the King's soldiers would tremble before it and let him go.
But his name could not save him, and he was led a prisoner to Edinburgh. There the judges tried in vain to make him tell who were with him in the rebellion. He would not tell and he was condemned to death. Bravely and calmly he met his fate. One of the last things he did was to write to his wife.
"Dear Heart,—Forgive me all my faults; and now comfort
thyself in Him in whom only true comfort is to be found. The
Lord be with thee, bless and comfort thee, my
On his grave were carved some lines which he himself wrote the day before he died.
Although Argyle had refused to give the names of the other leaders of the rebellion, many were seized and beheaded. To one of them James said, "You had better be frank with me. You know it is in my power to pardon you."
"It may be in your power, sire," replied the man, "but it is not in your nature." The man was right; James never forgave.
O VER and over I read the list of saints and martyrs on the wall across the street, thinking dully how men used to suffer for their religion, and how, nowadays, they suffer for their teeth. For I was reclining in a dentist's chair, blinking through the window at the Boston Public Library, seeing nothing, however, nothing but the tiles on the roof, and the names of Luther, Wesley, Wycliffe, graven on the granite wall, while the dentist burred inside of my cranium and bored down to my toes for nerves. So, at least, it seemed.
By and by my gaze wandered blankly off to the square patch of sky in sight above the roof. A black cloud was driving past in the wind away up there. Suddenly a white fleck swept into the cloud, careened, spread two wide wings against it, and rounded a circle. Then another and another, until eight herring gulls were soaring white against the sullen cloud in that little square of sky high over the roofs of Boston.
Was this the heart of a vast city? Could I be in a dentist's chair? There was no doubt about the chair; but how quickly the red-green roof of the Library became the top of some great cliff; the droning noise of traffic in the streets, the wash of waves against the rocks; and yonder on the storm-stained sky those wheeling wings, how like the winds of the ocean, and the raucous voices, how they seemed to fill all the city with the sweep and the sound of the sea!
Boston, Baltimore, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco—do you live in any one of them or in any other city? If you do, then you have a surprisingly good chance to watch the ways of wild things and even to come near to the heart of Nature. Not so good a chance, to be sure, as in the country; but the city is by no means so lacking in wild life or so shunned by the face of Nature as we commonly believe.
All great cities are alike, all of them very different, too, in details; Boston's streets, for instance, being crookeder than most, but like them all, reaching out for many a mile before they turn into country roads and lanes with borders of quiet and wide green fields.
But Boston has the wide waters of the Harbor and the Charles River Basin. And it also has T Wharf! They did not throw the tea overboard there, back in Revolutionary days, as you may be told, but T Wharf is famous, nevertheless, famous for fish!
Fish? Swordfish and red snappers, scup, shad, squid, squeteague, sharks, skates, smelts, sculpins, sturgeon, scallops; halibut, haddock, hake—to say nothing of mackerel, cod, and countless freak things caught by trawl and seine all the way from Boston Harbor to the Grand Banks! I have many a time sat on T Wharf and caught short, flat flounders with my line. It is almost as good as a trip to the Georges in the "We're Here" to visit T Wharf; and then to walk slowly up through Quincy Market. Surely no single walk in the woods will yield a tithe of the life to be found here, and found only here for us, brought as the fish and game and fruits have been from the ends of the earth and the depths of the sea.
There is no reason why city children should not know a great deal about animal life, nor why the teachers in city schools should feel that nature study is impossible for them. For, leaving the wharf with its fish and gulls and fleet of schooners, you come up four or five blocks to old King's Chapel Burying-Ground where the Boston sparrows roost. Boston is full of interesting sights, but none more interesting to the bird-lover than this sparrow-roost. The great bird rocks in the Pacific, described in another chapter of this book, are larger, to be sure, yet hardly more clamorous when, in the dusk, the sparrow clans begin to gather; nor hardly wilder than this city roost when the night lengthens, and the quiet creeps down the alleys and along the empty streets, and the sea winds stop on the corners, and the lamps, like low-hung stars, light up the sleeping birds till their shadows waver large upon the stark walls about the old graveyard that break far overhead as rim rock breaks on the desert sky.
Now shift the scene to an early summer morning on Boston Common, two blocks farther up, and on to the Public Garden across Charles Street. There are more wild birds to be seen in the Garden on a May morning than there are here in the woods of Hingham, and the summer still finds some of them about the shrubs and pond. And it is an easy place in which to watch them. One of our bird-students has found over a hundred species in the Garden. Can any one say that the city offers a poor chance for nature-study?
This is the story of every great city park. My friend Professor Herbert E. Walter found nearly one hundred and fifty species of birds in Lincoln Park, Chicago. And have you ever read Mr. Bradford Torrey's delightful essay called "Birds on Boston Common"?
Then there are the squirrels and the trees on the Common; the flowers, bees, butterflies, and even the schools of goldfish, in the pond of the Garden—enough of life, insect-life, plant-life, bird-life, fish-life, for more than a summer of lessons.
Nor is this all. One block beyond the Garden stands the Natural History Museum, crowded with mounted specimens of birds and beasts, reptiles, fishes, and shells beyond number,—more than you can study, perhaps. You city folk, instead of having too little, have altogether too much of too many things. But such a museum is always a suggestive place for one who loves the out-of-doors. And the more one knows of nature, the more one gets out of the museum. You can carry there, and often answer, the questions that come to you in your tramps afield, in your visits to the Garden, and in your reading of books. Then add to this the great Agassiz Museum at Harvard University, and the Aquarium at South Boston, and the Zoölogical Gardens at Franklin Park, and the Arnold Arboretum—all of these with their multitude of mounted specimens and their living forms for you! For me also; and in from the country I come, very often, to study natural history in the city.
What is true of Boston is true of every city in some
degree. The sun and the moon and stars shine upon the
city as upon the country, and during my years of city
life (I lived in the very heart of Boston) it was my
habit to climb to my roof, above the din and glare of
the crowded street, and here among the chimney-pots to
lie down upon my back, the city far below me, and
overhead the blue sky, the Milky Way, the
constellations, or the moon,
"Through the heaven's wide pathless way,
And oft, as if her head she bowed
Stooping through a fleecy cloud."
Here, too, I have watched the gulls that sail over the Harbor, especially in the winter. From this outlook I have seen the winging geese pass over, and heard the faint calls of other migrating flocks, voices that were all the more mysterious for their falling through the muffling hum that rises from the streets and spreads over the wide roof of the city as a soft night wind over the peaked roofs of a forest of firs.
Strangely enough here on the roof I have watched the only nighthawks that I have ever found in Massachusetts. This is surely the last place you would expect to find such wild, spooky, dusk-loving creatures as nighthawks. Yet here, on the tarred and pebbled roofs, here among the whirling, squeaking, smoking chimney-pots, here above the crowded, noisy streets, these birds built their nests,—laid their eggs, rather, for they build no nests,—reared their young, and in the long summer twilight rose and fell through the smoky air, uttering their peevish cries and making their ghostly booming sounds with their high-diving, just as if they were out over the darkening swales along some gloomy swamp-edge.
For many weeks I had a big tame spider in the corner of my study there in that city flat, and I have yet to read an account of all the species of spiders to be found dwelling within the walls of any great city. Even Argiope of the meadows is doubtless found in the Fens.
