WEEK 32 |
T HAT was Tom's great secret—the scheme to return home with his brother pirates and attend their own funerals. They had paddled over to the Missouri shore on a log, at dusk on Saturday, landing five or six miles below the village; they had slept in the woods at the edge of the town till nearly daylight, and had then crept through back lanes and alleys and finished their sleep in the gallery of the church among a chaos of invalided benches.
At breakfast, Monday morning, Aunt Polly and Mary were very loving to Tom, and very attentive to his wants. There was an unusual amount of talk. In the course of it Aunt Polly said:
"Well, I don't say it wasn't a fine joke, Tom, to keep everybody suffering 'most a week so you boys had a good time, but it is a pity you could be so hard-hearted as to let me suffer so. If you could come over on a log to go to your funeral, you could have come over and give me a hint some way that you warn't dead, but only run off."
"Yes, you could have done that, Tom," said Mary; "and I believe you would if you had thought of it."
"Would you, Tom?" said Aunt Polly, her face lighting wistfully. "Say, now, would you, if you'd thought of it?"
"I—well, I don't know. 'Twould 'a' spoiled everything."
"Tom, I hoped you loved me that much," said Aunt Polly, with a grieved tone that discomforted the boy. "It would have been something if you'd cared enough to think of it, even if you didn't do it."
"Now, auntie, that ain't any harm," pleaded Mary; "it's only Tom's giddy way—he is always in such a rush that he never thinks of anything."
"More's the pity. Sid would have thought. And Sid would have come and done it, too. Tom, you'll look back, some day, when it's too late, and wish you'd cared a little more for me when it would have cost you so little."
"Now, auntie, you know I do care for you," said Tom.
"I'd know it better if you acted more like it."
"I wish now I'd thought," said Tom, with a repentant tone; "but I dreamed about you, anyway. That's something, ain't it?"
"It ain't much—a cat does that much—but it's better than nothing. What did you dream?"
"Why, Wednesday night I dreamt that you was sitting over there by the bed, and Sid was sitting by the woodbox, and Mary next to him."
"Well, so we did. So we always do. I'm glad your dreams could take even that much trouble about us."
"And I dreamt that Joe Harper's mother was here."
"Why, she was here! Did you dream any more?"
"Oh, lots. But it's so dim, now."
"Well, try to recollect—can't you?"
"Somehow it seems to me that the wind—the
wind blowed the—
"Try harder, Tom! The wind did blow something. Come!"
Tom pressed his fingers on his forehead an anxious minute, and then said:
"I've got it now! I've got it now! It blowed the candle!"
"Mercy on us! Go on, Tom—go on!"
"And it seems to me that you said, 'Why, I believe that
"Go on, Tom!"
"Just let me study a moment—just a moment. Oh, yes—you said you believed the door was open."
"As I'm sitting here, I did! Didn't I, Mary! Go on!"
"And then—and then—well I won't be certain, but it seems like as if
you made Sid go and—
"Well? Well? What did I make him do, Tom? What did I make him do?"
"You made him—you—Oh, you made him shut it."
"Well, for the land's sake! I never heard the beat of that in all my days! Don't tell me there ain't anything in dreams, any more. Sereny Harper shall know of this before I'm an hour older. I'd like to see her get around this with her rubbage 'bout superstition. Go on, Tom!"
"Oh, it's all getting just as bright as day, now. Next you said I warn't bad, only mischeevous and harum-scarum, and not any more responsible than—than—I think it was a colt, or something."
"And so it was! Well, goodness gracious! Go on, Tom!"
"And then you began to cry."
"So I did. So I did. Not the first time, neither. And
"Then Mrs. Harper she began to cry, and said Joe was just the same,
and she wished she hadn't whipped him for taking cream when she'd
throwed it out her own
"Tom! The sperrit was upon you! You was a-prophesying—that's what you was doing! Land alive, go on, Tom!"
"Then Sid he said—he
"I don't think I said anything," said Sid.
"Yes you did, Sid," said Mary.
"Shut your heads and let Tom go on! What did he say, Tom?"
"He said—I think he said he hoped I was better off where I was gone
to, but if I'd been better
"There, d'you hear that! It was his very words!"
"And you shut him up sharp."
"I lay I did! There must 'a' been an angel there. There was an angel there, somewheres!"
"And Mrs. Harper told about Joe scaring her with a firecracker, and
you told about Peter and the
"Just as true as I live!"
"And then there was a whole lot of talk 'bout dragging the river for us, and 'bout having the funeral Sunday, and then you and old Miss Harper hugged and cried, and she went."
"It happened just so! It happened just so, as sure as I'm a-sitting in these very tracks. Tom, you couldn't told it more like, if you'd 'a' seen it! And then what? Go on, Tom!"
"Then I thought you prayed for me—and I could see you and hear every word you said. And you went to bed, and I was so sorry, that I took and wrote on a piece of sycamore bark, 'We ain't dead—we are only off being pirates,' and put it on the table by the candle; and then you looked so good, laying there asleep, that I thought I went and leaned over and kissed you on the lips."
"Did you, Tom, did you! I just forgive you everything for that!" And she seized the boy in a crushing embrace that made him feel like the guiltiest of villains.
"It was very kind, even though it was only a—dream," Sid soliloquized just audibly.
"Shut up, Sid! A body does just the same in a dream as he'd do if he was awake. Here's a big Milum apple I've been saving for you, Tom, if you was ever found again—now go 'long to school. I'm thankful to the good God and Father of us all I've got you back, that's long-suffering and merciful to them that believe on Him and keep His word, though goodness knows I'm unworthy of it, but if only the worthy ones got His blessings and had His hand to help them over the rough places, there's few enough would smile here or ever enter into His rest when the long night comes. Go 'long, Sid, Mary, Tom—take yourselves off—you've hendered me long enough."
The children left for school, and the old lady to call on Mrs. Harper and vanquish her realism with Tom's marvelous dream. Sid had better judgment than to utter the thought that was in his mind as he left the house. It was this: "Pretty thin—as long a dream as that, without any mistakes in it!"
What a hero Tom was become, now! He did not go skipping and prancing, but moved with a dignified swagger as became a pirate who felt that the public eye was on him. And indeed it was; he tried not to seem to see the looks or hear the remarks as he passed along, but they were food and drink to him. Smaller boys than himself flocked at his heels, as proud to be seen with him, and tolerated by him, as if he had been the drummer at the head of a procession or the elephant leading a menagerie into town. Boys of his own size pretended not to know he had been away at all; but they were consuming with envy, nevertheless. They would have given anything to have that swarthy sun-tanned skin of his, and his glittering notoriety; and Tom would not have parted with either for a circus.
At school the children made so much of him and of Joe, and delivered such eloquent admiration from their eyes, that the two heroes were not long in becoming insufferably "stuck up." They began to tell their adventures to hungry listeners—but they only began; it was not a thing likely to have an end, with imaginations like theirs to furnish material.
The two heroes began to tell their adventures to hungry listeners.
And finally, when they got out their pipes and went serenely puffing around, the very summit of glory was reached.
Tom decided that he could be independent of Becky Thatcher now. Glory was sufficient. He would live for glory. Now that he was distinguished, maybe she would be wanting to "make up." Well, let her—she should see that he could be as indifferent as some other people. Presently she arrived. Tom pretended not to see her. He moved away and joined a group of boys and girls and began to talk. Soon he observed that she was tripping gaily back and forth with flushed face and dancing eyes, pretending to be busy chasing schoolmates, and screaming with laughter when she made a capture; but he noticed that she always made her captures in his vicinity, and that she seemed to cast a conscious eye in his direction at such times, too. It gratified all the vicious vanity that was in him; and so, instead of winning him, it only "set him up" the more and made him the more diligent to avoid betraying that he knew she was about. Presently she gave over skylarking, and moved irresolutely about, sighing once or twice and glancing furtively and wistfully toward Tom. Then she observed that now Tom was talking more particularly to Amy Lawrence than to any one else. She felt a sharp pang and grew disturbed and uneasy at once. She tried to go away, but her feet were treacherous, and carried her to the group instead. She said to a girl almost at Tom's elbow—with sham vivacity:
"Why, Mary Austin! you bad girl, why didn't you come to Sunday-school?"
"I did come—didn't you see me?"
"Why, no! Did you? Where did you sit?"
"I was in Miss Peters's class, where I always go. I saw you."
"Did you? Why, it's funny I didn't see you. I wanted to tell you about the picnic."
"Oh, that's jolly. Who's going to give it?"
"My ma's going to let me have one."
"Oh, goody; I hope she'll let me come."
"Well, she will. The picnic's for me. She'll let anybody come that I want, and I want you."
"That's ever so nice. When is it going to be?"
"By and by. Maybe about vacation."
"Oh, won't it be fun! You going to have all the girls and boys?"
"Yes, every one that's friends to me—or wants to be"; and she glanced ever so furtively at Tom, but he talked right along to Amy Lawrence about the terrible storm on the island, and how the lightning tore the great sycamore tree "all to flinders" while he was "standing within three feet of it."
"Oh, may I come?" said Gracie Miller.
"And me?" said Sally Rogers.
"And me, too?" said Susy Harper. "And Joe?"
And so on, with clapping of joyful hands till all the group had begged for invitations but Tom and Amy. Then Tom turned coolly away, still talking, and took Amy with him. Becky's lips trembled and the tears came to her eyes; she hid these signs with a forced gaiety and went on chattering, but the life had gone out of the picnic, now, and out of everything else; she got away as soon as she could and hid herself and had what her sex call "a good cry." Then she sat moody, with wounded pride, till the bell rang. She roused up, now, with a vindictive cast in her eye, and gave her plaited tails a shake and said she knew what she'd do.
At recess Tom continued his flirtation with Amy with jubilant self-satisfaction. And he kept drifting about to find Becky and lacerate her with the performance. At last he spied her, but there was a sudden falling of his mercury. She was sitting cozily on a little bench behind the school-house looking at a picture-book with Alfred Temple—and so absorbed were they, and their heads so close together over the book, that they did not seem to be conscious of anything in the world besides. Jealousy ran red-hot through Tom's veins. He began to hate himself for throwing away the chance Becky had offered for a reconciliation. He called himself a fool, and all the hard names he could think of. He wanted to cry with vexation. Amy chatted happily along, as they walked, for her heart was singing, but Tom's tongue had lost its function. He did not hear what Amy was saying, and whenever she paused expectantly he could only stammer an awkward assent, which was as often misplaced as otherwise. He kept drifting to the rear of the school-house, again and again, to sear his eyeballs with the hateful spectacle there. He could not help it. And it maddened him to see, as he thought he saw, that Becky Thatcher never once suspected that he was even in the land of the living. But she did see, nevertheless; and she knew she was winning her fight, too, and was glad to see him suffer as she had suffered.
