WEEK 35 |
V ACATION was approaching. The schoolmaster, always severe, grew severer and more exacting than ever, for he wanted the school to make a good showing on "Examination" day. His rod and his ferule were seldom idle now—at least among the smaller pupils. Only the biggest boys, and young ladies of eighteen and twenty, escaped lashing. Mr. Dobbins's lashings were very vigorous ones, too; for although he carried, under his wig, a perfectly bald and shiny head, he had only reached middle age, and there was no sign of feebleness in his muscle. As the great day approached, all the tyranny that was in him came to the surface; he seemed to take a vindictive pleasure in punishing the least shortcomings. The consequence was, that the smaller boys spent their days in terror and suffering and their nights in plotting revenge. They threw away no opportunity to do the master a mischief. But he kept ahead all the time. The retribution that followed every vengeful success was so sweeping and majestic that the boys always retired from the field badly worsted. At last they conspired together and hit upon a plan that promised a dazzling victory. They swore in the sign-painter's boy, told him the scheme, and asked his help. He had his own reasons for being delighted, for the master boarded in his father's family and had given the boy ample cause to hate him. The master's wife would go on a visit to the country in a few days, and there would be nothing to interfere with the plan; the master always prepared himself for great occasions by getting pretty well fuddled, and the sign-painter's boy said that when the dominie had reached the proper condition on Examination Evening he would "manage the thing" while he napped in his chair; then he would have him awakened at the right time and hurried away to school.
In the fullness of time the interesting occasion arrived. At eight in the evening the school-house was brilliantly lighted, and adorned with wreaths and festoons of foliage and flowers. The master sat throned in his great chair upon a raised platform, with his blackboard behind him. He was looking tolerably mellow. Three rows of benches on each side and six rows in front of him were occupied by the dignitaries of the town and by the parents of the pupils. To his left, back of the rows of citizens, was a spacious temporary platform upon which were seated the scholars who were to take part in the exercises of the evening; rows of small boys, washed and dressed to an intolerable state of discomfort; rows of gawky big boys; snowbanks of girls and young ladies clad in lawn and muslin and conspicuously conscious of their bare arms, their grandmothers' ancient trinkets, their bits of pink and blue ribbon and the flowers in their hair. All the rest of the house was filled with non-participating scholars.
The exercises began. A very little boy stood up and sheepishly recited, "You'd scarce expect one of my age to speak in public on the stage," etc.—accompanying himself with the painfully exact and spasmodic gestures which a machine might have used—supposing the machine to be a trifle out of order. But he got through safely, though cruelly scared, and got a fine round of applause when he made his manufactured bow and retired.
A little shamefaced girl lisped, "Mary had a little lamb," etc., performed a compassion-inspiring curtsy, got her meed of applause, and sat down flushed and happy.
Tom Sawyer stepped forward with conceited confidence and soared into the unquenchable and indestructible "Give me liberty or give me death" speech, with fine fury and frantic gesticulation, and broke down in the middle of it. A ghastly stage-fright seized him, his legs quaked under him and he was like to choke. True, he had the manifest sympathy of the house—but he had the house's silence, too, which was even worse than its sympathy. The master frowned, and this completed the disaster. Tom struggled awhile and then retired, utterly defeated. There was a weak attempt at applause, but it died early.
"The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck" followed; also "The Assyrian Came Down," and other declamatory gems. Then there were reading exercises and a spelling-fight. The meager Latin class recited with honor. The prime feature of the evening was in order now—original "compositions" by the young ladies. Each in her turn stepped forward to the edge of the platform, cleared her throat, held up her manuscript (tied with dainty ribbon), and proceeded to read, with labored attention to "expression" and punctuation. The themes were the same that had been illuminated upon similar occasions by their mothers before them, their grandmothers, and doubtless all their ancestors in the female line clear back to the Crusades. "Friendship" was one; "Memories of Other Days"; "Religion in History"; "Dream Land"; "The Advantages of Culture"; "Forms of Political Government Compared and Contrasted"; "Melancholy"; "Filial Love"; "Heart Longings," etc., etc.
A prevalent feature in these compositions was a nursed and petted melancholy; another was a wasteful and opulent gush of "fine language"; another was a tendency to lug in by the ears particularly prized words and phrases until they were worn entirely out; and a peculiarity that conspicuously marked and marred them was the inveterate and intolerable sermon that wagged its crippled tail at the end of each and every one of them. No matter what the subject might be, a brain-racking effort was made to squirm it into some aspect or other that the moral and religious mind could contemplate with edification. The glaring insincerity of these sermons was not sufficient to compass the banishment of the fashion from the schools, and it is not sufficient to-day; it never will be sufficient while the world stands, perhaps. There is no school in all our land where the young ladies do not feel obliged to close their compositions with a sermon; and you will find that the sermon of the most frivolous and the least religious girl in the school is always the longest and the most relentlessly pious. But enough of this. Homely truth is unpalatable.