Argiope, the Meadow Spider
Not far away from my flat, down near the North Station, one of my friends on the roof of his flat kept several hives of bees. They fed on the flowers of the Garden, on those in dooryards, and on the honey-yielding lindens which stand here and there throughout the city. Pigeons and sparrows built their nests within sight of my windows; and by going early to the roof I could see the sun rise, and in the evening I could watch it go down behind the hills of Belmont as now I watch it from my lookout here on Mullein Hill.
One is never far from the sky, nor from the earth, nor from the free, wild winds, nor from the wilder night that covers city and sea and forest with its quiet, and fills them all with lurking shadows that never shall be tamed.
WEEK 31 |
"Y OU just said," interposed Emile, "the bite of the viper, and not the sting. Then serpents bite, and do not sting. I thought it was just the other way. I have always heard they had a sting. Last Thursday lame Louis, who is not afraid of anything, caught a serpent in a hole of the old wall. He had two comrades with him. They bound the creature round the neck with a rush. I was passing, and they called me. The serpent was darting from its mouth something black, pointed, flexible, which came and went rapidly. I thought it was the sting and was much afraid of it. Louis laughed. He said what I took for a sting was the serpent's tongue; and to prove it to me, he put his hand near it."
"Louis was right," replied Uncle Paul. "All serpents dart a very flexible, forked, black filament between their lips with great swiftness. For many purposes it is the reptile's weapon, or dart; but in reality this filament is nothing but the tongue, a quite inoffensive tongue, which the creature uses to catch insects and to express in its peculiar manner the passions that agitate it by darting it quickly from between the lips. All serpents, without any exception, have one; but in our countries the viper alone possesses the terrible venomous apparatus.
Head of Snake
Showing Forked Tongue
"This apparatus is composed, first, of two hooks, or teeth, long and pointed, placed in the upper jaw. At the will of the creature they stand up erect for the attack or lie down in a groove of the gum, and hold themselves there as inoffensive as a stiletto in its sheath. In that way the reptile runs no danger of wounding itself. These fangs are hollow and pierced toward the point by a small opening through which the venom is injected into the wound. Finally, at the base of each fang is a little pocket full of venomous liquid. It is an innocent-looking humor, odorless, tasteless; one would almost think it was water. When the viper strikes with its fangs, the venomous pocket drives a drop of its contents into the canal of the tooth, and the terrible liquid is instilled into the wound.
"By preference the viper inhabits warm and rocky hills; it
keeps under stones and thickets of brush. It is brown or
reddish in color. On the back it has a somber zigzag band,
and on each side a row of spots. Its stomach is
"The other serpents of our countries, serpents designated by the general name of snakes, have not the venomous fangs of the viper. Their bite therefore is not of importance, and the repugnance they inspire in us is really groundless.
"Next to the viper there is in France no venomous creature
more to be feared than the scorpion.
It is very ugly and
walks on eight feet. In front it has two pincers like those
of the crayfish, and behind a knotty, curled tail ending in
a sting. The pincers are inoffensive, despite their menacing
aspect; it is the sting with which the end of the tail is
armed that is venomous. The scorpion makes use of it in
Scorpion Seen from Above
"There are many other important things I could tell you
about the venomous creatures of foreign countries, about
divers serpents whose bite causes a dreadful death; but I
hear Mother Ambroisine
calling us to dinner. Let us go over
rapidly what I have just told you. No creature, however ugly
it may be, shoots venom or can do us any harm from a
distance. All venomous species act in the same way: with a
special weapon a slight wound is made; and into this wound a
drop of venom is introduced. The wound, by itself, is
nothing; it is the injected liquid that makes it painful and
sometimes mortal. The venomous weapon serves the creature
for hunting and for defense. It is placed in a part of the
body that varies according to the species. Spiders have a
double fang folded at the entrance of the mouth; bees,
"I am very sorry," said Jules, "that Jacques did not hear your account of venomous creatures; he would have understood that caterpillars' green entrails are not venom. I will tell him all these things; and if I find another beautiful sphinx caterpillar I will not crush it."
The Virginia resolutions against the Stamp Tax were carried to the colonies in the North. They were published in New England and scattered all over the country.
The governor of Massachusetts wrote to the king's council: "I thought that the Americans would submit to the Stamp Act. But the Virginia resolves have proved an alarm bell."
And General Gage, the commander of the British forces, wrote from New York: "The Virginia resolves have given the signal for a general outcry all over the continent."
People now began to speak out more boldly. The Virginians declared they would not wear clothes bought in England until the tax was removed.
And when the rich planters went about clad in homespun, Patrick Henry looked quite as well as the best of them, and he talked much better than any.
After a time the king abolished the stamp tax, but he straightway put a tax on tea. Now, taxed tea was just as bad as taxed paper. People said they would not drink tea. And soon a swift courier rode into Williamsburg, saying that Boston had thrown the tea chests of the British merchants into the harbor.
Then another came in haste saying, that the king had shut up the port of Boston. The British general would not even allow a little shallop to enter the bay, and he kept his soldiers standing in the streets of the city with their bayonets fixed.
When the House of Burgesses met and ordered a day of fasting and prayer for the trouble that had come upon Boston, Patrick Henry spoke more boldly than ever against the tyranny of the king.
Governor Dunmore ordered the burgesses to separate. They hurried to meet again at Raleigh Tavern. Here they appointed a committee to write to the other colonies about what should be done. There was much writing back and forth between the North and the South.
Many said there should be a convention to form a union of the colonies. But, in our forefathers' day, as in our own, there were some men who did not believe in experiments.
A member of the South Carolina legislature laughed at the idea of a convention: "What kind of a dish will a congress from the different British colonies make?" he said. "New England will throw in fish and onions, the Middle States flax-seed and flour, Maryland and Virginia will add tobacco, North Carolina pitch, tar, and turpentine, South Carolina rice and indigo, and Georgia will sprinkle the whole composition with sawdust. That is about the kind of a jumble you will make if you attempt a union between the thirteen British provinces."
But another member retorted: "I would not choose the gentleman who made these objections for my cook, but I venture to say that, if the colonies proceed to appoint deputies to a Continental Congress, they will prepare a dish fit to be presented to any crowned head in Europe."
At last the colonies agreed to choose delegates to meet in convention at Philadelphia.
The Virginians chose Peyton Randolph a delegate for his dignity, George Washington for his military knowledge, Richard Henry Lee and Patrick Henry for their eloquence, Edmund Pendleton for his knowledge of law, Richard Bland for his skill in writing, and Benjamin Harrison for his popularity with the planters.
And so we see that Patrick Henry was chosen with the richest men in Virginia to go to Philadelphia to attend the first Continental Congress. The young lawyer was very busy for several weeks getting his affairs in order before starting on so long a journey.
A narrow fellow in the grass
You may have met him,—did you not,
His notice sudden is.
The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.
He likes a boggy acre
A floor too cool for corn
Yet when a child, and barefoot,
I more than once, at morn,
Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun,—
When, stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.
Several of nature's people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.
WEEK 31 |
When the boys had come to the fair green a large circle of people had already gathered to listen to the story tellers, for they liked these almost better than the racing. Several men in gay mantles stood in the midst of the circle tuning the small harps they carried; for usually parts of the stories were in poetry and this they always chanted to the music of their harps. Ferdiad and Conn, however, did not stop here but passed beyond where was a smaller group made up of the boys and girls who had come to the fair and who had a story teller especially for them. All were seated on the grass and the two lads soon found a place by Eileen who was watching for them.
"Did you have a good time this morning?" asked Ferdiad.