Amy's happy prattle became intolerable. Tom hinted at things he had to attend to; things that must be done; and time was fleeting. But in vain—the girl chirped on. Tom thought, "Oh, hang her, ain't I ever going to get rid of her?" At last he must be attending to those things—and she said artlessly that she would be "around" when school let out. And he hastened away, hating her for it.
"Any other boy!" Tom thought, grating his teeth. "Any boy in the whole
town but that Saint Louis smarty that thinks he dresses so fine and is
aristocracy! Oh, all right, I licked you the first day you ever saw
this town, mister, and I'll lick you again! You just wait till I catch
you out! I'll just take
And he went through the motions of thrashing an imaginary boy—pummeling the air, and kicking and gouging. "Oh, you do, do you? You holler 'nough, do you? Now, then, let that learn you!" And so the imaginary flogging was finished to his satisfaction.
Tom fled home at noon. His conscience could not endure any more of Amy's grateful happiness, and his jealousy could bear no more of the other distress. Becky resumed her picture inspections with Alfred, but as the minutes dragged along and no Tom came to suffer, her triumph began to cloud and she lost interest; gravity and absent-mindedness followed, and then melancholy; two or three times she pricked up her ear at a footstep, but it was a false hope; no Tom came. At last she grew entirely miserable and wished she hadn't carried it so far. When poor Alfred, seeing that he was losing her, he did not know how, kept exclaiming: "Oh, here's a jolly one! look at this!" she lost patience at last, and said, "Oh, don't bother me! I don't care for them!" and burst into tears, and got up and walked away.
Alfred dropped alongside and was going to try to comfort her, but she said:
"Go away and leave me alone, can't you! I hate you!"
So the boy halted, wondering what he could have done—for she had said she would look at pictures all through the nooning—and she walked on, crying. Then Alfred went musing into the deserted school-house. He was humiliated and angry. He easily guessed his way to the truth—the girl had simply made a convenience of him to vent her spite upon Tom Sawyer. He was far from hating Tom the less when this thought occurred to him. He wished there was some way to get that boy into trouble without much risk to himself. Tom's spelling-book fell under his eye. Here was his opportunity. He gratefully opened to the lesson for the afternoon and poured ink upon the page.
Becky, glancing in at a window behind him at the moment, saw the act, and moved on, without discovering herself. She started homeward, now, intending to find Tom and tell him; Tom would be thankful and their troubles would be healed. Before she was half-way home, however, she had changed her mind. The thought of Tom's treatment of her when she was talking about her picnic came scorching back and filled her with shame. She resolved to let him get whipped on the damaged spelling-book's account, and to hate him forever, into the bargain.
W hile the Italian scholars were wishing that they had more of the precious old manuscripts, there were exciting times in the country known as Turkey in Europe. This country had been part of the Eastern Empire even after the fall of Rome in 476, but it had come to be so little Roman and so completely Greek that it is spoken of as the Greek, or Byzantine Empire. It was destined, however, to belong to neither Romans nor Greeks, for the Mohammedans were pressing hard upon its boundaries. They had won Asia Minor and the lands lying directly south of the Danube. Gradually they got Greece, north of the Isthmus, into their power, and in 1453 Mohammed II. led the Ottoman Turks, who were of the same race as Attila and his Huns, against the capital of the Eastern Empire, the great rich city of Constantinople.
Gunpowder had been invented before this time, but the cannon were small. When the great Turkish gun fired its heavy stone balls, men and women rushed into the streets, beating their breasts and crying aloud, "God have mercy upon us!" Day after day the besiegers continued the attack. They used arrows, and catapults for throwing stones. They wheeled a two-story tower covered with hides near enough to the city so that archers in the second story could shoot at the defenders on the walls. But the Greeks threw their famous Greek fire upon it and it was consumed. Both parties dug mines. Sometimes these were blown up, sometimes the workers in them were suffocated by smoke or gas.
St. Sophia, Constantinople
(The famous church built in the 6th century by the Emperor Justinian. It has been used as a mosque since the capture of Constantinople by the Turks)
Finally the Turks dug a narrow canal five miles long from the Sea of Marmora to the harbor of Constantinople. They paved it with beams, well greased, and one morning the Greeks found thirty Turkish ships lying almost under their walls, for the oxen of the Turks had dragged them to the shore during the night. Then the people of the city were in despair and begged their emperor to escape and flee for his life, but he refused. "I am resolved to die here with you," he declared.
When it was seen that the city must fall, thousands of the citizens crowded into the vast church of St. Sophia, for there was an old prophecy that some day the Turks would force their way into the city, but that when they had reached St. Sophia an angel would appear with a celestial sword, and that at sight of it the Turks would flee. The emperor knelt long in prayer, received the Holy Communion, and then begged the priests and all the members of his court to forgive him if he had ever wronged them. The sobs and wails of the people echoed in the great building.
The Turks made their way without hindrance into the city. They did not stop at the church; and no angel brought a miraculous weapon to drive them back. The emperor fell, sword in hand, fighting to the last for his empire and the Christian faith. The Turkish commander gave over the city to his soldiers, and they stole everything worth stealing,—wonderful treasures of gold, silver, bronze, and jewels. Thousands of citizens were roughly bound together and dragged off to the boats to be sold as slaves. The cross was torn down from beautiful St. Sophia, and the crescent, the emblem of Mohammedanism, was put in its place.
The emperor's body, however, was buried by the Turks with all honour. A lamp was lighted at his grave. It is still kept burning, and at the charge of the Turkish government. This was commanded by the Turkish ruler as a mark of respect and regard for Constantine Palæologos, the last Christian emperor in the Empire of the East.
At the coming of the Turks, many of the Greeks had seized their most valued treasures and fled. The scholars carried away with them the rare old manuscripts of the early Greek writers. More went to Italy than anywhere else, and the Italian scholars gave them a hearty welcome. There had been learned Greeks in Italy long before this time, and the Italian scholars had been interested in the Greek literature; but now such a wealth of it was poured into the country that the Italians were aroused and delighted. They read the manuscripts eagerly; they sent copies to their friends; and gradually a knowledge of the literature of the Greeks and a love for it spread throughout Europe.
Blessings on thee, little man,
Barefoot boy, with cheek of tan!
With thy turned-up pantaloons,
And thy merry whistled tunes;
With thy red lip, redder still,
Kissed by strawberries on the hill;
With the sunshine on thy face,
Through thy torn brim's jaunty grace;
From my heart I give thee joy,
I was once a barefoot boy.
Prince thou art,—the grown-up man
Only is republican.
Let the million-dollared ride!
Barefoot, trudging at his side,
Thou hast more than he can buy,
In the reach of ear and eye,—
Outward sunshine, inward joy;
Blessings on thee, barefoot boy!
Oh for boyhood's painless play,
Sleep that wakes in laughing day,
Health that mocks the doctor's rules,
Knowledge never learned of schools,
Of the wild bee's morning chase,
Of the wild-flower's time and place,
Flight of fowl and habitude
Of the tenants of the wood;
How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the woodchuck digs his cell,
And the ground-mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole's nest is hung;
Where the whitest lilies blow,
Where the freshest berries grow,
Where the groundnut trails its vine,
Where the wood grape's clusters shine;
Of the black wasp's cunning way,
Mason of his walls of clay,
And the architectural plans
Of gray-hornet artisans!
For, eschewing books and tasks,
Nature answers all he asks;
Hand in hand with her he walks,
Face to face with her he talks,
Part and parcel of her joy,—
Blessings on the barefoot boy!
Oh, for boyhood's time of June,
Crowding years in one brief moon,
When all things I heard or saw,
Me, their master, waited for.
I was rich in flowers and trees,
Humming-birds and honey-bees;
For my sport the squirrel played,
Plied the snouted mole his spade;
For my taste the blackberry cone
Purpled over hedge and stone;
Laughed the brook for my delight
Through the day and through the night,
Whispering at the garden wall,
Talked with me from fall to fall;
Mine the sand-rimmed pickerel pond,
Mine the walnut slopes beyond,
Mine, on bending orchard trees,
Apples of Hesperides!
Still, as my horizon grew,
Larger grew my riches too;
All the world I saw or knew
Seemed a complex Chinese toy,
Fashioned for a barefoot boy!
Oh, for festal dainties spread,
Like my bowl of milk and bread,—
Pewter spoon and bowl of wood,
On the doorstone, gray and rude,
O'er me like a regal tent,
Cloudy-ribbed, the sunset bent,
Purple-curtained, fringed with gold,
Looped in many a wind-swung fold;
While for music came the play
Of the pied frogs' orchestra;
And, to light the noisy choir,
Lit the fly his lamp of fire.
I was monarch: pomp, and joy,
Waited on the barefoot boy!
Cheerily, then, my little man,
Live and laugh as boyhood can,
Though the flinty slopes be hard,
Stubble-speared the new-mown sward,
Every morn shall lead thee through
Fresh baptisms of the dew;
Every evening from thy feet,
Shall the cool wind kiss the heat:
All too soon these feet must hide
In the prison cells of pride,
Lose the freedom of the sod,
Like a colt's for work be shod,
Made to tread the mills of toil,
Up and down in ceaseless moil:
Happy if their track be found
Never on forbidden ground;
Happy if they sink not in
Quick and treacherous sands of sin.
Ah! that thou couldst know thy joy,
Ere it passes, barefoot boy!
WEEK 32 |
A FEW days after Argyle reached Scotland, the Duke of Monmouth sailed from Holland and landed in England. He was received with great joy. The common people flocked to his standard, many of them armed only with scythes, and pruning-hooks fastened to poles. Nine hundred young men marched before him, twenty beautiful girls gave him a Bible splendidly bound and a banner which they had themselves embroidered. The roads wherever he went were lined with cheering crowds. "A Monmouth! A Monmouth! the Protestant religion!" they cried as he passed.