Let us return to the "Examination." The first composition that was read was one entitled "Is this, then, Life?" Perhaps the reader can endure an extract from it:
In the common walks of life, with what delightful emotions does the youthful mind look forward to some anticipated scene of festivity! Imagination is busy sketching rose-tinted pictures of joy. In fancy, the voluptuous votary of fashion sees herself amid the festive throng, "the observed of all observers." Her graceful form, arrayed in snowy robes, is whirling through the mazes of the joyous dance; her eye is brightest, her step is lightest in the gay assembly.
In such delicious fancies time quickly glides by, and the welcome hour arrives for her entrance into the elysian world, of which she has had such bright dreams. How fairylike does everything appear to her enchanted vision! Each new scene is more charming than the last. But after a while she finds that beneath this goodly exterior, all is vanity: the flattery which once charmed her soul now grates harshly upon her ear; the ballroom has lost its charms; and with wasted health and embittered heart she turns away with the conviction that earthly pleasures cannot satisfy the longings of the soul!
And so forth and so on. There was a buzz of gratification from time to time during the reading, accompanied by whispered ejaculations of "How sweet!" "How eloquent!" "So true!" etc., and after the thing had closed with a peculiarly afflicting sermon the applause was enthusiastic.
Then arose a slim, melancholy girl, whose face had the "interesting" paleness that comes of pills and indigestion, and read a "poem." Two stanzas of it will do:
A MISSOURI MAIDEN'S FAREWELL TO ALABAMA
Alabama, good-by! I love thee well!
But yet for a while do I leave thee now!
Sad, yes, sad thoughts of thee my heart doth swell,
And burning recollections throng my brow!
For I have wandered through thy flowery woods;
Have roamed and read near Tallapoosa's stream;
Have listened to Tallassee's warring floods,
And wooed on Coosa's side Aurora's beam.
Yet shame I not to bear an o'er-full heart,
Nor blush to turn behind my tearful eyes;
'Tis from no stranger land I now must part,
'Tis to no strangers left I yield these sighs.
Welcome and home were mine within this State,
Whose vales I leave—whose spires fade fast from me;
And cold must be mine eyes, and heart, and tête,
When, dear Alabama! they turn cold on thee!
There were very few there who knew what "tête" meant, but the poem was very satisfactory, nevertheless.
Next appeared a dark-complexioned, black-eyed, black-haired young lady, who paused an impressive moment, assumed a tragic expression, and began to read in a measured, solemn tone:
Dark and tempestuous was night. Around the throne on high not a single star quivered; but the deep intonations of the heavy thunder constantly vibrated upon the ear; whilst the terrific lightning reveled in angry mood through the cloudy chambers of heaven, seeming to scorn the power exerted over its terror by the illustrious Franklin! Even the boisterous winds unanimously came forth from their mystic homes, and blustered about as if to enhance by their aid the wildness of the scene.
At such a time, so dark, so dreary, for human sympathy my very spirit sighed; but instead thereof,
"My dearest friend, my counselor, my comforter and
My joy in grief, my second bliss in joy," came to my side.
She moved like one of those bright beings pictured in the sunny walks of fancy's Eden by the romantic and young, a queen of beauty unadorned save by her own transcendent loveliness. So soft was her step, it failed to make even a sound, and but for the magical thrill imparted by her genial touch, as other unobtrusive beauties, she would have glided away unperceived—unsought. A strange sadness rested upon her features, like icy tears upon the robe of December, as she pointed to the contending elements without, and bade me contemplate the two beings presented.
This nightmare occupied some ten pages of manuscript and wound up with a sermon so destructive of all hope to non-Presbyterians that it took the first prize. This composition was considered to be the very finest effort of the evening. The mayor of the village, in delivering the prize to the author of it, made a warm speech in which he said that it was by far the most "eloquent" thing he had ever listened to, and that Daniel Webster himself might well be proud of it.
It may be remarked, in passing, that the number of compositions in which the word "beauteous" was over-fondled, and human experience referred to as "life's page," was up to the usual average.