"Yes," declared Eileen, beaming; "see this lovely torque mother bought me, and she got some wonderful silk from the merchants of Gaul,"—here she paused,—"Hush!" she whispered. "See! they are going to shake the chain of silence!"
A tall man had arisen shaking in his hand a short chain of bronze hung with silver bells, and at this signal everyone stopped talking, and Fergus, the story teller, stood up ready to begin. Those for the grown folks circle were already asking their hearers if they would rather listen to stories of battles, of cattle raids, courtships, fairies, or histories of Ireland; for to be a story teller in those days was no simple matter; one must study for years and was expected to have hundreds of different stories in his mind ready to tell at a moment's notice. It was by listening to these that the great mass of people got not only entertainment but education.
But while the grown folks were choosing, the children's story teller had decided to tell something of the people who had lived in Ireland before the coming of the Celts.
"Long, long ago," he began, "our beautiful land was the home of many different people. One after another they came, the newcomers fighting and driving out the others, till at last a race called the Firbolgs held sway. After they had been here for some time, one day away up somewhere to the north of us a strange rose-colored cloud floated over the seashore, and when it melted away the Firbolgs found that a great number of strangers had landed from boats which they themselves at once burned, showing that they meant to stay."
"They were the DeDanaans!" cried some of the children, "and they live now in the fairy mounds!" for every one had heard of these marvelous strangers the memory of whom is still cherished in Ireland.
"Yes," went on Fergus, "they were the DeDanaans; but though wise in all magic arts, they lived above ground and had not yet become fairies. They were a beautiful god-like people with fair skins and blue eyes and hair as yellow as cowslips."
"Where did they come from, sir?" asked Conn, who had been listening attentively.
"From the 'Land of the Ever Young,' " answered Fergus.
"And where is that, sir?" ventured Conn once more.
"Well, boy," said Fergus, a bit severely, "it is called also the 'Land of the Ever Living' which is the same as the 'Land of the Dead,' " and Conn said no more.
"The Firbolgs," continued Fergus, "talked to the DeDanaans and at first thought they would not fight them. Then they began saying among themselves how slim and light were the spears of strangers, who were a slender people, while their own were big and heavy like they were. So deciding they were much stronger and better armed, they went back and attacked the DeDanaans. But they were terribly fooled in the strangers, who threw their light sharp spears much faster and farther than the clumsy ones of the Firbolgs. So the golden-haired DeDanaans won the battle, though they did not drive the Firbolgs from Ireland but let them still keep a certain part for theirs.
Now the DeDanaans were a wonderful people, full of wisdom and skilled in the arts of magic and in the making of beautiful things. They had come from four of the chief fairy cities in the Land of the Ever Young, and from each they brought a precious gift; there was an invincible sword, a magic spear, an enchanted cauldron from which hosts of men might be fed and it would never be empty, but most wonderful of all was the Stone of Destiny, and on this all the high kings of Ireland, for hundreds of years, stood when they were crowned."
"My foster-father said it always roared when the crown was set on the king's head!" broke in Ferdiad.
"Yes, indeed, boy," said Fergus, "it roared like a lion; but only if the king was lawful. If he had no right to the crown then the stone was silent, and you may be sure there was trouble ahead for the false king."
"Where is the stone now?" asked another boy.
"Well," said Fergus, "for a long time it was kept at Tara, the ancient Celtic capital,"—Here another boy broke in, "When we came to the fair, about ten miles from here we passed a great big mound with an earth rampart around it and old looking ruins that my father said was Tara. What happened to it?"
Fergus took all these interruptions in good part, for the boys' and girls' story teller always expected them to ask many questions.
"Tara," he said, "was for ages the famous capital of all Ireland and the high king had his palace, built of smooth boards carved and painted, on top of the mound you saw protected by the rampart of earth. It was all very splendid, but long, long ago, one day Saint Ruadan became angry at the high king and laid a curse on Tara, and since then no one has dared to live there. But you know I was talking about the Stone of Destiny that the DeDanaans brought and which was first kept at Tara. Now about the time the curse was laid on the place the king of Scotland sent and begged his brother, who was high king of Ireland, for the loan of the stone for a year. The Scottish king wanted to stand on it when he was crowned. The stone was loaned to him but never again has Ireland got it back!"
Nor has it come back to Ireland to this day; for more than two hundred years after our story, the English king, Edward I, took this magic stone from Scotland to London. It is now the famous Coronation Stone which is part of the throne on which the English kings sit when they have been crowned in Westminster Abbey; and perhaps some day you may see it there.
Meantime Fergus went on with the story of the DeDanaans. "After they had ruled in Ireland for a long while," he said, "another people, this time our own Celtic race, led by their king Miled, sailed to Ireland from somewhere away off to the east. When the DeDanaans saw them coming, by their magic arts they raised a terrible storm hoping in this way to keep the boats from landing. But though many of the boats were destroyed, there were such hosts of Celts that they managed in spite of the storm to land enough men to attack the DeDanaans, who were obliged to retreat before them till they came right here to the Blackwater where Tailltenn is now. Here they made a stand and a great battle was fought, and the Celts won. But the DeDanaans were not driven out of Ireland, you know."
"Yes," said some of the children eagerly, "we know. They are fairies now!"
"That is right," said Fergus; "the DeDanaans cast a spell over themselves making them invisible; and this spell they can put on or off as they please, and even now they rule unseen over part of Ireland. Where we can see only green mounds and ruined walls, as at Tara, and under all the pleasant hills, there rise their fairy palaces where they live in continual sunshine and feast on magic meat and ale that keeps them everlastingly young and beautiful."
"I saw a DeDanaan fairy once!" spoke up one little boy.
"So did I!" declared another, and then the children all fell to discussing and disputing about how many they had seen till Fergus had to stop them by telling them to scamper off for he was through for the afternoon.
But the boys and girls were quite sure of what they said, and, no doubt, they were right, for everybody knows that to this day there are said to be more fairies in Ireland than in almost any other land.
A hungry fox, who had come out of his hole to hunt, found a piece of fresh meat. As he had not tasted food for several days, he seized it and started home on a trot. On the way he passed by a hen-yard. At the sight of the four fat fowls who were scratching for worms, the Fox's mouth watered. He set down the piece of meat and gazed longingly at the hens. Just then a Jackal passed by.
"Friend Fox," he said, "you seem perplexed. Tell me your trouble, and it may be that I can help you."
"Friend Jackal, you are right," replied the Fox. "I am perplexed. I have here a piece of meat which I am carrying to my hole, but I should like one of these fowls for my second course."
"Take my advice," responded the Jackal, "and let these hens alone. I have long had my eye upon them, but they are watched by a boy named Zirak, and you cannot possibly catch them without being seen. You should be more than content with that fine piece of meat which you are carrying home." And the Jackal went on his way.
Nevertheless, the Fox could not make up his mind to give up the fowls. Finally he laid down his piece of meat, and crept cautiously into the yard. He was just nearing the tail-feathers of the plumpest fowl, when Zirak hurled a stick at his head. Fearing for his life, the Fox sprang over the fence and rushed back to the spot where he had left his piece of meat. But a few moments before, a Kite had passed that way, smelled the meat, and carried it to her nest.
WEEK 31 |
"The childhood shows the man
As morning shows the day."