The Duke's followers begged him to take the title of king,
King Monmouth did not enjoy his title long. In the dark of
the early morning of the
Monmouth tried to escape in disguise. He changed clothes with a poor shepherd, but the country was so full of the King's soldiers that he found it impossible to get away. For several days he lived in the fields, hiding in ditches and having nothing to eat but raw peas and beans. At last, miserable and ragged, half starving from cold and hunger, he was discovered by the soldiers and taken prisoner to London.
Bound with a cord of silk he was led before King James, and falling upon his knees he begged for mercy and forgiveness. But James never forgave. Monmouth, like so many other men, good and bad, was beheaded.
The anger and vengeance of the King did not end with the death of Monmouth. His soldiers, under a dreadful man called Kirke, tortured and murdered, in a terrible manner, the poor rebels who escaped from Sedgemoor. Judge Jeffreys followed next, and so many people did he kill, such terrible things did he do, that his journey through the country was for ever after called the Bloody Assize.
Assize means Court of Justice. At certain times in England judges make what is called a circuit or journey through the country, when they hear what wrong things people have done, and when they judge and punish. But on this dreadful journey Judge Jeffreys did not do justice. He did wrong and murder, and King James praised and rewarded him for it.
T HE fullness, the flood, of life has come, and, contrary to one's expectations, a marked silence has settled down over the waving fields and the cool deep woods. I am writing these lines in the lamplight, with all the windows and doors open to the dark July night. The summer winds are moving in the trees. A cricket and a few small green grasshoppers are chirping in the grass; but nothing louder is near at hand. And nothing louder is far off, except the cry of the whip-poor-will in the wood road. But him you hear in the spring and autumn as well as in the summer. Ah, listen! My tree-toad in the grapevine over the bulkhead door!
This is a voice you must hear—on cloudy summer days, toward twilight, and well into the evening. Do you know what it is to feel lonely? If you do, I think, then, that you know how the soft, far-off, eerie cry of the tree-toad sounds. He is prophesying rain, the almanac people think, but I think it is only the sound of rain in his voice, summer rain after a long drouth, cooling, reviving, soothing rain, with just a patter of something in it that I cannot describe, something that I used to hear on the shingles of the garret over the rafters where the bunches of horehound and catnip and pennyroyal hung.
You ought to hear the lively clatter of a mowing-machine. It is hot out of doors; the roads are beginning to look dusty; the insects are tuning up in the grass, and, like their chorus all together, and marching round and round the meadow, moves the mower's whirring blade. I love the sound. Haying is hard, sweet work. The farmer who does not love his haying ought to be made to keep a country store and sell kerosene oil and lumps of dead salt pork out of a barrel. He could not appreciate a live, friendly pig.
Down the long swath sing the knives, the cogs click above the square corners, and the big, loud thing sings on again,—the song of "first-fruits," the first great ingathering of the season,—a song to touch the heart with joy and sweet solemnity.
You ought to hear the Katydids—two of them on the trees outside your window. They are not saying "Katy did," nor singing "Katy did"; they are fiddling "Katy did," "Katy didn't"—by rasping the fore wings.
Is the sound "Katy" or "Katy did"? or what is said? Count the notes. Are they at the rate of two hundred per minute? Watch the instrumentalist—till you make sure it is the male who is wooing Katy with his persistent guitar. The male has no long ovipositors.
Another instrumentalist to hear is the big cicada or "harvest-fly."
There is no more characteristic sound of
all the summer than his big, quick, startling whirr—a
minute mowing-machine up on the limb overhead! Not so
minute either, for the creature is fully two
inches long, with
bulging eyes and a
click to his wings
when he flies that can be heard a hundred feet
This is the season of small sounds. As a test of the keenness of your ears go out at night into some open glade in the woods or by the side of some pond and listen for the squeaking of the bats flitting and wavering above in the uncertain light over your head. You will need a stirless midsummer dusk; and if you can hear the thin, fine squeak as the creature dives near your head, you may be sure your ears are almost as keen as those of the fox. The sound is not audible to most human ears.
Flitting and wavering about.
Another set of small sounds characteristic of midsummer is the twittering of the flocking swallows in the cornfields and upon the telegraph-wires. This summer I have had long lines of the young birds and their parents from the old barn below the hill strung on the wires from the house across the lawn. Here they preen while some of the old birds hawk for flies, the whole line of them breaking into a soft little twitter each time a newcomer alights among them. One swallow does not make a summer, but your electric light wires sagging with them is the very soul of the summer.
In the deep, still woods you will hear the soft call of the robin—a low, pensive, plaintive note unlike its spring cry or the after-shower song. It is as if the voice of the slumberous woods were speaking,—without alarm, reproach, or welcome either. It is an invitation to stretch yourself on the deep moss and let the warm shadows of the summer woods steal over you with sleep.
And this, too, is a thing to learn. Doing something, hearing something, seeing something by no means exhausts our whole business with the out-of-doors. To lie down and do nothing, to be able to keep silence and to rest on the great whirling globe is as needful as to know everything going on about us.
There is one bird-song so characteristic of midsummer that I think every lover of the woods must know it: the oft-repeated, the constant notes of the red-eyed vireo or "preacher." Wilson Flagg says of him: "He takes the part of a deliberative orator who explains his subject in a few words and then makes a pause for his hearers to reflect upon it. We might suppose him to be repeating moderately with a pause between each sentence, 'You see it—you know it—do you hear me?—do you believe it?' All these strains are delivered with a rising inflection at the close, and with a pause, as if waiting for an answer."
The Red-Eyed Vireo
A few other bird-notes that are associated with hot days and stirless woods, and that will be worth your hearing are the tree-top song of the scarlet tanager. He is one of the summer sights, a dash of the burning tropics is his brilliant scarlet and jet black, and his song is a loud, hoarse, rhythmical carol that has the flame of his feathers in it and the blaze of the sun. You will know it from the cool, liquid song of the robin both by its peculiar quality and because it is a short song, and soon ended, not of indefinite length like the robin's.
Then the peculiar, coppery, reverberating, or confined song of the indigo bunting—as if the bird were singing inside some great kettle.
One more—among a few others—the softly falling, round, small, upward-swinging call of the wood pewee. Is it sad? Yes, sad. But sweeter than sad,—restful, cooling, and inexpressibly gentle. All day long from high above your head and usually quite out of view, the voice—it seems hardly a voice—breaks the long silence of the summer woods.
When night comes down with the long twilight there sounds a strange, almost awesome quawk in the dusk over the fields. It sends a thrill through me, notwithstanding its nightly occurrence all through July and August. It is the passing of a pair of night herons—the black-crowned, I am sure, although this single pair only fly over. Where the birds are numerous they nest in great colonies.
A Summer Evening—Black-crowned Night Herons
It is the wild, eerie quawk that you should hear, a far-off, mysterious, almost uncanny sound that fills the twilight with a vague, untamed something, no matter how bright and civilized the day may have been.
From the harvest fields comes the sweet whistle of Bob White, the clear, round notes rolling far through the hushed summer noon; in the wood-lot the crows and jays have already begun their cawings and screamings that later on become the dominant notes of the golden autumn. They are not so loud and characteristic now because of the insect orchestra throbbing with a rhythmic beat through the air. So wide, constant, and long-continued is this throbbing note of the insects that by midsummer you almost cease to notice it. But stop and listen—field crickets, katydids, long-horned grasshoppers, snowy tree-crickets: chwĭ-chwĭ-chwĭ-chwĭ—thrr-r-r-r-r-r-r—crrri-crrri-crrri-crrri—gru-gru-gru-gru—retreat-retreat-retreat-treat-treat— like the throbbing of the pulse.
One can do no more than suggest in a short chapter like this; and all that I am doing here is catching for you some of the still, small voices of my summer. How unlike those of your summer they may be I can easily imagine, for you are in the Pacific Coast, or off on the vast prairies of Canada, or down in the sunny fields and hill-country of the South.
I have done enough if I have suggested that you stop and listen; for after all it is having ears which hear not that causes the trouble. Hear the voices that make your summer vocal—the loud and still voices which alike pass unheeded unless we pause to hear.
As a lesson in listening, go out some quiet evening, and as the shadows slip softly over the surface of the wood-walled pond, listen to the breathing of the fish as they come to the top, and the splash of the muskrats, or the swirl of the pickerel as he ploughs a furrow through the silence.
Here I come creeping, creeping everywhere;
By the dusty roadside,
On the sunny hill-side,
Close by the noisy brook,
In every shady nook,
I come creeping, creeping everywhere.
Here I come creeping, smiling everywhere;
All around the open door,
Where sit the aged poor;
Here where the children play,
In the bright and merry May,
I come creeping, creeping everywhere.
Here I come creeping, creeping everywhere;
In the noisy city street
My pleasant face you'll meet,
Cheering the sick at heart
Toiling his busy part,—
Silently creeping, creeping everywhere.
Here I come creeping, creeping everywhere;
You cannot see me coming,
Nor hear my low sweet humming;
For in the starry night,
And the glad morning light,
I come quietly creeping everywhere.
Here I come creeping, creeping everywhere;
More welcome than the flowers
In summer's pleasant hours;
The gentle cow is glad,
And the merry bird not sad,
To see me creeping, creeping everywhere.
Here I come creeping, creeping everywhere;
My humble song of praise
Most joyfully I raise
To him at whose command
I beautify the land,
Creeping, silently creeping everywhere.
WEEK 32 |
FTER dinner, while their uncle read under the chestnut
tree, the children scattered in the garden. Claire attended
to her cuttings, Jules watered his vases, and Emile—Ah,
"A venomous creature has stung me!" he cries. "See my hand, Uncle! It smarts—oh, how it smarts! Some viper has bitten me!"
At this word viper, Uncle Paul started. He rose and looked at the injured hand. A smile came to his lips.
"Impossible, my little friend; there is no viper in the garden. What foolishness have you been committing? Where have you been?"
"I ran after a butterfly, and when I put out my hand to catch it on the weeds at the foot of the wall, something stung me. See!"
"It is nothing, my poor Emile; go and dip your hand into the cool water of the fountain, and the pain will go away."
Quarter of an hour later they were talking of Emile's accident, he being quite recovered from his misadventure.
"Now that the pain is gone, does not Emile want to know what stung him?" asked his uncle.
"I certainly ought to know, so as not to be caught another time."