Now the master, mellow almost to the verge of geniality, put his chair aside, turned his back to the audience, and began to draw a map of America on the blackboard, to exercise the geography class upon. But he made a sad business of it with his unsteady hand, and a smothered titter rippled over the house. He knew what the matter was and set himself to right it. He sponged out lines and remade them; but he only distorted them more than ever, and the tittering was more pronounced. He threw his entire attention upon his work, now, as if determined not to be put down by the mirth. He felt that all eyes were fastened upon him; he imagined he was succeeding, and yet the tittering continued; it even manifestly increased. And well it might. There was a garret above, pierced with a scuttle over his head; and down through this scuttle came a cat, suspended around the haunches by a string; she had a rag tied about her head and jaws to keep her from mewing; as she slowly descended she curved upward and clawed at the string, she swung downward and clawed at the intangible air. The tittering rose higher and higher—the cat was within six inches of the absorbed teacher's head—down, down, a little lower, and she grabbed his wig with her desperate claws, clung to it, and was snatched up into the garret in an instant with her trophy still in her possession! And how the light did blaze abroad from the master's bald pate—for the sign-painter's boy had gilded it!
That broke up the meeting. The boys were avenged. Vacation had come.
Note. —The pretended "compositions" quoted in this chapter are taken without alteration from a volume entitled "Prose and Poetry, by a Western Lady"—but they are exactly and precisely after the school-girl pattern, and hence are much happier than any mere imitations could be.
W e have seen that Portugal missed the honour of sending out Columbus, although the people of that age scarcely realized that it was an honour. Six years after he crossed the Atlantic Ocean, a Portuguese sailor named Vasco da Gama made a voyage that was looked upon as being of far more importance, because it opened the way for trade with the far East for which merchants had been longing. He reached India by sailing around Africa. Navigators were already familiar with the western coast of Africa, and a few years earlier one of them had doubled the Cape of Good Hope; but of what lay beyond little was known.
Vasco da Gama, therefore, had been chosen by the king of Portugal to sail down the western coast, round the Cape of Good Hope, and then sail north up the eastern coast. When the day of departure had come, Da Gama and the men of the fleet and the courtiers all went down to the water's edge. The ships were ablaze with flags and standards. A farewell salute was fired, and the vessels floated down the river of Lisbon and out into the open sea.
On the voyage there were tempests and stormy winds, and the sea was rough day and night. When at last they thought that they must have sailed as far south as the southern point of Africa, they steered directly east. Alas, the shore soon came in sight. "There is no end to the land," declared the sailors, "it goes straight across the ocean." "Stand out to sea," commanded Da Gama. "Trust in the Lord, and we will double the Cape." On they went. The days grew shorter, the nights grew longer, and the cold rains fell constantly. Now the ships began to leak, and the men could never cease pumping. There was so little hope of safety that they no longer called upon God to save their lives, but begged Him to have mercy upon their souls. In the midst of all the distress, Da Gama strode about the ship, angry and fearless. "If we do not double the Cape this time," he declared, "we will stand out to sea again; and we will stand out as many times until the Cape is doubled, or until whatever may please God has come to pass."
By and by the sea grew calm, the wind moderated, and, however far they went to the east, no land was in sight. Then they knew that they had doubled the Cape. They were full of joy, and they praised the Lord, who had delivered them from death.
The Christmas season was at hand, which the Portuguese call Natal. They gave this name to the part of the coast off which they lay, and it has been so called ever since that time. After the shattered vessels had been repaired, Da Gama sailed onward up the coast of Africa as far as Melinda. There he found a native pilot who guided his ships across the Indian Ocean to Calicut, in Hindustan. After many adventures he returned to Portugal. The king gave him generous rewards, made him a noble, and bade that holidays should be celebrated in his honor throughout the kingdom.
Da Gama made two other voyages to India. On one of these he led a fleet of twelve ships and brought them back richly laden with spices and silks and ivory and precious stones. Finally he was made viceroy of India; and there he lived in much luxury and magnificence until his death.
For a time, the voyages of Columbus were almost forgotten. Vasco da Gama had found the way to India, and several countries of Europe, especially Portugal, were becoming rich by their trade with the East. What more could be asked?
A wet sheet and a flowing sea,
A wind that follows fast,
And fills the white and rustling sail,
And bends the gallant mast;
And bends the gallant mast, my boys,
While, like the eagle free,
Away the good ship flies, and leaves
Old England on the lee.
"O for a soft and gentle wind!"
I heard a fair one cry;
But give to me the snoring breeze,
And white waves heaving high;
And white waves heaving high, my boys,
The good ship tight and free —
The world of waters is our home,
And merry men are we.
There's tempest in yon hornèd moon,
And lightning in yon cloud;
But hark the music, mariners—
The wind is piping loud;
The wind is piping loud, my boys,
The lightning flashes free—
While the hollow oak our palace is,
Our heritage the sea.