B UT wonderful days were yet in store for this poor storm-tossed France, with the rise of the greatest soldier she has ever known, the greatest conqueror that "ever followed the star of conquest across the war-convulsed earth"—Napoleon Bonaparte. France had but lately annexed the island of Corsica, which lies in the Mediterranean Sea, and had up to this time belonged to Italy. Here, in the year 1769 Napoleon was born. He was but a year old, when Marie Antoinette left her home at Vienna to marry the dauphin of France; he was but seven, when America declared her independence. He was one of nine children—"olive-skinned, black-browed, shrill-tongued" children—a famous family, indeed, where one was to be an emperor, three were to be kings; while of the girls, one was to be a queen and two princesses.
Little enough is known of Napoleon's childhood. His chosen toy was a small brass cannon, his favourite retreat, a solitary summer-house among the rocks by the seaside of Corsica, still known as "Napoleon's Grotto."
One story indeed is told of him in his school-days. The master of the school, where little Napoleon learnt with his elder brother Joseph, arranged a sham fight for his pupils—Romans against Carthaginians. Joseph was ranged on the side of Rome, while his little brother was to be a Carthaginian. But, piqued at being placed on the losing side, the little boy fretted, fumed, and at last stormed, till Joseph offered to change places with him, and he was put on the winning side.
At the age of nine he was sent to a military school in France. Though Joseph wept passionately at the parting, his little brother dropped hardly a tear, though he was deeply attached to his home and his mother.
At school he was proud and silent, holding aloof from his companions, and hating France, because she had taken Corsica from the Italians. He read history eagerly. He delighted in Plutarch's Lives, which told him about the Greek and Roman heroes of old. He loved Cæsar's account of the conquest of Gaul, and spent whole nights pouring over his wonderful exploits. At the age of fifteen he was sent to Paris.
"He will be an excellent seaman," reported his master; "and is worthy to enter the School at Paris."
He was a boy of plain tastes—indeed he had been nicknamed the "Spartan" by his school-fellows—and the luxuries of Paris impressed him deeply. He resented being taught at the expense of Louis XVI., the king who had taken Corsica; but a year later he became lieutenant of artillery, and after eight years' absence returned to his home in Corsica.
His force of character had already made itself felt.
"You, Joseph, are the eldest," said a relation who saw the boys together; "but Napoleon is the head of the family."
His father was dead. He too had cried aloud in his last delirium for his little Napoleon, "whose sword should one day triumph over Europe;" while Rousseau had prophesied of Corsica, "This little island will one day be the astonishment of Europe."
August 10, 1793, found him in Paris at the storming of the Tuileries by the Revolution mob, when the king and queen with difficulty escaped.
"If Louis XVI. had mounted his horse the victory would have been his," Napoleon had cried with disdain.
The next two years were spent between Corsica and France. He tried many things, and failed in all. He was nearly twenty-five, and wholly unknown, when his chance came to him. Full of unbounded ambition, he was ready to act wherever glory was to be found. He might have thrown in his lot with England or with Italy. He threw it in with the Republicans of France. Louis had been beheaded, and the reign of terror was at its height. The Republic was carrying on war with the Royalists without pause, without mercy.
Toulon was the great southern military storehouse of France, and Toulon had declared for the Royalists. Not only this, but they had proclaimed as King, Louis XVII., the poor little eight-year-old dauphin, now languishing, fatherless and motherless, in a Paris prison. The English were helping the men of Toulon to hold the town, and to guard the hilly frontage of fifteen miles, which commanded the sea. Napoleon, now serving the Republic, arrived at Toulon in September, and at once took command of the artillery. Everything was in confusion, but he saw clearly what alone would give him the Royalist city. The French must sweep the harbour with their fire, force the British ships to retire, and Toulon must fall into the hands of the Republic.
It was the night of December 17, 1793. Torrents of rain were falling, a wild wind raged over the Mediterranean Sea, while flashes of lightning added new terrors to the night. In the midst of this Napoleon made a determined attack on the British defences, which were soon swept by his guns. So deadly was the fire, there was nothing left the Royalists but surrender. A terrible scene followed. A magnificent French fleet lay in the harbour at Toulon. Desperately the Royalists turned on it. They set fire to a powder-ship, and soon the flames of the burning ships lit up the surrounding country. Prisoners broke loose from the town, and by hundreds and thousands, the inhabitants of Toulon flocked to the beach, begging for means of escape from the Republicans. Above the howling wind arose their pitiful cries for mercy. Napoleon never forgot the terrors of that night. "The whirlwind of flames and smoke from the arsenal resembled the eruption of a volcano, and the vessels blazing in the roads were like so many displays of fireworks. The masts and forms of the vessels were distinctly traced out by the flames, which lasted many hours, and presented an unparalleled spectacle." So he wrote long years after, during his imprisonment at Helena.
Thus Napoleon Bonaparte sprang into fame. From this time onwards he advanced by rapid strides to that greatness which has given him such a conspicuous place in the history of the world.
HE forest ways led him on and up a mountain-side. He came to a mountain-summit at last: Hindfell, where the trees fell away, leaving a place open to the sky and the winds. On Hindfell was the House of Flame. Sigurd saw the walls black, and high, and all around them was a ring of fire.
As he rode nearer he heard the roar of the mounting and the circling fire. He sat on Grani, his proud horse, and for long he looked on the black walls and the flame that went circling around them.
Then he rode Grani to the fire. Another horse would have been affrighted, but Grani remained steady under Sigurd. To the wall of fire they came, and Sigurd, who knew no fear, rode through it.
Now he was in the court-yard of the Hall. No stir was there of man or hound or horse. Sigurd dismounted and bade Grani be still. He opened a door and he saw a chamber with hangings on which was wrought the pattern of a great tree, a tree with three roots, and the pattern was carried across from one wall to the other. On a couch in the centre of the chamber one lay in slumber. Upon the head was a helmet and across the breast was a breastplate. Sigurd took the helmet off the head. Then over the couch fell a heap of woman's hair—wondrous, bright gleaming hair. This was the maiden that the birds had told him of.
He cut the fastenings of the breastplate with his sword, and he gazed long upon her. Beautiful was her face, but stern; like the face of one who subdues but may not be subdued. Beautiful and strong were her arms and her hands. Her mouth was proud, and over her closed eyes there were strong and beautiful brows.
Her eyes opened, and she turned them and looked full upon Sigurd. "Who art thou who hast awakened me?" she said.
"I am Sigurd, the son of Sigmund, of the Volsung race," he answered.
"And thou didst ride through the ring of fire to me?"
"That did I."
She knelt on the couch and stretched out her arms to where the light shone. "Hail, O Day," she cried, "and hail, O beams that are the sons of Day. O Night, and O daughter of Night, may ye look on us with eyes that bless. Hail, O Æsir and O Asyniur! Hail, O wide-spreading fields of Midgard! May ye give us wisdom, and wise speech, and healing power, and grant that nothing untrue or unbrave may come near us!"
All this she cried with eyes open wide; they were eyes that had in them all the blue that Sigurd had ever seen: the blue of flowers, the blue of skies, the blue of battle-blades. She turned those great eyes upon him and she said, "I am Brynhild, once a Valkyrie but now a mortal maiden, one who will know death and all the sorrows that mortal women know. But there are things that I may not know, things that are false and of no bravery."
She was the bravest and the wisest and the most beautiful maiden in the world: Sigurd knew that it was so. He laid his sword Gram at her feet, and he said her name, "Brynhild." He told her how he had slain the Dragon, and how he had heard the birds tell of her. She rose from the couch and bound her wondrous hair on her head. In wonder he watched her. When she moved it was as though she walked above the earth.