"Well, it is a plant called nettle. Its leaves, stems, slightest branches are covered with a multitude of bristles, stiff, hollow, and filled with a venomous liquid. When one of these bristles penetrates the skin, the point breaks, the little vial of venom opens and spills its contents into the wound. From that comes a smarting but not dangerous pain. You see, the nettle's bristles act like the weapons of venomous creatures. It is always a hollow point that makes a fine wound in the skin, and passes a drop of liquid into it, the cause of all the ill. The nettle is thus a venomous plant.
"I will also tell Emile that the beautiful butterfly for which he thoughtlessly thrust his hand into the tuft of nettles is called the Vanessa Io. Its caterpillar is velvety black with white spots. It also bristles with thorns. It does not make a cocoon. Its chrysalis, ornamented with bands that shine like gold, is suspended in the air by the end of its tail. The caterpillar lives on the nettle, of which it eats the leaves, notwithstanding their venomous bristles."
"In browsing on the venomous plant, how does the caterpillar manage so as not to poison itself?" Claire inquired.
"My dear child, you confound venomous with poisonous. Venomous is said of a substance that, introduced into the blood by any kind of a wound, causes injury in the manner of the viper's venom. Poisonous is said of a substance that, swallowed or introduced into the stomach, may cause death. Fatal drugs are poisonous: they kill if eaten or drunk. The liquid that flows from the viper's fangs and the scorpion's sting is venomous: it kills when it mixes with the blood; but it is not poisonous, for it can be swallowed with impunity. It is the same with the nettle's venom. So Mother Ambroisine gives the poultry chopped nettles, and the caterpillar of the Vanessa feeds without danger on the plant which, a little while ago, made Emile cry with pain. Of venomous plants we have in our country only nettles; but we have many poisonous plants that, when eaten, cause illness and even death, I must certainly tell you about them some day, so as to teach you to avoid them.
"The nettle's bristles remind me of the caterpillar's hairs. Many caterpillars have the skin quite bare. They are then perfectly inoffensive. They can be handled without any danger, however large they may be, even those that have horn at the end of the back. They are no more to be feared than the silkworm. Others have bodies all bristly with hairs, sometimes very sharp and barbed, which can lodge in the skin, leave their points there, and thus produce lively itchings or even painful swellings. It is well then to mistrust velvety caterpillars, particularly those living in companies on oaks and pines, in large silk nests, and called processionary caterpillars. But here we have a word that calls for another story."
On a hot day in August, 1774, Patrick Henry and Edmund Pendleton set out for Philadelphia. They traveled on horseback over a bridle path through the forest, and swam all the streams.
At length they came to Mount Vernon, where Colonel Washington lived. Here they passed the night, and the following morning, after an early breakfast, Washington mounted his horse to go with them to Congress.
As the two guests, with their three-cornered hats in their hands, were bowing low to Martha Washington, she said, "I hope you will both stand firm. I know George will."
And you may be sure they started off more determined than ever to demand justice of the king.
They soon crossed the Potomac at the Falls, and then followed the path toward Baltimore. They were a noble group of men. Edmund Pendleton was much the oldest. His hair was gray and his face was earnest.
George Washington was in the prime of manhood. He sat his horse like a true cavalier, and in the uniform of a British colonel he looked like a soldier.
Patrick Henry was thirty-eight years old. The great orator stooped forward as he rode, and his clothes hung loosely about him. He was not very handsome, but when he spoke his face lighted up, and you would have said he was almost beautiful.
They talked very earnestly over the troubles with the king, and all three agreed that a crisis had come. They reached Philadelphia just in time for the convention; and so they did not become acquainted with many of the members from the other colonies before the meeting began.
After the delegates had assembled in a large brick building, called Carpenters' Hall, the roll was read and officers were elected. Then the place became very still. The delegates were almost all strangers to one another. Each feared to say anything lest he might offend some one else.
At last a member moved to open the convention with prayer. John Jay, of New York, hurried to oppose the motion. "No man," he said, "can expect Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Quakers, and Catholics to unite in worship."
But Samuel Adams, from "stiff-necked" Massachusetts, arose and said: "I, for my part, am no bigot. I can listen to a prayer from a gentleman of piety who is a patriot. I have heard that the reverend Mr. Duché, an Episcopalian, deserves that title: therefore, Mr. President, I move that Mr. Duché read prayers to-morrow morning."
The motion was carried. And then again the place became very still. Each man had the same complaints to make against the king, yet no one liked to speak of them.
The silence became so intense that some said afterwards they could hear their hearts beat.
At last a tall young man arose. Everybody turned about to look at him. He was dressed in dark grey homespun, his wig was unpowdered, and his sleeves had no frills.
He began very calmly to state why they had met together. But soon his voice swelled, his form became erect, his eyes glowed. All leaned forward to read his wonderful face. He closed with the words: "The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders are no more. I am not a Virginian, but an American!"
The delegates were amazed at his eloquence.
"Who is he? who is he?" they cried.
It was Patrick Henry, and from that day the best orator in Virginia was known as the best orator in America. He argued with the rest of the delegates not to import any more goods from England nor to export them to England until Parliament should respect the rights of Americans.
Henry spoke many times during the Congress; and when it was decided to appeal again to the king to allow the colonies to vote their own taxes, he was one of the committee chosen to write the petition.
Soon after this the first Continental Congress adjourned to meet when the king should send his reply.
Who would be
A merman bold,
Under the sea,
With a crown of gold,
On a throne?
I would be a merman bold;
I would sit and sing the whole of the day;
I would fill the sea-halls with a voice of power;
But at night I would roam abroad and play
With the mermaids in and out of the rocks,
Dressing their hair with the white sea-flower;
And then we would wander away, away
To the pale-green sea-groves straight and high,
Chasing each other merrily.
Who would be
A mermaid fair,
Combing her hair
Under the sea,
In a golden curl,
With a comb of pearl,
On a throne?
I would be a mermaid fair,
I would sing to myself the whole of the day;
With a comb of pearl I would comb my hair.
I would comb my hair till my ringlets would fall
Low adown, low adown,
From under my starry sea-bud crown
And I should look like a fountain of gold
With a shrill inner sound,
Over the throne.
WEEK 32 |
When the story telling was over and Eileen had gone back to her mother, Ferdiad and Conn hurried up the mound where stood the Hall of Feasting. The high king was to give a dinner there later on and the boys wanted to see what they could.
At big open fires near the Hall cooks were busy turning spits, made of peeled hazel rods, on which venison and hares and wild birds were roasting. Others were tending huge cauldrons filled with boiling beef and sheep and little pigs. Potatoes, which we call Irish but which are really American born, had not yet come to Ireland, because of course you know Columbus did not find America till more than four hundred years after our story; but there were cabbages and onions and beans, and there were puddings and red apples and hazel nuts for dessert.
"See, Conn," said Ferdiad, "the door of the Hall is open; let's go in and look around."
"All right!" said Conn, so the went in and watched as servants spread linen cloths on a number of tables standing close to the walls of the long room. There were seats for these only on the side next the wall; for nobody was expected to have his back to the center of the room where the poets always sang their pieces after dinner.
"These must be the tables for the kings and flaiths," said Ferdiad as they strolled along the room, "for see, there are the hooks in the wall for their shields."
"Yes," said Conn, "and look up a little higher and you can tell exactly each king's place, for there are the king's-candles all ready to light," and he pointed to a number of bronze brackets holding very large candles of beeswax with great bushy wicks. "And that enormous one, bigger around than I am, is where the high king will sit. It's just like the one that burns at the door of his palace at Kinkora when Brian Boru is there, and my foster-father says that when he goes to war a big candle like that always burns at the door of his tent at night."
"I suppose where those other handsome cloths are is where the queens and their ladies will sit," said Ferdiad, "and down at the end of the Hall where they are spreading the tables with deerskin must be for the servants."
At every place was laid a napkin, a platter, a cup for mead and a knife for cutting up the food, all of which was eaten with the fingers. In front of each was also a small dish of honey, of which every one was immensely fond and in which they liked to dip almost everything, even meat and fish.
Soon the dinner was ready and servants began bringing in great dishes of meat which later would be carefully carved and distributed according to the rank of the guests. Thus, a certain part of the roast ox was always given to kings and poets, another special part to queens, another to flaiths, and so on till all were served. There was one part, however, that was always the choicest of all; and of this Conn whispered to Ferdiad, "Who do you suppose will get the hero's morsel?" for this tidbit was the portion of the man who was thought by everybody to have performed the bravest or most heroic exploit.
"I don't know," answered Ferdiad, "of course there are lots of kings and chiefs here at the fair, but I don't know who has done the bravest thing. I dare say it will be the one who has fought and beaten the most Danes."
Just then, "Clear out now, youngsters!" said an official-looking man, who with two others had come into the Hall and taken their places close by the open door.
As the boys slipped out, "I guess it's time for the feast," whispered Ferdiad, "but let's wait outside and see the folks come."
Here one of the men at the door, lifting a large trumpet he carried, blew a loud blast and immediately a number of squires, who had been waiting near by holding the shields of their masters, marched up and handed them to the second of the three men who knew every shield and the rank of its owner. At a second blast from the trumpet the shields were taken into the Hall and hung on the hooks Ferdiad had noticed in the wall over the tables. It was a gay sight when all were placed; most of them were small and round, some made of wicker covered with leather and coated with lime which shone dazzling white, others painted in different colors, while many were ornamented with beautiful bands and bosses of gold and silver. When all were arranged the trumpeter blew a third blast, and at this the feasters began to arrive.
"There comes the high king!" said Ferdiad, as the aged monarch, wrapped in a rich purple mantle and attended by his followers, reached the door of the Hall. As he was giving the feast, he stood near the door and greeted each guest before turning them over to the third of the three men at the door whose business it was to seat each man under his own shield and to lead the ladies to the tables spread for them.
"Don't they look fine!" said Conn, as he gazed at the gayly dressed throng coming up the mound.
"Yes, indeed!" echoed Ferdiad, "and oh, there's my foster-father!"
Angus was with a group of kings and poets who came directly after the high king, and there was a sweet tinkling of musical branches as they passed.
"I wish my foster-father could go to the feast, too!" said Conn wistfully, flushing slightly at the thought that he was not of high enough rank to be one of the guests.
"Never mind," said Ferdiad quickly, "I'm sure he is a brave man from what you have told me about him, and I don't wonder you think so much of him. I think he was mighty good to take me into your tent to sleep, and I know my foster-father would like to meet him."