WEEK 35 |
A LTHOUGH most of the people received William and Mary joyfully, some, chiefly in Ireland and Scotland, still looked upon James as the rightful King.
In Ireland especially there were many Roman Catholics, who would not acknowledge a Protestant King. The King of France hated William, so he helped James with money and ships, which enabled him to set out for Ireland to win his kingdom again.
James landed at a town called Kinsale and the Irish people welcomed him with great joy. But he felt disheartened almost at once for there had already been much fighting, and the country through which he had to pass was desolate and deserted, and at times he and his men could find hardly enough food to keep them from starving. Most of the Protestants had fled from the land or had shut themselves up in the two towns of Enniskillen and Londonderry. The soldiers of James besieged both these towns, but it was round Londonderry that the greatest fight took place.
Londonderry is on a river called the Foyle, and the enemy not only surrounded the town on the land side, but they built a bar across the river so that no ships could come to the town with food or help.
The walls were weak and the cannon few, and the Irish thought that the town could not hold out for long. The Governor, too, was a cowardly man, and did his best to dishearten the people, until it was suspected that he was a traitor. Indeed, he would have given in, but a brave old clergyman, called Walker, marched into his pulpit one morning with a sword in one hand and a Bible in the other, and preached such a rousing sermon that the people took heart and never lost it again through all the long weeks of hunger and suffering which they had to endure.
It was a dreadful time. The people had hardly anything to eat, but they held bravely on, hoping against hope that help would come to them from England. But day after day passed and no help came. Rats, mice, dogs, and horses, all were eaten, only tallow and skins remained. Still they held on. The soldiers were so weak at last from want of food that they could hardly stand, far less fight. They resolved to hold out for two days longer. Then the end must come.
But just as the sun was setting on the
There were three of them. On they came with all sail set. But how could they pass the dreadful bar which lay right across the river? On they came. One ship called the Mountjoy took the lead and, sailing with all its force, it crashed against the boom, as the bar was called.
With a tremendous noise the boom shivered and cracked, but the Mountjoy was not strong enough to break it through. The shock was so fierce that the ship was thrown backward and stuck in the mud, for the river was shallow.
A groan rose from the people on the walls, and their hearts grew sick with disappointment and fear, while the Irish soldiers on the bank cheered with triumph. But as the Mountjoy was thrown back, the second ship followed and dashed at the spot which the Mountjoy had hit. The boom, which was already cracked, gave way and, amid the noise of joyful cheers and of tearing, splintering wood, she sailed gaily over. Londonderry was saved.
That same night, eager hands unloaded the ships and, for the first time for three months, the people had enough to eat. A day or two later the army of James burned the tents and cabins in which they had lived while besieging the town, and went away.
But the struggle was not over. It lasted until the following year, when William himself came to Ireland. Then there was a great battle between the soldiers of James and the soldiers of William. It was called the Battle of the Boyne, because it was fought near a river of that name. James was beaten, and fled again to France, and William, with the crown upon his head, entered Dublin, the acknowledged King of Ireland.
"W HO has not wondered," I asked, many years ago, "as he has seen the red rim of the sun sink down in the sea, where the little brood of Mother Carey's chickens skimming round the vessel would sleep that night?" Here on the waves, no doubt, but what a bed! You have seen them, or you will see them the first time you cross the ocean, far out of sight of land—a little band of small dark birds, veering, glancing, skimming the heaving sea like swallows, or riding the great waves up and down, from crest to trough, as easily as Bobolink rides the swaying clover billows in the meadow behind the barn.
I have stood at the prow and watched them as the huge steamer ploughed her way into the darkening ocean. Down in the depths beneath me the porpoises were playing,—as if the speeding ship, with its mighty engines, were only another porpoise playing tag with them,—and off on the gray sea ahead, where the circle of night seemed to be closing in, this little flock of stormy petrels, Mother Carey's chickens, rising, falling with the heave and sag of the sea, so far, for such little wings, from the shore!
You will see them, and you will ask yourself, as I asked myself, "Where is their home? Where do they nest?" I hope you will also have a chance to answer the question some time for yourself, as I had a chance to answer it for myself recently, out on the Three-Arch Rocks, in the Pacific, just off the coast of Oregon.
I visited the rocks to see all their multitudinous wild life,—their gulls, cormorants, murres, guillemots, puffins, oyster-catchers, and herds of sea-lions,—but more than any other one thing I wanted to see the petrels, Kaeding's petrels, that nest on the top of Shag Rock, the outermost of the three rocks of the Reservation.