They sat together and she told him wonderful and secret things. And she told him, too, how she was sent by Odin from Asgard to choose the slain for his hall Valhalla, and to give victory to those whom he willed to have it. And she told how she had disobeyed the will of All-Father, and how for that she was made outcast of Asgard. Odin put into her flesh the thorn of the Tree of Sleep that she might remain in slumber until one who the bravest of mortal men should waken her. Whoever would break the fastenings of the breastplate would take out the Thorn of Sleep. "Odin granted me this," she said, "that as a mortal maid I should wed none but him who is the bravest in the world. And so that none but him might come to me, All-Father put the fire-ring round where I lay in slumber. And it is thou, Sigurd, son of Sigmund, who hast come to me. Thou art the bravest and I think thou art the most beautiful too; like to Tyr, the God who wields the sword."
She told him that whoever rode through the fire and claimed her as his wife, him she must wed.
They talked to each other fondly and the day flowed by them. Then Sigurd heard Grani, his horse, neigh for him again and again. He cried to Brynhild: "Let me go from the gaze of thine eyes. I am that one who is to have the greatest name in the world. Not yet have I made my name as great as my father and my father's father made their names great. I have overcome King Lygni, and I have slain Fafnir the Dragon, but that is little. I would make my name the greatest in the world, and endure all that is to be endured in making it so. Then I would come back to thee in the House of Flame."
Brynhild said to him: "Well dost thou speak. Make thy name great, and endure what thou hast to endure in making it so. I will wait for thee, knowing that none but Sigurd will be able to win through the fire that guards where I abide."
They gazed long on each other, but little more they spoke. Then they held each other's hands in farewell, and they plighted faith, promising each other that they would take no other man or maiden for their mate. And for token of their troth Sigurd took the ring that was on his finger and placed it on Brynhild's—Andvari's ring it was.
Piped the blackbird on the beechwood spray,
"Pretty maid, slow wandering this way,
What's your name?" quoth he—
"What's your name? Oh, stop and straight unfold,
Pretty maid with showery curls of gold!"
"Little Bell," said she.
Little Bell sat down beneath the rocks—
Tossed aside her gleaming golden locks.
"Bonny bird," quoth she,
"Sing me your best song before I go."
"Here's the very finest song I know,
Little Bell," said he.
And the blackbird piped; you never heard
Half so gay a song from any bird—
Full of quips and wiles,
Now so round and rich, now soft and slow,
All for love of that sweet face below,
Dimpled o'er with smiles.
And the while the bonny bird did pour
His full heart out freely o'er and o'er,
'Neath the morning skies,
In the little childish heart below
All the sweetness seemed to grow and grow,
And shine forth in happy overflow
From the blue, bright eyes.
Down the dell she tripped, and through the glade
Peeped the squirrel from the hazel shade,
And, from out the tree
Swung, and leaped, and frolicked, void of fear—
While bold blackbird piped, that all might hear.
"Little Bell!" piped he.
Little Bell sat down amid the fern.
"Squirrel, squirrel, to your task return!
Bring me nuts," quoth she.
Up, away the frisky squirrel hies—
Golden wood lights glancing in his eyes—
And adown the tree,
Great ripe nuts, kissed brown by July sun,
In the little lap dropped one by one.
Hark, how blackbird pipes, to see the fun!
"Happy Bell!" pipes he.
Little Bell looked up and down the glade.
"Squirrel, squirrel, if you're not afraid,
Come and share with me!"
Down came squirrel, eager for his fare,
Down came bonny blackbird, I declare!
Little Bell gave each his honest share;
Ah, the merry three!
And the while these frolic playmates twain
Piped and frisked from bough to bough again,
'Neath the morning skies,
In the little childish heart below
All the sweetness seemed to grow and grow,
And shine out in happy overflow,
From her blue, bright eyes.
By her snow-white cot at close of day
Knelt sweet Bell, with folded palms, to pray.
Very calm and clear
Rose the praying voice to where, unseen,
In blue heaven, an angel shape serene
Paused a while to hear.
"What good child is this," the angel said,
"That, with happy heart, beside her bed
Prays so lovingly?"
Low and soft, oh! very low and soft,
Crooned the blackbird in the orchard croft.
"Bell, dear Bell!" crooned he.
"Whom God's creatures love," the angel fair
Murmured, "God doth bless with angels' care;
Child, thy bed shall be
Folded safe from harm. Love, deep and kind,
Shall watch around, and leave good gifts behind,
Little Bell, for thee."
WEEK 31 |
A POOR widow and her little son found themselves alone in the world and forced to earn their living. The boy was too small to be useful to any one but his mother; he could pick up the bits of thread from the floor when she was sewing and find her scissors and blow the fire when the wood burned low, but he could neither read nor write and his mother dearly wished him to have a fine education like the other boys who lived nearby.
So one day she packed up her needle and thimble and all they had in the world—which was little enough—and took him by the hand and trudged away from their little cottage along the mountain road until they reached the town.
The town nestled snugly by the side of a fjord and the water ran up from the sea, deep and blue. Great ships sailed to the quay and anchored there until a forest of masts seemed to rise from the water. The widow told her little lad that these ships went all over the sea to far countries, where crimson and purple birds flew in the rigging and sweet spices and fruits grew by the shore and fine people dressed in gold and silver welcomed the sailors and brought their goods aboard in exchange for the timber of Norway.
The little lad had never seen such a wonderful sight and longed to go out on those white decks and pull at the ropes and see the white sails flapping over his head as the wind got into them and blew the ship along to strange far places. But his mother said he first must have education and they trudged through the streets while she looked for work. At last they came to the Lord Mayor's house. He was a kind man and when she told her story he said his wife was looking for some one to embroider the house linen and mend the children's clothes. So he sent for the Lady Mayoress to see what she had to say.
Directly that good woman came into the room and saw the little lad, with his fair, shining face, as clean as a white cherry, and his little frock with the scarlet cross-stitch and his knitted socks and birch-bark shoes, she said she would be only too glad if his good mother would stay with them and help to keep the Lady Mayoress' children as neat and good-looking as her own.
"The little lad shall play with my own children and go to school with them," said the Lady Mayoress. There was the lad's education provided for, because his mother had done her best with her clever fingers and kept him a credit to her and himself.
So the widow and the little lad, whose name was Olaf, settled down in the Lord Mayor's house and lived off the fat of the land. They worked hard, the widow at her sewing and the little lad at his schooling, for both looked forward to the time when they would have a home of their own again and knew nothing but honest work would earn it for them.
Time went on, and one day the schoolmaster came to the widow and said it was time Olaf was put to a trade. He had studied so well that he was at the top of the class. Then the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress and the widow and the schoolmaster put their heads together. One said Olaf must be a parson and another said Olaf must be a lawyer, and another said he must have a stool in the Lord Mayor's countinghouse and his own mother cried out he must be a farmer up on the mountain where their own little home used to be. Suddenly, in walked Olaf and stood in the middle of them and said he was going to be a sailor and go to sea in one of those bright big ships as cabin boy.
Well, they talked this way and that way and told him of the storms and how cruel it would be for him to be parted from his mother, but Olaf would hear nothing of it. At last his own mother saw the boy's heart was set on it and he must have his way; and so Olaf was taken to one of the ships and set aboard. He waved good-bye to his mother and off he went, never to see the town again for many and many a long day.