Conn looked pleased, and as he was not of an envious disposition, he said he hoped Angus would get the prize and that the high king would choose him for chief poet. "And oh," went on the boy, "if he does you will all come to live at Kinkora where Brian Boru's palace is and you know our home is near there and most likely you will go to the same monastery school where I go!"
"That would be fine!" exclaimed Ferdiad, "and do tell me more about Kinkora." And talking of this the two boys wandered off together through the long twilight.
Meantime within the Hall the feasting went merrily on; by and by the dark fell and all the kings'-candles were lighted, and then, when the feast was over, the chain of silence was shaken and the poets one by one stood out and sang their songs. But we have not time in this story to tell of what they sang nor of how beautifully they played on their harps, for they were very skillful musicians as well as makers of songs. Many fine poems were thus given, but, of course, Angus won the prize of the jeweled ring and was chosen by the high king to be his chief poet, while over his shoulders was hung the wonderful mantle of feathers, which was worn only by chief poets, and his silver musical branch was replaced by one of pure gold.
I say of course this happened to Angus, because Eileen was quite sure it would, and so was Ferdiad, and so was I when he came into this story which must move now for awhile to Kinkora; for Angus and his family would be expected to live in the poet's house by the palace of Brian Boru.
But before we go to Kinkora I must tell you how Ferdiad went with his foster-parents and Eileen back to their home near Kells where Angus wished to arrange his affairs before quitting it for the court of the high king.
Once upon a time, a Blind Man and a Man who could see were traveling together. When it came night, they rode into a meadow, dismounted, and lay down to sleep until morning. Before it was quite dawn, as they were about to start on their way again, the Blind Man sought for his whip. By chance a Snake was lying near by, frozen stiff with the cold. The Blind Man's hand fell upon it, and thinking to himself, "This is much softer than my old whip," he picked it up and mounted his horse.
As it grew light, the Man who could see glanced over at his companion and saw that he held a Snake in his hand. In great alarm he cried out,—
"Oh, comrade, what you imagine to be a whip is in reality a Snake. Be quick and throw it away before it bites you."
But the Blind Man only laughed. "What, are you envious of my good luck?" he replied. "I lost my whip, but some good fortune has placed this softer and better one in my hand. Pray do not think because I am blind that I am also a fool. I am not such a simpleton that I do not know the difference between a whip and a Snake."
"My good friend," answered the other Man, "for your own welfare, I beg of you to believe me and throw away this Snake."
But the Blind Man only clung the more tightly to the Snake, which, awakened by the warmth of the man's hand, coiled itself about his wrist and bit him so that he died.
Little brook! Little brook!
You have such a happy look—
Such a very merry manner, as you swerve and curve and crook—
And your ripples, one by one,
Reach each other's hands and run
Like laughing little children in the sun!
Little brook, sing to me!
Sing about a bumblebee
That tumbled from a lily-bell and grumbled mumblingly,
Because he wet the film
Of his wings, and had to swim,
While the water-bugs raced round and laughed at him.
Little brook—sing a song
Of a leaf that sailed along
Down the gold-hearted center of your current swift and strong,
And a dragon fly that lit
On the tilting rim of it,
And rode away and wasn't scared a bit.
And sing—how oft in glee
Came a truant boy like me,
Who loved to lean and listen to your lilting melody,
Till the gurgle and refrain
Of your music, in his brain
Wrought a happiness as keen to him as pain.
Little brook—laugh and leap!
Do not let the dreamer weep;
Sing him all the songs of summer till he sink in softest sleep;
And then sing soft and low
Through his dreams of long ago—
Sing back to him the rest he used to know!
WEEK 32 |
"Thine island loves thee well, thou famous man,
The greatest sailor since our world began."
A MONG the ships that had sailed into the harbour of Toulon under the flag of Admiral Hood was the Agamemnon, under the command of Horatio Nelson. He was not present on that fateful night when the British fleet had to escape into the storm, as he had been sent to Naples with despatches. But it is strange to think that the two greatest figures in the war between England and France should "for a moment have crossed each other's path at this very beginning of the struggle."
Nelson was born in Norfolk, England, eleven years before his great enemy Napoleon. Like the little Napoleon, he was one of a large family. His mother died when he was but nine years old. At an early age he was sent to school, and of his school-days many stories have been told. Here is one.
The brothers William and Horatio Nelson were returning to school on their ponies, after the Christmas holidays. The snow lay deep, and the boys thought this a good enough excuse for turning home again.
"The snow is too deep to venture farther," said William, as he met his father in the hall.
"If that indeed be the case, you shall certainly not go," was the reply; "but make another attempt, and I will leave it to your honour. If the road be found dangerous, you may return; yet remember, boys, I will leave it to your honour."
Off they set again. The road now became almost impassable with drifts of snow, but although the danger was great Horatio refused to return.
"We have no excuse," he said firmly. "Remember, brother, it was left to our honour."
Horatio Nelson was twelve years old when, one day, he heard that his uncle had been made captain of a large ship. The boy knew that his father was very poor, and had a struggle to bring up his eight motherless children. So he begged that his uncle might be asked to take him to sea. He was a sickly and fragile-looking little boy, and his uncle's answer was not exactly encouraging.
"What has poor little Horatio done," he cried, "that he, being so weak, should be sent to rough it at sea? But let him come; and if a cannonball takes off his head, he will at least be provided for."
Sad enough is the first picture of the little would-be sailor. It was a dull grey morning when he arrived at Chatham, and the boy shivered with cold as he wandered about the dockyard looking for his uncle's ship, bewildered by the strange sights that met his eyes for the first time.
After all his uncle's ship did not sail, and the boy was put on board a ship bound for the West Indies. At first he was very unhappy, and as he paced the broad quarter-deck of the vessel, ploughing her way over the stormy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, he yearned after his distant home in England. The voyage suited him well, and he returned, in 1771, a sunburnt lad of thirteen, with "every hair a rope-yarn and every finger a fish-hook."
He now joined a ship bound for the North Pole, and amid the frozen silence of the far north he learnt some of the lessons of his life.
One night,—so runs one story of him,—young Nelson and another youth stole away from the ship, which was fast among the ice, to try their luck in shooting a bear. Nelson, armed with a rusty musket, led the way in high spirits over frightful chasms of ice. It was not long before the two young adventurers were missed. A thick fog had come on, and the captain of the ship was in great anxiety about the boys. Between three and four in the morning the fog lifted, and the boys were discovered at some distance attacking a large bear. A signal was made to them to return at once. Nelson's companion obeyed.
"Let me but get one blow at him," cried Nelson eagerly.
But the captain saw what peril the boy was in. He fired hastily, and frightened the bear away. When Nelson returned he was severely scolded for his conduct, though the captain could not but admire the fearless courage of the young midshipman. Nelson was greatly agitated. "Sir, I wished to kill the bear, that I might carry its skin to my father," he murmured in self-defence.
At the age of fifteen Nelson possessed all the knowledge of an able seaman. In 1773, when Napoleon was but four years old, he was sailing off to the East Indies. But here the climate told on him. Disease took hold of him, he was wasted to a mere shadow, and sent home. Bitterly disappointed at the seeming failure, he felt he would never rise in his chosen profession. He fretted miserably about it, till one day he took himself in hand. "I will be a hero," he cried, "and, confiding in God, I will brave every danger."
This resolve to "do" now became the watchword of his life. It was an ever-growing passion till it ended in the grand finale, which will ring down the ages—"England expects every man to do his duty."
Nelson was appointed to the Agamemnon in 1793, and a few days later the French Republic, then at its fiercest heat, declared war on Great Britain and Holland. The dawn of a great war stirred the blood of English boys, and Nelson received a number of young midshipmen on board. Among them was Josiah Nisbet, his stepson, a boy about thirteen years old at this time. To these young sailors he gave this advice: "First, you must always implicitly obey orders, without attempting to form any opinion of your own respecting their propriety; secondly, you must consider every man as your enemy who speaks evil of your king; and thirdly, you must hate a Frenchman as you do the devil."
So in the year 1793 we have these two men—Nelson, a rising sailor in the service of England; Napoleon, a rising soldier in the service of the French Republic.
While they are preparing for the great struggle that was soon to take place, let us turn to two great explorers who were now playing their parts in unfolding the geography of Africa and South America.
E left Hindfell and he came into a kingdom that was ruled over by a people that were called the Nibelungs as Sigur's people were called the Volsungs. Giuki was the name of the King of that land.
Giuki and his Queen and all their sons gave a great welcome to Sigurd when he came to their hall, for he looked such a one as might win the name of being the world's greatest hero. And Sigurd went to war beside the King's sons, Gunnar and Högni, and the three made great names for themselves, but Sigurd's shone high above the others.
When they came back from that war there were great rejoicings in the hall of the Nibelungs, and Sigurd's heart was filled with friendship for all the Nibelung race; he had love for the King's sons, Gunnar and Högni, and with Gunnar and Högni he swore oaths of brotherhood. Henceforward he and they would be as brethren. King Giuki had a stepson named Guttorm and he was not bound in the oath that bound Sigurd and the others in brotherhood.
After the war they had waged Sigurd spent a whole winter in the hall of the Nibelungs. His heart was full of memories of Brynhild and of longings to ride to her in the House of Flame and to take her with him to the kingdom that King Giuki would have given him. But as yet he would not go back to her, for he had sworn to give his brethren further help.
One day, as he rode by himself, he heard birds talk to each other and he knew the words they were saying. One said, "There is Sigurd who wears the wondrous helmet that he took out of Fafnir's hoard." And the other bird said, "He knows not that by that helmet he can change his shape as Fafnir changed his shape, and make him look like this creature or that creature, or this man or that man." And the third bird said, "He knows not that the helmet can do anything so wonderful for him."
He rode back to the hall of the Nibelungs, and at the supper-board he told them what he had heard the birds say. He showed them the wondrous helmet. Also he told them how he had slain Fafnir the Dragon, and of how he had won the mighty hoard for himself. His two sworn brothers who were there rejoiced that he had such wondrous possessions.
But more precious than the hoard and more wondrous than the helmet was the memory of Brynhild that he had. But of this he said no word.
Grimhild was the name of the Queen. She was the mother of Gunnar and Högni and their half-brother Guttorm. And she and the King had one daughter whose name was Gudrun. Now Grimhild was one of the wisest of women, and she knew when she looked upon him that Sigurd was the world's greatest warrior. She would have him belong to the Nibelungs, not only by the oaths of brotherhood he had sworn with Gunnar and Högni, but by other ties. And when she heard of the great hoard that was his she had greater wish and will that he should be one with the Nibelungs. She looked on the helmet of gold and on the great arm-ring that he wore, and she made it her heart's purpose that Sigurd should wed with Gudrun, her daughter. But neither Sigurd nor the maiden Gudrun knew of Grimhild's resolve.