No, not merely to see the petrels: what I really wished to do was to stay all night on the storm-swept peak in order to hear the petrels come back to their nests on the rock in the dusk and dark. My friend Finley had done it, years before, on this very rock. On the steep north slope of the top he had found a safe spot between two jutting crags, and, wrapping himself in his blanket as the sun went down behind the hill of the sea, had waited for the winnowing of the small mysterious wings.
Just to sleep in such a bed would be enough. To lie down far up on the ragged peak of this wild sea rock, with the break and swash of the waves coming up from far beneath you, with the wide sea-wind coming in, and the dusk spreading down, and the wild sea-birds murmuring in their strange tongues all about you—it would be enough just to turn one's face to the lonely sky in such a spot and listen. But how much more to hear suddenly, among all these strange sounds, the swift fanning of wings—to feel them close above your face—and to see in the dim dusk wavering shadowy forms, like a troop of long-winged bats, hovering over the slope and chittering in a rapid, unbirdlike talk, as if afraid the very dark might hear them!
That was what I wanted so much to hear and to see. For down in a little burrow, in the accumulated earth and guano of the top, under each of these hovering shadows, would be another shadow, waiting to hear the beating of the wings and the chitter above; and I wanted to see the mate in the burrow come out and greet the mate that had been all day upon the sea.
This petrel digs itself a little burrow and lays one egg. The burrow might hold both birds at once, but one seldom finds two birds in the burrow together. While one is brooding, the other is off on its wonderful wings—away off in the wake of your ocean steamer, perhaps, miles and miles from shore. But when darkness falls it remembers its nest and speeds home to the rock, taking its place down in the little black burrow, while the mate comes forth and spreads its wings out over the heaving water, not to return, it may be, until the night and the day have passed and twilight falls again.
We landed on a ledge of Shag Rock, driving off a big bull sea-lion who claimed this particular slab of rock as his own. We backed up close to the shelf in a yawl boat, and as the waves rose and fell, watched our chance to leap from the stern of the little boat to the rock. Thus we landed our cameras, food and water, and other things, then we dragged the boat up, so that, a storm arising or anything happening to the small steamer that had brought us, we might still get away to the shore.
It was about the middle of the forenoon. All the morning, as we had steamed along, a thick fog had threatened us; but now the sun broke out, making it possible to use our cameras, and after a hasty lunch we started for the top of the rock—a climb that looked impossible, and that was pretty nearly as impossible as it looked.
It had been a slow, perilous climb; but, once on the summit, where we could move somewhat freely and use the cameras, we hurried from colony to colony to take advantage of the uncertain sunlight, which, indeed, utterly failed us after only an hour's work. But, as I had no camera, I made the best of it, giving all my time to studying the ways of the birds. Besides, I had come to stay on the peak all night; I could do my work well enough in the dark. But I could not do it in the wind and rain.
The sun went into the clouds about four o'clock, but so absorbed was I in watching, and so thick was the air with wings, so clangorous with harsh tongues, that I had not seen the fog moving in, or noticed that the gray wind of the morning had begun to growl about the crags. Looking off to seaward, I now saw that a heavy bank of mist had blurred the sky-line and settled down upon the sea. The wind had freshened; a fine, cold drizzle was beginning to fall, and soon came slanting across the peak. The prospect was grim and forbidding. Then the rain began. The night was going to be dark and stormy, too wet and wild for watching, here where I must hang on with my hands or else slip and go over—down—down to the waves below.
We started to descend at once, while there was still light enough to see by, and before the rocks were made any slipperier by the rain. We did not fear the wind much, for that was from the north, and we must descend by the south face, up which we had come.
I was deeply disappointed. My night with the petrels on the top was out of the question. Yet as I backed over the rim of that peak, and began to pick my way down, it was not disappointment, but fear that I felt. It had been bad enough coming up; but this going down!—with the cold, wet shadow of night encircling you and lying dark on the cold, sullen sea below—this was altogether worse.
The rocks were already wet, and the footing was treacherous. As we worked slowly along, the birds in the gathering gloom seemed to fear us less, flying close about our heads, their harsh cries and winging tumult adding not a little to the peril of the descent. And then the looking down! and then the impossibility at places of even looking down—when one could only hang on with one's hands and feel around in the empty air with one's feet for something to stand on!
I got a third of the way down, perhaps, and then stopped. The men did not laugh at me. They simply looped a rope about me, under my arms, and lowered me over the narrow shelves into the midst of a large murre colony, from which point I got on alone. Then they tied the rope about Dallas, my eleven-year-old son, who was with me on the expedition, and lowered him.