The ship sailed round Norway first of all, and one day when it was in one of the fjords that run far inland, with great mountains rising up on either side, news came that a great preacher had come to the town on the shore and all the crew went off to hear him the next Sunday morning. Olaf was left alone on board to clean the ship and cook the dinner against the time when the captain and the crew would be back again.
Olaf was cheerful enough, for it was the first time he had been left to take care of the big ship. Being a little lad, he liked to feel important. So he swished the decks until they were as shining as the sea, and swabbed the boatsides until, amid all his swishing and swabbing, he heard some one calling. At first he thought it was some seabird, but presently he found it was coming from an island and he could just see somebody standing and waving as if in distress. Well, the ship was clean and he had set the pot aboil in the galley, so he thought he might as well take the ship's boat that was left and row over to lend a hand to a fellow-creature.
When he got to the island, whom should he see but an old lady, with a face as bright as an apple and hair as white as cherry blossoms! She was hopping up and down in her joy when she saw Olaf bringing his little boat across the water to her, and when he ran into shore and grounded on the firm, white sand, she ran down, saying: "Here have I been standing bawling and calling for years and no one has ever heard or heeded me but you. Row me to the other side of the fjord where my sister's house stands on yon mountain and I will repay you with my good wishes and my sister will give you something, too."
"Why, I have the dinner to get," said Olaf, "but if 'tis only to the mountain yonder, I can take you across while the pot is boiling."
The old lady was jumping into the boat before he had time to get his words out. Before he had ended, he found the boat spinning over the little dancing waves as though a breeze was wafting it.
As they went across, the old lady said: "Now, my sister will tell you you may have anything you choose to ask for, but ask for the old tablecloth from the dresser."
"Why, that will be payment enough," said Olaf. "It will be fine to have a cloth to put on the table in the cabin and make it look like home."
The old woman said nothing, but smiled in a funny way and when they reached land, she hopped ashore and called to Olaf to run up with her. Her sister's house stood by the water's edge, so they were soon there, and out came another old woman with a face as rosy as a pear and her hair as white as hawthorn snow. She led Olaf into the kitchen, where were all manner of cakes, comfits, sausages, and nuts and apples, but he shook his head when she offered the dainties in a great basket, much as they tempted his stomach, and said, No, he would not rob her of them; he would just take the old tablecloth from the dresser.
"Food tastes all the better when a cloth is on the table," said Little Olaf, "and when the crew comes back from church, it will be good to sit down to my stew with that nice red cloth beneath our porringers."
"Well," said the second old woman, "you never thought of asking for that by yourself, but you are a good lad, so here it is." And she gave him the cloth with her blessing. Off he ran down to his boat, but who should follow but the first old woman, and now she wanted to be taken to her second sister who lived on another little island.
"But I have to think of my dinner," said Olaf.
"No harm will come to that," said the old woman. "The parson is still preaching, for you can look across and see the church door is still closed. Row me across and I will give you my good wishes and my sister will give you anything you ask for; only mind you ask for the old sword that hangs over the chest. It shuts up like a knife and you can put it in your pocket."
Well, it was plain the people were not out of church yet and the crew would not be back, so Olaf rowed her over to the island. This was covered with spruce fir, growing down to the water, and a tiny hut with a roof thatched with turf stood here. Out of it came an old lady with a face as pink as a cranberry and hair like pear-blossoms. She led Olaf into her hut, which was full of sweetmeats and conserves in pretty glass bottles, but he would have none of the fine basketful she offered him, but said politely he would not rob her, he would but ask for the rusty old sword that hung above the chest.
"That will be of more use to me than to you," said he, "for when we go in foreign parts, I may find occasion for it."
"Well," said the second old woman, "you never thought to ask for that by yourself," but she gave it to him, and Olaf went off to his boat. Just as he was getting in, however, who should leap into it but the first old woman! And now she wanted Olaf to row her to her third sister who lived across the water the other side of the fjord, where the rocks towered up to the sky. Well, Olaf had done a good deal of rowing, but he was not a bit tired, and as there was still no sign of the captain or the crew, Olaf agreed to take her this last trip, for the old woman promised this should really be the last.
Off they went, therefore, to where the great rocks overhung the water dark and solemn, and there, out came her third sister with a face like a peach and hair like silver, from a hut upon the shore, and begged Olaf to come in and choose whatever he liked best for payment. But as they stepped ashore the first old woman whispered: "Choose Granny's old hymn-book."
Now, when they got to the hut, Olaf did feel tempted to ask for a drink, for the hot sun had made him thirsty and the most delicious-looking cordials and homemade wines stood there. The third old woman was filling him a basket with the pretty-coloured flasks, but he said he would prefer Granny's old hymn-book. The third old woman nodded her head as if she were very pleased and said he had chosen the best gift she possessed. Then he went down to the boat and with him went the first old woman to say good-bye and tell him that the old tablecloth had but to be spread on an honest table or good earth, and it would furnish any food he needed; and the sword, if he used the black edge, would make anything topple down, and if he used the white edge would make anything stand up; and the hymns in the hymn-book, if sung by pure lips, would make any sick person well.
Then Olaf rowed back and got to the ship to find the pot boiling merrily and the little dog frisking about and no sign yet of the captain or crew. So he just spread a bit of the tablecloth on the deck, and behold, it was covered instantly with food, and Olaf and the little dog ate every scrap and then Olaf gave the dog a gentle tap with the black edge of the sword and the dog toppled down, and he touched him with the white edge and immediately the dog jumped up. But as there was no one sick aboard he could not try the hymn-book.
Well, he stowed away all these fine gifts in his locker, except the tablecloth, which he laid on the ship's table. When the captain and the crew came back, there was the finest dinner you ever saw, waiting for them. Very pleased they were with Olaf. And then they sailed out into the great ocean to go to foreign parts.
They sailed and sailed and encountered great storms, and at last came to a strange country where spices and strange sweet flowers and fruits grew along by the water's edge. There were fine trees where monkeys and parrots screamed and frolicked. The ship drew up at a marble quay with palaces rising from it and people walking about dressed in gold and silver, just as Olaf's mother had described to him when he was a tiny boy. But every one seemed miserable, and presently they saw a fine gentleman coming to the ship, dressed out in a floating cloak stiff with jewels and wearing a gold crown. This was the King and he ran down to the ship and cried out, "Is there any one aboard who could cure my daughter? She is sick unto death."
Every one was very sorry for him and said no, there wasn't.
But the King said, "Is there any one aboard who is not standing there on deck?" and they said, "Yes, a little cabin boy."
"Fetch him," cried the King, and the captain told Olaf to come up. But when Olaf came, he carried Granny's old hymn-book under his arm, and when the King asked if he could cure his daughter, Olaf said he thought he could.
Then the captain was so angry with what he thought was Olaf's foolish boasting that he stamped and stamped with anger, but he did not dare forbid Olaf's going, because the King was there. Olaf got off the ship and ran alongside of the King to the palace. Then the King took Olaf into the Princess's room, and there she was lying white and still, just a little girl, and Olaf opened the old hymn-book and began to sing the first hymn he clapped eyes on. By the time he had finished the first verse, the Princess opened her eyes and smiled, by the time he had finished the second, she raised her arm and yawned as if she were waking, and by the time he finished the third, she sat up and asked why every one was looking at her that way.