And the Queen, watching Sigurd closely, knew that he had a remembrance in his breast that held him from seeing Gudrun's loveliness. She had knowledge of spells and secret brews (she was of the race of Borghild whose brew had destroyed Sinfiotli's life) and she knew that she could make a potion that would destroy the memory Sigurd held.
She mixed the potion. Then one night when there was feasting in the hall of the Nibelungs, she gave the cup that held the potion into the hands of Gudrun and bade her carry it to Sigurd.
Sigurd took the cup out of the hands of the fair Nibelung maiden and he drank the potion. When he had drunk it he put the cup down and he stood amongst the feasters like a man in a dream. And like a man in a dream he went into his chamber, and for a day and a night afterwards he was silent and his mind was astray. When he rode out with Gunnar and Högni they would say to him, "What is it thou hast lost, brother?" Sigurd could not tell them. But what he had lost was all memory of Brynhild the Valkyrie in the House of Flame.
He saw Gudrun and it was as though he looked upon her for the first time. Soft were the long tresses of her hair; soft were her hands. Her eyes were like wood-flowers, and her ways and her speech were gentle. Yet was she noble in her bearing as became a Princess who would come into a kingdom. And from the first time she had seen him upon Grani, his proud horse, and with his golden helmet above his golden hair, Gudrun had loved Sigurd.
At the season when the wild swans came to the lake Gudrun went down to watch them build their nests. And while she was there Sigurd rode through the pines. He saw her, and her beauty made the whole place change. He stopped his horse and listened to her voice as she sang to the wild swans, sang the song that Völund made for Alvit, his swan-bride.
No more was Sigurd's heart empty of memory: it was filled with the memory of Gudrun as he saw her by the lake when the wild swans were building their nests. And now he watched her in the hall, sitting with her mother embroidering, or serving her father or her brothers, and tenderness for the maiden kept growing in his heart.
A day came when he asked Gunnar and Högni, his sworn brethren, for Gudrun. They were glad as though a great fortune had befallen them. And they brought him before Giuki the King, and Grimhild the Queen. It seemed as if they had cast off all trouble and care and entered into the prime of their life and power, so greatly did the King and the Queen rejoice at Sigurd's becoming one with the Nibelungs through his marriage with Gudrun.
When Gudrun heard that Sigurd had asked for her, she said to the Queen: "Oh, my mother, your wisdom should have strengthened me to bear such joy. How can I show him that he is so dear, so dear to me? But I shall try not to show it, for he might deem that there was no sense in me but sense to love him. So great a warrior would not care for such love. I would be with him as a battle-maiden."
Sigurd and Gudrun were wed and all the kingdom that the Nibelungs ruled over rejoiced. And Queen Grimhild thought that though the effect of the potion she gave would wear away, his love for Gudrun would ever fill his heart, and that no other memory would be able to find a place there.
WEEK 32 |
O NCE upon a time there was a lad named Jacob Boehm, who was a practical huntsman.
One day Jacob said to his mother, "Mother, I would like to marry Gretchen—the nice, pretty little daughter of the Herr Mayor."
Jacob's mother thought that he was crazy. "Marry the daughter of the Herr Mayor, indeed! You want to marry the daughter of the Herr Mayor? Listen; many a man wants and wants, and nothing comes of it!"
That was what Jacob Boehm's mother said to him.
But Jacob was deaf in that ear; nothing would do but his mother must go to the Herr Mayor, and ask for leave for him to marry Gretchen. And Jacob begged and begged so prettily that at last his mother promised to go and do as he wished. So off she went, though doubt was heavy in her shoes, for she did not know how the Herr Mayor would take it.
"So Jacob wants to marry Gretchen, does he?" said the Herr Mayor.
Yes; that was what Jacob wanted.
"And is he a practical huntsman?" said the Herr Mayor.
Oh yes, he was that.
"So good," said the Herr Mayor. "Then tell Jacob that when he is such a clever huntsman as to be able to shoot the whiskers off from a running hare without touching the skin, then he can have Gretchen."
Then Jacob's mother went back home again. "Now," said she, "Jacob will, at least, be satisfied."
"Yes," said Jacob, when she had told him all that the Herr Mayor had said to her, "that is a hard thing to do; but what one man has done, another man can." So he shouldered his gun, and started away into the world to learn to be as clever a huntsman as the Herr Mayor had said.
He plodded on and on until at last he fell in with a tall stranger dressed all in red.
"Where are you going, Jacob?" said the tall stranger, calling him by his name, just as if he had eaten pottage out of the same dish with him.
"I am going," said Jacob, "to learn to be so clever a huntsman that I can shoot the whiskers off from a running hare without touching the skin."
"That is a hard thing to learn," said the tall stranger.
Yes; Jacob knew that it was a hard thing; but what one man had done another man could do.
"What will you give me if I teach you to be as clever a huntsman as that?" said the tall stranger.
"What will you take to teach me?" said Jacob; for he saw that the stranger had a horse's hoof instead of a foot, and he did not like his looks, I can tell you.
"Oh, it is nothing much that I want," said the tall man; "only just sign your name to this paper—that is all."
But what was in the paper? Yes; Jacob had to know what was in the paper before he would set so much as a finger to it.
Oh, there was nothing in the paper, only this: that when the red one should come for Jacob at the end of ten years' time, Jacob should promise to go along with him whithersoever he should take him.
At this Jacob hemmed and hawed and scratched his head, for he did not know about that. "All the same," said he, "I will sign the paper, but on one condition."
At this the red one screwed up his face as though he had sour beer in his mouth, for he did not like the sound of the word "condition." "Well," said he, "what is the condition?"
"It is only this," said Jacob: "that you shall be my servant for the ten years, and if, in all that time, I should chance to ask you a question that you cannot answer, then I am to be my own man again."
Oh, if that was all, the red man was quite willing for that.
Then he took Jacob's gun, and blew down into the barrel of it. "Now," said he, "you are as skillful a huntsman as you asked to be."
"That I must try," said Jacob. So Jacob and the red one went around hunting here and hunting there until they scared up a hare. "Shoot!" said the red one; and Jacob shot. Clip! off flew the whiskers of the hare as neatly as one could cut them off with the barber's shears.
"Yes, good!" said Jacob, "now I am a skillful huntsman."
Then the stranger in red gave Jacob a little bone whistle, and told him to blow in it whenever he should want him. After that Jacob signed the paper, and the stranger went one way and he went home again.
Well, Jacob brushed the straws off from his coat, and put a fine shine on his boots, and then he set off to the Herr Mayor's house.
"How do you find yourself, Jacob?" said the Herr Mayor.
"So good," said Jacob.
"And are you a skillful huntsman now?" said the Herr Mayor.
Oh yes, Jacob was a skillful huntsman now.
Yes, good! But the Herr Mayor must have proof of that. Now, could Jacob shoot a feather out of the tail of the magpie flying over the trees yonder?
Oh yes! nothing easier than that. So Jacob raised the gun to his cheek. Bang! went the gun, and down fell a feather from the tail of the magpie.
At this the Herr Mayor stared and stared, for he had never seen such shooting.
"And now may I marry Gretchen?" said Jacob.
At this the Herr Mayor scratched his head, and hemmed and hawed. No; Jacob could not marry Gretchen yet, for he had always said and sworn that the man who should marry Gretchen should bring with him a plough that could go of itself, and plough three furrows at once. If Jacob would show him such a plough as that, then he might marry Gretchen and welcome. That was what the Herr Mayor said.
Jacob did not know how about that; perhaps he could get such a plough, perhaps he could not. If such a plough was to be had, though, he would have it. So off he went home again, and the Herr Mayor thought that he was rid of him now for sure and certain.
But when Jacob had come home, he went back of the woodpile and blew a turn or two on the little bone whistle that the red stranger had given him. No sooner had he done this than the other stood before him as suddenly as though he had just stepped out of the door of nowheres.
"What do you want, Jacob?" said he.
"I would like," said Jacob, "to have a plough that can go by itself and plough three furrows at once."
"That you shall have," said the red one. Then he thrust his hand into his breeches pocket, and drew forth the prettiest little plough that you ever saw. He stood it on the ground before Jacob, and it grew large as you see it in the picture. "Plough away," said he, and then he went back again whither he had come.
So Jacob laid his hands to the plough and—whisk!—away it went like John Stormwetter's colt, with Jacob behind it. Out of the farm-yard they went, and down the road, and so to the Herr Mayor's house, and behind them lay three fine brown furrows, smoking in the sun.
When the Herr Mayor saw them coming he opened his eyes, you may be sure, for he had never seen such a plough as that in all of his life before.
"And now," said Jacob, "I should like to marry Gretchen, if you please."
At this the Herr Mayor hemmed and hawed and scratched his head again. No; Jacob could not marry Gretchen yet, for the Herr Mayor had always said and sworn that the man who married Gretchen should bring with him a purse that always had two pennies in it and could never be emptied, no matter how much was taken out of it.
Jacob did not know how about that; perhaps he could get it and perhaps he could not. If such a thing was to be had, though, he would have it, as sure as the Mecklenburg folks brew sour beer. So off he went home again, and the Herr Mayor thought that now he was rid of him for certain.
But Jacob went back of the woodpile and blew on his bone whistle again, and once more the red one came at his bidding.
"What will you have now?" said he to Jacob.
"I should like," said Jacob, "to have a purse which shall always have two pennies in it, no matter how much I take out of it."
"That you shall have," said the red one; whereupon he thrust his hand into his pocket, and fetched out a beautiful silken purse with two pennies in it. He gave the purse to Jacob, and then he went away again as quickly as he had come.
After he had gone, Jacob began taking pennies out of his purse and pennies out of his purse, until he had more than a hatful—hui! I would like to have such a purse as that.
Then he marched off to the Herr Mayor's house with his chin up, for he might hold his head as high as any, now that he had such a purse as that in his pocket. As for the Herr Mayor, he thought that it was a nice, pretty little purse; but could it do this and that as he had said?
Jacob would show him that; so he began taking pennies and pennies out of it, until he had filled all the pots and pans in the house with them. And now might he marry Gretchen?