He came bumping serenely down, smoothing all the little murres and feeling of all the warm eggs on the way, as if they might have been so many little kittens, and as if he might have been at home on the kitchen floor, instead of dangling down the face of a cliff two hundred or more feet above the sea.
Some forty feet from the waves was a weathered niche, or shelf, eight or ten feet wide. Here we stopped for the night. The wind was from the other side of the rock; the overhanging ledge protected us somewhat from above, though the mist swept about the steep walls to us, and the drizzle dripped from overhead. But as I pulled my blanket about me and lay down beside the other men the thought of what the night must be on the summit made the hard, damp rock under me seem the softest and warmest of beds.
But what a place was this to sleep in!—this narrow ledge with a rookery of wild sea-birds just above it, with the den of a wild sea-beast just below it, with the storm-swept sky shut down upon it, and the sea, the crawling, sinister sea, coiling and uncoiling its laving folds about it, as with endless undulations it slipped over the sunken ledges and swam round and round the rock.
What a place was this to sleep! I could not sleep. I was as wakeful as the wild beasts that come forth at night to seek their prey. I must catch a glimpse of Night through her veil of mist, the gray, ghostly Night, as she came down the long, rolling slope of the sea, and I must listen, for my very fingers seemed to have ears, so many were the sounds, and so strange—the talk of the wind on the rock, the sweep of the storm, the lap of the waves, the rumbling mutter of the wakeful caverns, the cry of birds, the hoarse grumbling growl of the sea-lions swimming close below.
The clamor of the birds was at first disturbing. But soon the confusion caused by our descent among them subsided; the large colony of murres close by our heads returned to their rookery; and with the rain and thickening dark there spread everywhere the quiet of a low murmurous quacking. Sleep was settling over the rookeries.
Down in the sea below us rose the head of an old sea-lion, the old lone bull whose den we had invaded. He was coming back to sleep. He rose and sank, blinking dully at the cask we had left on his ledge; then clambered out and hitched slowly up toward his sleeping-place. I counted the scars on his head, and noted the fresh deep gash on his right side. I could hear him blow and breathe.
I drew back from the edge, and, pulling the piece of sail-cloth over me and the small boy at my side, turned my face up to the slanting rain. Two young gulls came out of their hiding in a cranny and nestled against my head, their parents calling gently to them from time to time all night long. In the murre colony overhead there was a constant stir and a soft, low talk, and over all the rock, through all the darkened air there was a silent coming and going of wings—wings—of the stormy petrels, some of them, I felt sure, the swift shadow wings of Mother Carey's chickens that I had so longed to hear come winnowing in from afar on the sea.
The drizzle thickened. And now I heard the breathing of the sleeping men beside me; and under me I felt the narrow shelf of rock dividing the waters from the waters, and then—I, too, must have slept; for utter darkness was upon the face of the deep.
Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!
WEEK 35 |
J ULES gave a lengthy account of the day to his brother and sister. At the part relating to the thunderbolt Claire trembled like a leaf. "I should have died of fright," said she, "if I had seen the lightning strike the pine." After the deeper emotion came curiosity, and they all agreed to beg their uncle for a talk on the subject of thunder. And so the next day Jules, Emile, and Claire gathered around their Uncle Paul to hear him tell them all about it. Jules broached the subject.
"Now that I am no longer afraid, will you please tell us, Uncle, why we should not take refuge under trees during a storm? Emile, I am sure, would like to know."
"I should first of all like to know what thunder is," said Emile.
"I too," said Claire. "When we know a little what thunder is, it will be much easier to understand the danger from trees."
"Quite right," commented their uncle, approvingly. "First let us see whether any one of you knows anything about thunder."
"When I was very small," Emile volunteered, "I used to think it was produced by rolling a large ball of iron made of resounding metal over the vault of the sky. If the vault broke anywhere, the ball was dashed to the ground and the thunder fell. But I don't believe that now. I am too big."
"Too big—a little fellow not so high as the first button on my vest! Say rather that your little reasoning powers are awakening and that the simple explanation of the iron ball no longer satisfies them."
Then Claire spoke. "I am not satisfied either with the explanations I used to give myself a while ago. With me, thunder was a wagon heavily loaded with old iron. It rolled on top of a sonorous vault. Sometimes a spark would flash out from under the wheels, the same as from a horse's hoof when it strikes a stone: that was the lightning. The vault was slippery and bordered with precipices. If the wagon happened to tip over, the load of old iron would fall to the ground, crushing people, trees, and houses. I laughed yesterday at my explanation, but I am no farther advanced now: I still know nothing at all about thunder."