Great were the rejoicings when she ran down the palace steps perfectly well, and the King begged Olaf to stay with them awhile. So Olaf did. But one day some enemies of the King came to make war on him and Olaf ran amongst them with his sword and toppled them over. Then he touched them all with the white edge as they lay on the ground and up they got, very ashamed of having been so wicked and silly as to come and make war. Of course the King forgave them and as they were all away from their homes and very hungry, he wished to feed them. But there were so many he had not enough food in the city. Then Olaf took out his old tablecloth and spread it on the honest earth and there was food enough for all and some to pack in their knapsacks and every enemy went away a friend.
The King was so pleased, he offered Olaf a ship of his very own, and a crew to sail it, and Olaf went aboard and waved good-bye to the King and Princess and all the friends he had made and set sail for the town where he had left the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress and his mother.
But he was grown such a big lad now and was dressed so fine, nobody in the town knew who it was when this great painted ship came sailing in. The Lord Mayor himself came down to the quay to ask if the noble stranger would not come to dinner with him, so Olaf marched up the street beside the Lord Mayor, with all the children and people he knew so well cheering and welcoming him. Not one knew the fine stranger was little Olaf, the cabin boy.
When he got to the Lord Mayor's house and sat down between him and the Lady Mayoress, Olaf shook out his table napkin. He saw it was embroidered with ships in the corners and well he knew who had worked it.
"Never have I seen such beautifully embroidered napkins," said he. "Pray, may I ask to shake the hand of whoever worked this before I eat my dinner?"
"Certainly, for it was worked by the best and bravest woman in Norway," said the Lady Mayoress. "A fine woman whom we are proud to call our friend and who should be sitting at the table with us, but she was so wishful to see the dinner was served right."
"Fetch her to me," commanded Olaf like the great lord they took him for. But when they brought in his mother and he stood up and went to her, she did not wonder who he was, but ran straight to him and cried, "Why, 'tis my little Olaf come home."
Then Olaf and his mother and the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress could hardly eat their dinner for talking. After dinner, Olaf took them all to his ship and took them round to the little islands and the huts and houses where the four old women lived. The little old women were glad to see him and hear of the good things their gifts had brought him. And then Olaf and his mother and the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress said good-bye, and Olaf and his mother sailed away to go round the world and visit the King and Princess and many fine countries, and so well did they like their ship that they made it their home.
"I wish I could see the young wasps come out," said Theodore one day, when the cluster of nests was done and the wasp had not returned for several days.
"I'll tell you what," said Uncle Will; "we will take down the nest and carry it in the house then we can watch and see what happens."
"What a fine idea!" cried Theodore, and he looked on with the greatest interest as Uncle Will carefully removed the little clump of nests with his knife.
"See how Lady Pelopaeus has daubed it all over until it looks like nothing but a lump of mud."
"Yes," responded Theodore, "she has covered up all the pretty braiding. Why did she?"
"Perhaps to strengthen it. Sometimes the wasps do not do that. Perhaps we shall find some nests where the pretty braiding shows. Yes, here is another nest; see!" and Uncle Will, who had been poking around in the shed, lifted Theodore up to look at the new nest, all as neat and pretty as could be. Then they went into the house and put the nest they had taken into a box and set it away.
"We must not forget to watch it," said Uncle Will. But they did forget it until one day Theodore took off the cover,—and out flew two or three wasps, "as mad as hornets," Uncle Will said, when Theodore told him about it and showed him the big swelling under his eye, for he had had his wish and knew how it felt to be stung.
"Once is enough," he assured Uncle Will, who laughed and said he looked as if he had the mumps in his eyes.
"Well, let us see what has happened"; and Uncle Will carefully opened the box again, while Theodore retired toward the open door, ready to disappear if trouble threatened.
"You needn't be afraid," called Uncle Will, "just come here!" and Theodore cautiously advanced and looked in. The caps were all off the cells from which the angry wasps had emerged; but one cap was only partly broken through, and in the little opening Theodore saw something moving.
"It is coming out," he screamed, "let us run!"
"Nonsense!" laughed Uncle Will. "You are a fine soldier to fly before the enemy at the first sign of battle. Now come here and I will show you the best way to disarm a foe. You see those little things in the hole the wasp has made? What are they?"
"Why, I believe they are its feelers!"
"Yes, these are the antennae. You see, the youngster is exploring the world a little, and now is the time to teach it we are its friends"; and Uncle Will gently touched the little feelers with the tip of his finger. Back they were drawn, but presently out they came exploring again, to find Theodore's finger tip in the way.
Theodore got so interested watching the wasp bite its way out that he quite forgot to be afraid, even when its little head looked out and one little slender leg reached out, and then another, and began to pull. Uncle Will put out his finger, and the wasp clasped it with its feet and pulled until it was quite out of the clay nest. It clung to his finger, looking very limp and feeble. Theodore watched with breathless interest as Uncle Will petted the little wasp, gently stroking its head, its back, its back, its wings, while it was busy sucking a drop of sugar and water from his finger tip.
"But you're brave," said Theodore, squinting up his good eye, for the other was nearly swelled shut anyway.
"No, not a bit brave," said Uncle Will, "for this little wasp is not an enemy. It is now a friend, and will not sting me. You see, it only stings when it is frightened and thinks it is going to be injured."
"The others did not wait to find out! They flew right at me!"
"That was their nature," said Uncle Will, laughing; "they thought you were an enemy. It is only necessary to teach them when they are young enough that you are a friend, as you see."
"Won't it ever sting you?" asked Theodore.
"I don't believe it will," said Uncle Will. "I had one once that would come and sit in my hand to get warm when it was cold. It came out of its nest in the winter, you see, because I had it in a warm room. And it came to me to be fed, and was a pleasant and friendly as a little bird."
"Are you going to keep this one?"
"No, I shall let this one fly away to make its nest, for it is yet summer and these wasps that come out early want to make their nests and lay their eggs before cold weather."
"What becomes of them all winter?"
"Don't you remember what I told you about that? The ones that are hatched late in the summer do not complete their transformation that season. They remain in the pupa state until spring."
"Perhaps," said Theodore, "our little friendly wasp will make its nest in the woodshed and we can see its children flying about next summer."
"It may be so," said Uncle Will.
"It does seem strange, though, to think you can tame a wasp," said Theodore.
"I am sure we could tame anything if we only went about it in the right way and had patience enough we could even disarm our foes so that we would not have to go to war."
"Don't you think war is fine thing, Uncle Will?"
"No," said Uncle Will, shaking his head gravely. "War is a terrible thing, Theodore. Why should human beings fight like dogs, and tear each other to pieces? War kills and maims strong men who ought to live to make the earth beautiful. War does no real good in the world today, but a very great deal of harm. If people put all the thought and money and talent into governing the world without war that they put into fighting and building forts and battleships, what a beautiful place the world could be!"
"Why don't they?" asked Theodore.
"They are going to," said Uncle Will. "They are just beginning to understand how wicked and wasteful war is. Uncivilized people had to fight, but as people become civilized they find civilized ways of settling matters."
WEEK 31 |
John xi: 1 to 55.
HILE Jesus was at Bethabara beyond Jordan, and ready to begin preaching in the land of Perea, he was suddenly called back to the village of Bethany, on the Mount of Olives, near Jerusalem. You remember, from Story 132, that Martha, and Mary, and Lazarus, the friends of Jesus, were living in this place.
The word came to Jesus that Lazarus was very ill. But Jesus did not hurry away from Bethabara to go to Bethany. He stayed two days, and then he said to his disciples, "Let us go again to Judea, near Jerusalem."