Yes; that he might! So said the Herr Mayor; for who would not like to have a lad for a son-in-law who always had two pennies more in his purse than he could spend.
So Jacob married his Gretchen, and, between his plough and his purse, he was busy enough, I can tell you.
So the days went on and on and on until the ten years had gone by and the time had come for the red one to fetch Jacob away with him. As for Jacob, he was in a sorry state of dumps, as you may well believe.
At last Gretchen spoke to him. "See, Jacob," said she, "what makes you so down in the mouth?"
"Oh! nothing at all," said Jacob.
But this did not satisfy Gretchen, for she could see that there was more to be told than Jacob had spoken. So she teased and teased, until at last Jacob told her all, and that the red one was to come the next day and take him off as his servant, unless he could ask him a question which he could not answer.
"Prut!" said Gretchen, "and is that all? Then there is no stuffing to that sausage, for I can help you out of your trouble easily enough." Then she told Jacob that when the next day should come he should do thus and so, and she would do this and that, and between them they might cheat the red one after all.
So, when the next day came, Gretchen went into the pantry and smeared herself all over with honey. Then she ripped open a bed and rolled herself in the feathers.
By-and-by came the red one. Rap! tap! tap! he knocked at the door.
"Are you ready to go with me now, Jacob?" said he.
Yes; Jacob was quite ready to go, only he would like to have one favor granted him first.
"What is it that you want?" said the red one.
"Only this," said Jacob: "I would like to shoot one more shot out of my old gun before I go with you."
Oh, if that was all, he might do that and welcome. So Jacob took down his gun, and he and the red one went out together, walking side by side, for all the world as though they were born brothers.
By-and-by they saw a wren. "Shoot at that," said the red one.
"Oh no," said Jacob, "that is too small."
So they went on a little farther.
By-and-by they saw a raven. "Shoot at that, then," said the red one.
"Oh no," said Jacob, "that is too black."
So they went on a little farther.
By-and-by they came to a ploughed field, and there was something skipping over the furrows that looked for all the world like a great bird. That was Gretchen; for the feathers stuck to the honey and all over her, so that she looked just like a great bird.
"Shoot at that! shoot at that!" said the red one, clapping his hands together.
"Oh yes," said Jacob, "I will shoot at that." So he raised his gun and took aim. Then he lowered his gun again. "But what is it?" said he.
At this the red one screwed up his eyes, and looked and looked, but for the life of him he could not tell what it was.
"No matter what it is," said he, "only shoot and be done with it, for I must be going."
"Yes, good! But what is it?" said Jacob.
Then the red one looked and looked again, but he could tell no better this time than he could before. "It may be this and it may be that," said he. "Only shoot and be done with it, for they are waiting for me at home."
"Yes, my friend," said Jacob, "that is all very good; only tell me what it is and I will shoot."
"Thunder and lightning!" bawled the red one, "I do not know what it is!"
"Then be off with you!" said Jacob, "for, since you cannot answer my question, all is over between us two."
At this the red one had to leave Jacob, so he fled away over hill and dale, bellowing like a bull.
As for Jacob and Gretchen, they went back home together, very well pleased with each other and themselves.
And the meaning of all this is, that many another man
beside Jacob Boehm would find himself in a
pretty scrape only for his wife.
"I have found a lovely blue wasp making its nest," said Theodore, running to his uncle. "Where is it?" and Uncle Will looked almost as excited as Theodore.
"Come along and see!" and they both ran to the henhouse, where Theodore pointed to a spot under the eaves. Sure enough, there was a bright blue wasp, shining like polished metal, and as busy as could be making its mud cells.
"What a beauty!" exclaimed Uncle Will.
"Beauty, I should think so!" cried Theodore jumping up and down with delight to think he had found it. "And it is a Pelopaeus; you said so, Uncle Will."
"Yes, it is a sort of cousin to our little brown friend whom we watched making her cells. There are several members of the Pelopaeus family, and this is one of the prettiest. Now come and see what I have found"; and Uncle Will led the way to the barn and pointed to what looked like a Pelopaeus nest, only it was nearly six inches long.
"My!" cried Theodore, "whoever heard of a wasp as long as that! Where is she?" and he looked apprehensively around.
Uncle Will laughed. "Don't be afraid," he said; "the builder of this nest is no larger than our little friend under the shed roof, but she has a slightly different way of nest-building. You see, instead of making a separate cave for each of her children, she makes one long one, and when she has put a number of spiders in the far end of it and laid an egg, she plasters up the opening with a neat partition. Then she brings more spiders, lays another egg, and again plasters up the opening. Thus she continues until she has made a line of cells all under one roof as it were. When this is done, she often makes another long canal beside the first one, and partitions it off in the same way."
"Dear me!" said Theodore, "I should think it would be easier to put all the spiders and eggs in one room. Why does each wasp child need a separate house?"
"Well, you see," said Uncle Will, pinching Theodore's ear, "the wasp babies are greedy little rogues, and since their mother goes away and leaves them to hatch out and grow up by themselves, if they were all together the strongest ones might eat up the share of the weaker ones, and even eat up the weaker ones themselves."
"Why, they would be no better than cannibals!" cried Theodore, aghast.
"Oh, but these young babies do not know any better."
"I see," said Theodore; "each one has to have its own pantry."
"And not be able to get into anybody else's pantry," added Uncle Will.
"I suppose," said Theodore, "the young wasps eat their way out by the roof so as not to get into their neighbor's place."
"I don't wonder you think so," said Uncle Will; "but the truth is, they all come out of the same opening. It is curious but true that the last egg laid is the first to hatch. The youngest nibbles a hole in the partition that leads out of doors, and when it has vacated the premises the one next behind eats through the partition into the empty cell and follows out through the open door."
"That is wonderful," said Theodore.
"It certainly is," said Uncle Will. "And now perhaps you would like to see the nest of the daintiest of all our masons. I found one on a bush this morning, and left it here for you."
"Why!" exclaimed Theodore, as Uncle Will showed him what he had found, "is that a wasp's nest? It looks like a little toy jug."
"Isn't it pretty, though!" said Uncle Will, as much pleased with it as Theodore himself.
"But did a wasp really make it?"
"Yes, indeed, and here she comes, for evidently it is not quite finished."
Sure enough, there came flitting along a graceful little wasp that began at once to plaster up the neck of the tiny vase, while Theodore and Uncle Will watched in eager delight.
"That is certainly the most interesting bit of pottery I ever saw made," said Uncle Will.
"How funny to build your house in the shape of a vase!" exclaimed Theodore.
"Yes, but aren't you glad she does?" added Uncle Will.
"I wonder what other wasp potters there are," said Theodore.
"I do not know about any others around here, unless you can call those little rascals that I once saw plastering up keyholes potters."
"Plastering up keyholes!" echoed Theodore. "Why were they doing that?"
"Probably," said Uncle Will, "because they don't see any use in building a house for themselves when they can find so good a one already provided by the keyhole. All they had to do was to plaster up the opening—and there they were!"
"But when somebody comes along and puts in the key, what then?"
"Oh, then they discover they have just committed an error in judgment," said Uncle Will, laughing.
"Will you walk a little faster?" said a whiting to a snail,
"There's a porpoise close behind us, and he's treading on my tail.
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle—will you come and join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you join the dance?
"You can really have no notion how delightful it will be
When they take us up and throw us, with the lobsters, out to sea!"
But the snail replied, "Too far, too far!" and gave a look askance—
Said he thanked the whiting kindly, but he would not join the dance.
Would not, could not, would not, could not, would not join the dance,
Would not, could not, would not, could not, could not join the dance.
"What matters it how far we go?" his scaly friend replied,
"There is another shore, you know, upon the other side.
The further off from England the nearer is to France—
Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance.
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, won't you join the dance?"
WEEK 32 |
ESUS went with his disciples through the land of Perea, on the east of the Jordan, the only part of the Israelite country that he had not already visited. The people had heard of Jesus from the seventy disciples whom he had sent through the land, as we read in Story 134, and in every place great multitudes of people came to see him and to hear him. At one time, one man called out of the crowd, and said to Jesus:
"Master, speak to my brother, and tell him to give me my share of what our father left us!"
"Man, who made me a judge over you, to settle your disputes? Let both of you, and all of you, take care and keep from being covetous, seeking what is not yours."
Then Jesus gave to the people the parable or story of "The Rich Fool." He said:
"There was a rich farmer whose fields brought great harvests, until the rich man said to himself:
"But God said to the rich man, 'Thou foolish one; this
night thou shalt die, and thy soul shall be taken away
from thee. And the things which thou hast laid up;
whose shall they
And Jesus said, "Such is the man who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
On one Sabbath-day, Jesus was teaching in a synagogue. And a woman came in who for eighteen years had been bent forward, and could not stand up straight. When Jesus saw her, he called her, and said to her:
"Woman, you are set free from your trouble of body."
He laid his hands upon her; and she stood up straight, and praised God for his mercy. But the chief man in the synagogue was not pleased to see Jesus healing on the Sabbath. He spoke to the people, and said:
"There are six days when men ought to work; in them, you should come and be healed, and not on the Sabbath-day."
But Jesus said to him and to the others:
"Does not each one of you on the Sabbath-day loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to give him water? And should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, who has been bound for eighteen years, be set free from her bonds on the Sabbath-day?"
And the enemies of Jesus could say nothing; while all the people were glad at the glorious works which he did.
At one place Jesus was invited to a dinner. He said to the one who had invited him:
"When you make a dinner or a supper, do not invite your friends, or your rich neighbors; for they will invite you in return. But when you make a feast, invite the poor, the helpless, the lame and the blind; for they cannot invite you again; but God will give you a reward in his own time."
And there went with Jesus great multitudes of people; and he turned, and said to them:
"If any man comes after me, he must love me more than he loves his own father, and his mother, and wife and children, yes, and his own life also; or else he cannot be my disciple.
"For who of you, wishing to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he will be able to finish. For if after he has laid the foundation, and then leaves it unfinished, every one who passes by will laugh at him, and say, 'This man began to build, and was not able to finish.'
"Or what king going out to meet another king in war, will not sit down first, and find whether he is able with ten thousand men to meet the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if he finds that he cannot meet him, while he is yet a great way off, he sends his messengers and asks for peace.
"Even so, every one of you must give up all that he has, if he would be my disciple."