"Your two thunders, varying to suit your infant imaginations, are based on the same idea, the idea of a sonorous vault. Well, know once for all that the blue vault of the sky is only an appearance due to the air which envelops us, and which, owing to the thickness of the envelope, has a beautiful blue color. Around us there is no vault, only a thick layer of air; and beyond that there is nothing for a vast distance until you come to the region of the stars."
"We will give up the blue vault," said Jules. "Emile, Claire, and I are persuaded there isn't any. Please go on."
"Go on? Here is where difficulty begins. Do you know, my children, that your questions are sometimes very embarrassing? 'Go on' is soon said; and, filled with unbounded faith in your Uncle Paul's knowledge, you expect an answer which, you feel sure, will satisfy your curiosity. You must, however, understand that there are innumerable things beyond your intelligence, and before you can grasp them you must attain to riper reason. With age and study many things will become clear that now are dark to you. In this number is the cause of thunder. I am very willing to tell you something about it; but if you do not understand all that I say you must blame your own premature curiosity. It is a difficult subject for you, very difficult."
"Only tell us about it," Jules persisted; "we will listen attentively."
"So be it. Air is not visible, one cannot take hold of it; if it were always at rest you would not, perhaps, suspect its existence. But when a violent wind bends tall poplars and scatters the leaves in eddies, when it uproots trees and carries off the roofs of buildings, who can doubt the existence of air? For wind is only air streaming irresistibly from place to place. Air, so subtle, so invisible, so peaceful in repose, is therefore in very truth a material substance, even a very brutal one when in violent motion. That is to say, a substance can exist, although at times nothing betrays its presence. We do not see it or touch it, are not sensible of it, and yet it is there, all about us; we are surrounded by it, live in the midst of it.
"Well, there is something still more hidden than air, more invisible, more difficult to detect. It is everywhere, absolutely everywhere, even in us; but it keeps itself so quiet that until now you have never heard of it."
Emile, Claire, and Jules exchanged glances full of meaning, trying to guess what it could be that was found everywhere and that they did not yet know of. They were a hundred leagues from guessing what their uncle meant.
"You might seek in vain by yourselves all day, all the year, perhaps all your life; you would not find it. The thing I am speaking of, you understand, is singularly well hidden; scholars had to make very delicate researches to learn anything about it. Let us make use of the means they have taught us to bring it to light."
Uncle Paul took from his desk a stick of
"The piece of
The Declaration of Independence was read from the steps of the governor's mansion at Williamsburg. Now, who do you think was governor? It was Patrick Henry. He had been elected before the news of the great event had reached Virginia. There he was in the mansion of the king's governors. He had won the first place in the state by his own merit.
His father and his wife, who had helped him in all the struggles on the farm and in the shop, were dead. But his aged mother, whom he loved very tenderly, was living to see his success.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and other Whig friends wrote him beautiful letters of greeting in his new office.
But the Tories laughed when they heard that Patrick Henry was elected governor. "A pretty governor he will make," they said, "with his buckskin breeches and homespun coat!"
But Governor Henry wished to represent the people as well as Lord Dunmore had represented the king. He wore a powdered wig and black velvet clothes, and long silk hose, and shoes with silver buckles, and in cold weather he wore an ample scarlet coat.
He did not walk the streets with his dog and gun any more, but rode in a carriage drawn by four horses, and saluted the people as gracefully as the king's governors had done. The people were very proud of their governor, and he was so kind and gentle that everybody loved him.
After a time he married the beautiful grand-daughter of Alexander Spotswood, who had once been the king's governor of Virginia. This made the rich planters respect him more than ever.
There was much for Governor Henry to do. The Tories were plotting mischief in the state, and the war in the North was raging.
General Washington wrote again and again to Governor Henry, asking him to send more men and more supplies, and he always sent them when he could.
In October, 1777, when the British General Burgoyne surrendered to the American army at Saratoga, New York, he said the Virginia regiment was the finest in the world.
But about that very time Washington, the pride of all the regiments, was defeated on the Brandywine, in Delaware. No one grieved over this misfortune more than Governor Henry. He hurried to send food and clothing to Washington's army.
Then he sent George Rogers Clark with a regiment to the far West to capture the forts held by the British north of the Ohio River. The Indians were awed and the forts were taken from the British.
If this expedition had failed, the country which makes the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, and a part of Minnesota might to-day belong to Canada. And so these states have much for which to remember Patrick Henry.
Now, according to law, a governor might only be elected three times in succession. When Henry's third term had expired, Thomas Jefferson was elected governor, and the great orator retired to his estate among the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It is quite certain that Patrick Henry would have strapped on his knapsack to fight for his country if he had not been needed to help make the laws. He was elected to the legislature to help provide means to carry on the war.