The disciples said to Jesus, "Master, when we were in Judea last the people tried to stone you and to kill you; and now would you go there again?"
Jesus said, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go that I may awake him out of his sleep." The disciples said, "Master, if he has fallen asleep, he may be well."
For they thought that Jesus was speaking of taking rest in sleep; but Jesus meant that Lazarus was dead. Then Jesus said to them, "Lazarus is dead; and I am glad that I was not there to keep him alive; for now you will be led to believe in me all the more fully. But let us now go to him."
Then one of the disciples, named Thomas, said to the others, "Let us also go, and die with our Master!"
So Jesus left Bethabara with his disciples, and came to Bethany; and then he found Lazarus had been buried four days. Many of the Jews had come to comfort Martha and Mary in the loss of their brother. They told Martha that Jesus was coming, and she went to meet him, but Mary sat still in the house. As soon as Martha saw Jesus, she said to him very sadly, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother need not have died. And even now, I know that God will give you whatever you ask."
Jesus said to her, "Your brother shall rise again."
"I know that he shall rise," said Martha, "when the last day comes, and all the dead are raised."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection, the raising from the dead; and I am the life. Whoever believes on me, even though he may die, he shall live; and whoever lives and believes on me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
She said to him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, the one who comes into the world."
Then Martha went to her home, and said to her sister Mary, but quietly, so that no other person heard her, "The Master is here, and he asks for you!"
At once Mary rose up to go to Jesus. Her friends thought that she was going to her brother's tomb, and they went with her. Jesus was still at the place where Martha had met him, near the village. When Mary came to him, she fell down at his feet, and said, as her sister had said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother need not have died!"
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews weeping with her, he also was touched, and groaned in his spirit, and was filled with sorrow. He said, "Where have you laid him?"
They showed him the place where Lazarus was buried, a cave, with a stone laid upon the door. Jesus wept as he stood near it, and the Jews said, "See how he loved Lazarus!"
But some of them said, "If this man could open the eyes of the blind, why is it that he could not keep this man whom he loved from dying?"
Jesus, standing before the cave, and still groaning within, said, "Take away the stone!"
Martha said, "Lord, by this time his body has begun to decay, for he has been dead four days."
Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you would believe, you should see the glory of God?"
They took away the stone, as Jesus had commanded. Then Jesus lifted his eyes toward heaven, and said:
"Father, I thank thee that thou didst hear me. I know that thou dost hear me always; but because of those who are standing here I spoke, so that they may believe that thou hast sent me."
Then, with a loud voice, Jesus called out, "Lazarus, come forth!"
And the man who had been four days dead came out of the tomb. His body, and hands, and feet were wrapped round and round with grave bands, and over his face was bound a napkin.
Jesus said to those standing near, "Loose him, and let him go!"
When they saw the wonderful power of Jesus in raising Lazarus to life many of the people believed in Jesus. But others went away and told the Pharisees and rulers what Jesus had done. They called a meeting of all the rulers, the great council of the Jews, and they said, "What shall we do, for this man is doing many works of wonder? If we let him alone everybody will believe on him, and will try to make him the king; and then the Romans will make war upon us and destroy our nation and our people."
Lazarus comes to life again.
But the high-priest Caiphas said, "It is better for us that one man should die for the people than that our whole nation should be destroyed. Let us put this man to death."
And to this they agreed, and from that day all the rulers found plans to have Jesus slain. But Jesus knew their purpose, for he knew all things. His time to die had not yet come, and he went away with his disciples to a city near the wilderness and not far from Bethabara, where he had been before. And from this place he went forth to preach in the land of Perea, into which he had sent the seventy disciples, as we read in the last story.
W HEN the princess awoke from the sweetest of sleeps, she found her nurse bending over her, the housekeeper looking over the nurse's shoulder, and the laundry-maid looking over the housekeeper's. The room was full of women-servants; and the gentlemen-at-arms, with a long column of men-servants behind them, were peeping, or trying to peep in at the door of the nursery.
"Are those horrid creatures gone?" asked the princess, remembering first what had terrified her in the morning.
"You naughty little princess!" cried Lootie.
Her face was very pale, with red streaks in it, and she looked as if she were going to shake her; but Irene said nothing—only waited to hear what should come next.
"How could you get under the clothes like that, and make us all fancy you were lost! And keep it up all day too! You are the most obstinate child! It's anything but fun to us, I can tell you!"
It was the only way the nurse could account for her disappearance.
"I didn't do that, Lootie," said Irene, very quietly.
"Don't tell stories!" cried her nurse quite rudely.
"I shall tell you nothing at all," said Irene.
"That's just as bad," said the nurse.
"Just as bad to say nothing at all as to tell stories!" exclaimed the princess. "I will ask my papa about that. He won't say so. And I don't think he will like you to say so."
"Tell me directly what you mean by it!" screamed the nurse, half wild with anger at the princess, and fright at the possible consequences to herself.
"When I tell you the truth, Lootie," said the princess, who somehow did not feel at all angry, "you say to me Don't tell stories: it would appear that I must tell stories before you will believe me."
"You are very rude, my dear princess," said the nurse.
"You are so rude, Lootie, that I will not speak to you again till you are sorry. Why should I, when I know you will not believe me?" returned the princess.
For she did know perfectly well that if she were to tell Lootie what she had been about, the more she went on to tell her, the less would she believe her.
"You are the most provoking child!" cried her nurse. "You deserve to be well punished for your wicked behavior."
"Please, Mrs. Housekeeper," said the princess, "will you take me to your room and keep me till my king-papa comes? I will ask him to come as soon as he can."
Every one stared at these words. Up to this moment, they had all regarded her as little more than a baby.
But the housekeeper was afraid of the nurse, and sought to patch
"I am sure, princess, nursey did not mean to be rude to you."
"I do not think my papa would wish me to have a nurse who spoke to me as Lootie does. If she thinks I tell lies, she had better either say so to my papa, or go away. Sir Walter, will you take charge of me?"
"With the greatest of pleasure, princess," answered the captain of the gentlemen-at-arms, walking with his great stride into the room. The crowd of servants made eager way for him, and he bowed low before the little princess's bed. "I shall send my servant at once, on the fastest horse in the stable, to tell your king-papa that your royal Highness desires his presence. When you have chosen one of these under-servants to wait upon you, I shall order the room to be cleared."
"Thank you very much, Sir Walter," said the princess, and her eye glanced toward a rosy-cheeked girl who had lately come to the house as a scullery-maid.
But when Lootie saw the eyes of her dear princess going in search of another instead of her, she fell upon her knees by the bedside, and burst into a great cry of distress.
"I think, Sir Walter," said the princess, "I will keep Lootie. But I put myself under your care; and you need not trouble my king-papa until I speak to you again. Will you all please to go away? I am quite safe and well, and I did not hide myself for the sake either of amusing myself, or of troubling my people. Lootie, will you please to dress me?"
Teach me, Father, how to go
Softly as the grasses grow;
Hush my soul to meet the shock
Of the wild world as a rock;
But my spirit, propt with power,
Make as simple as a flower.
Let the dry heart fill its cup,
Like a poppy looking up;
Let life lightly wear her crown,
Like a poppy looking down.
Teach me, Father, how to be
Kind and patient as a tree.
Joyfully the crickets croon
Under shady oak at noon;
Beetle, on his mission bent,
Tarries in that cooling tent.
Let me, also, cheer a spot,
Hidden field or garden grot—
Place where passing souls can rest
On the way and be their best.