E VERYTHING was for some time quiet above ground. The king was still away in a distant part of his dominions. The men-at-arms kept watching about the house. They had been considerably astonished by finding at the foot of the rock in the garden, the hideous body of the goblin creature killed by Curdie; but they came to the conclusion that it had been slain in the mines, and had crept out there to die; and except an occasional glimpse of a live one they saw nothing to cause alarm. Curdie kept watching in the mountain, and the goblins kept burrowing deeper into the earth. As long as they went deeper, there was, Curdie judged, no immediate danger.
To Irene, the summer was as full of pleasure as ever, and for a long time, although she often thought of her grandmother during the day, and often dreamed about her at night, she did not see her. The kids and the flowers were as much her delight as ever, and she made as much friendship with the miners' children she met on the mountain as Lootie would permit; but Lootie had very foolish notions concerning the dignity of a princess, not understanding that the truest princess is just the one who loves all her brothers and sisters best, and who is most able to do them good by being humble toward them. At the same time she was considerably altered for the better in her behavior to the princess. She could not help seeing that she was no longer a mere child, but wiser than her age would account for. She kept foolishly whispering to the servants, however—sometimes that the princess was not right in her mind, sometimes that she was too good to live, and other nonsense of the same sort.
All this time Curdie had to be sorry, without a chance of confessing, that he had behaved so unkindly to the princess. This perhaps made him the more diligent in his endeavors to serve her. His mother and he often talked on the subject, and she comforted him, and told him she was sure he would some day have the opportunity he so much desired.
Here I should like to remark, for the sake of princes and princesses in general, that it is a low and contemptible thing to refuse to confess a fault, or even an error. If a true princess has done wrong, she is always uneasy until she has had an opportunity of throwing the wrongness away from her by saying, "I did it; and I wish I had not; and I am sorry for having done it." So you see there is some ground for supposing that Curdie was not a miner only, but a prince as well. Many such instances have been known in the world's history.
At length, however, he began to see signs of a change in the proceedings of the goblin excavators: they were going no deeper, but had commenced running on a level; and he watched them, therefore, more closely than ever. All at once, one night, coming to a slope of very hard rock, they began to ascend along the inclined plane of its surface. Having reached its top, they went again on a level for a night or two, after which they began to ascend once more, and kept on at a pretty steep angle. At length Curdie judged it time to transfer his observation to another quarter, and the next night, he did not go to the mine at all; but, leaving his pickaxe and clue at home, and taking only his usual lumps of bread and pease-pudding, went down the mountain to the king's house. He climbed over the wall, and remained in the garden the whole night, creeping on hands and knees from one spot to the other, and lying at full length with his ear to the ground, listening. But he heard nothing except the tread of the men-at-arms as they marched about, whose observation, as the night was cloudy and there was no moon, he had little difficulty in avoiding. For several following nights, he continued to haunt the garden and listen, but with no success.
At length, early one evening, whether it was that he had got careless of his own safety, or that the growing moon had become strong enough to expose him, his watching came to a sudden end. He was creeping from behind the rock where the stream ran out, for he had been listening all round it in the hope it might convey to his ear some indication of the whereabouts of the goblin miners, when just as he came into the moonlight on the lawn, a whizz in his ear and a blow upon his leg startled him. He instantly squatted in the hope of eluding further notice. But when he heard the sound of running feet, he jumped up to take the chance of escape by flight. He fell, however, with a keen shoot of pain, for the bolt of a cross-bow had wounded his leg, and the blood was now streaming from it. He was instantly laid hold of by two or three of the men-at-arms. It was useless to struggle, and he submitted in silence.
"It's a boy!" cried several of them together, in a tone of amazement. "I thought it was one of those demons.
"What are you about here?"
"Going to have a little rough usage apparently," said Curdie, laughing, as the men shook him.
"Impertinence will do you no good. You have no business here in the king's grounds, and if you don't give a true account of yourself, you shall fare as a thief."
"Why, what else could he be?" said one.
"He might have been after a lost kid, you know," suggested another.
"I see no good in trying to excuse him. He has no business here anyhow."
"Let me go away then, if you please," said Curdie.
"But we don't please—not except you give a good account of yourself."
"I don't feel quite sure whether I can trust you," said Curdie.
"We are the king's own men-at-arms," said the captain, courteously, for he was taken with Curdie's appearance and courage.
"Well, I will tell you all about it—if you will promise to listen to me and not do anything rash."
"I call that cool!" said one of the party, laughing. "He will tell us what mischief he was about, if we promise to do as pleases him."
"I was about no mischief," said Curdie.
But ere he could say more he turned faint, and fell senseless on the grass. Then first they discovered that the bolt they had shot, taking him for one of the goblin creatures, had wounded him.
They carried him into the house, and laid him down in the hall. The report spread that they had caught a robber, and the servants crowded in to see the villain. Amongst the rest came the nurse. The moment she saw him she exclaimed with indignation:
"I declare it's the same young rascal of a miner that was rude to me and the princess on the mountain. He actually wanted to kiss the princess. I took good care of that—the wretch! And he was prowling about—was he? Just like his impudence!"
The princess being fast asleep, and Curdie in a faint, she could misrepresent at her pleasure.
When he heard this, the captain, although he had considerable doubt of its truth, resolved to keep Curdie a prisoner until they could search into the affair. So, after they had brought him round a little, and attended to his wound, which was rather a bad one, they laid him, still exhausted from the loss of blood, upon a mattress in a disused room—one of those already so often mentioned—and locked the door, and left him. He passed a troubled night, and in the morning they found him talking wildly. In the evening he came to himself, but felt very weak, and his leg was exceedingly painful. Wondering where he was, and seeing one of the men-at-arms in the room, he began to question him, and soon recalled the events of the preceding night. As he was himself unable to watch any more, he told the soldier all he knew about the goblins, and begged him to tell his companions, and stir them up to watch with tenfold vigilance; but whether it was that he did not talk quite coherently, or that the whole thing appeared incredible, certainly the man concluded that Curdie was only raving still, and tried to coax him into holding his tongue. This, of course, annoyed Curdie dreadfully, who now felt in his turn what it was not to be believed, and the consequence was that his fever returned, and by the time when, at his persistent entreaties, the captain was called, there could be no doubt that he was raving. They did for him what they could, and promised everything he wanted, but with no intention of fulfilment. At last he went to sleep, and when at length his sleep grew profound and peaceful, they left him, locked the door again, and withdrew, intending to revisit him early in the morning.
T HAT same night several of the servants were having a chat together before going to bed.
"What can that noise be?" said one of the housemaids, who had been listening for a moment or two.
"What can that noise be?" said one of the housemaids.
"I've heard it the last two nights," said the cook. "If there were any about the place, I should have taken it for rats, but my Tom keeps them far enough."
"I've heard though," said the scullery-maid, "that rats move about in great companies sometimes. There may be an army of them invading us. I heard the noises yesterday and to-day too."
"It'll be grand fun then for my Tom and Mrs. Housekeeper's Bob," said the cook. "They'll be friends for once in their lives, and fight on the same side. I'll engage Tom and Bob together will put to flight any number of rats."
"It seems to me," said the nurse, "that the noises are much too loud for that. I have heard them all day, and my princess has asked me several times what they could be. Sometimes they sound like distant thunder, and sometimes like the noises you hear in the mountain from those horrid miners underneath."
"I shouldn't wonder," said the cook, "if it was the miners after all. They may have come on some hole in the mountain through which the noises reach to us. They are always boring and blasting and breaking, you know."
As he spoke, there came a great rolling rumble beneath them, and the house quivered. They all started up in affright, and rushing to the hall found the gentlemen-at-arms in consternation also. They had sent to wake their captain, who said from their description that it must have been an earthquake, an occurrence which, although very rare in that country, had taken place almost within the century; and then went to bed again, strange to say, and fell fast asleep without once thinking of Curdie, or associating the noises they had heard with what he had told them. He had not believed Curdie. If he had, he would at once have thought of what he had said, and would have taken precautions. As they heard nothing more, they concluded that Sir Walter was right, and that the danger was over for perhaps another hundred years. The fact, as discovered afterward, was that the goblins had, in working up a second sloping face of stone, arrived at a huge block which lay under the cellars of the house, within the line of the foundations. It was so round that when they succeeded, after hard work, in dislodging it without blasting, it rolled thundering down the slope with a bounding, jarring roll, which shook the foundations of the house. The goblins were themselves dismayed at the noise, for they knew, by careful spying and measuring, that they must now be very near, if not under, the king's house, and they feared giving an alarm. They, therefore, remained quiet for a while, and when they began to work again, they no doubt thought themselves very fortunate in coming upon a vein of sand which filled a winding fissure in the rock on which the house was built. By scooping this away they came out in the king's wine-cellar.
No sooner did they find where they were, than they scurried back again, like rats into their holes, and running at full speed to the goblin palace, announced their success to the king and queen with shouts of triumph. In a moment the goblin royal family and the whole goblin people were on their way in hot haste to the king's house, each eager to have a share in the glory of carrying off that same night the Princess Irene.
The queen went stumping along in one shoe of stone and one of skin. This could not have been pleasant, and my readers may wonder that, with such skilful workmen about her, she had not yet replaced the shoe carried off by Curdie. As the king however had more than one ground of objection to her stone shoes, he no doubt took advantage of the discovery of her toes, and threatened to expose her deformity if she had another made. I presume he insisted on her being content with skin-shoes, and allowed her to wear the remaining granite one on the present occasion only because she was going out to war.
They soon arrived in the king's wine-cellar, and regardless of its huge vessels, of which they did not know the use, proceeded at once, but began as quietly as they could to force the door that led upward.
Tree-toad is a small gray person
With a silver voice.
Tree-toad is a leaf-gray shadow
Tree-toad is never seen
Unless a star squeezes through the leaves,
Or a moth looks sharply at a gray branch.
How would it be, I wonder,
To sing patiently all night,
Never thinking that people are asleep?
Raindrops and mist, starriness over the trees,
The moon, the dew, the other little singers,
Cricket . . . toad . . . leaf rustling . . .
They would listen:
It would be music like weather
That gets into all the corners
Every night I see little shadows
I never saw before.
Every night I hear little voices
I never heard before.
When night comes trailing her starry cloak,
I start out for slumberland,
With tree-toads calling along the roadside.
Good-night, I say to one, Good-by, I say to another:
I hope to find you on the way
We have traveled before!
I hope to hear you singing on the Road of Dreams!