The British armies had failed in the North. So they came marching into Virginia to capture the South. They burned and plundered the towns on the coast. The people fled to the mountains.
The legislature kept moving from one place to another for safety.
One day the British General Tarleton was hurrying with his troopers to arrest the lawmakers. A Virginian captain, who saw him from the window of a tavern, mounted his horse and rode by the shortest way to Charlottesville. He burst into the room where the legislature sat, crying, "Tarleton is coming!"
There was a rush for three-cornered hats. The lawmakers decided, as they ran, to meet at Staunton, beyond the mountains.
They mounted their horses and fled in different directions.
It is said that as Patrick Henry, Benjamin Harrison, Judge Tyler, and Colonel Christian were hurrying along, they saw a little hut in the forest. An old woman was chopping wood by the door. The men were very hungry, and stopped to ask her for food.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"We are members of the legislature," said Patrick Henry; "we have just been compelled to leave Charlottesville on account of the British."
"Ride on, then, ye cowardly knaves!" she said in wrath. "Here are my husband and sons just gone to Charlottesville to fight for ye, and you running away with all your might. Clear out! Ye shall have nothing here."
"But," replied Mr. Henry, "we were obliged to flee. It would not do for the legislature to be broken up by the enemy. Here is Mr. Benjamin Harrison; you don't think he would have fled had it not been necessary?"
"I always thought a great deal of Mr. Harrison till now," answered the old woman, "but he'd no business to run from the enemy." And she started to shut the door in their faces.
"Wait a moment, my good woman," cried Mr. Henry; "would you believe that Judge Tyler or Colonel Christian would take to flight if there were not good cause for so doing?"
"No, indeed, that I wouldn't."
"But," he said, "Judge Tyler and Colonel Christian are here."
"They are? Well, I would never have thought it. I didn't suppose they would ever run away from the British; but since they have, they shall have nothing to eat in my house. You may ride along."
Things were getting desperate. Then Judge Tyler stepped forward: "What would you say, my good woman, if I were to tell you that Patrick Henry fled with the rest of us?"
"Patrick Henry!" she answered angrily, "I should tell you there wasn't a word of truth in it! Patrick Henry would never do such a cowardly thing."
"But this is Patrick Henry," said Judge Tyler.
The old woman was astonished; but she stammered and pulled at her apron string, and said: "Well, if that's Patrick Henry, it must be all right. Come in, and ye shall have the best I have in the house." Even this ignorant woman in the woods had heard of the courage and patriotism of Patrick Henry.
The legislature met again at last, and took measures to collect soldiers and supply food, clothing, and arms to fight the British.
The next year Washington himself came down from New York, and a French fleet, sent over by King Louis the Sixteenth of France, entered Chesapeake Bay. Lord Cornwallis, the British general, was hemmed in on all sides. He surrendered his army; and soon the British soldiers and many Tories sailed away and left the American colonies to govern themselves.
Three years later General Washington and Marquis de Lafayette visited Virginia. The state wished to do great honor to the commander-in-chief of the American armies and to the young French nobleman, who had fought for liberty. And so Patrick Henry was chosen to make a speech of welcome.
The French general did not understand the English language very well; but when he saw the glowing eyes and the speaking face, and heard the rich tones of the orator's voice, he said Mr. Henry was a wonderful man.
The splendor falls on castle walls
And snowy summits old in story:
The long light shakes across the lakes
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes dying, dying, dying.
O hark, O hear! how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
O sweet and far from cliff and scar
The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!
Blow, let us hear the purple glens replying,
Blow, bugle; answer, echoes dying, dying, dying.
O love they die in yon rich sky,
They faint on hill or field, or river:
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,
And grow forever and forever.
Blow, bugle, blow, set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer, dying, dying, dying.
WEEK 35 |
"You know," began Angus, "it was in the brave days of the Red Branch Knights, hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Every summer these famous warriors used to go to the dun of Concobar Mac Nessa, king of Ulster, which is in the northern part of Ireland, and while there they would practice drills and hold contests of strength and go through all sorts of feats of arms.
"One summer when they were thus visiting King Concobar, on a certain day a great flock of birds alighted on the wheat fields and began to eat the ripe grain. The king and a party of his knights went out with slings and stones to drive them off. But the birds kept flying farther and farther away till at last when it grew dark they had lured King Concobar and the rest to where a fairy mound rose from the banks of the river Boyne.
"When they looked about for somewhere to sleep, they could find only a tumble-down hut, and with this they had to content themselves; that is, all but one of the knights who went exploring further till he saw an opening in the fairy mound and entering it he came to a beautiful house and was met at the door by a handsome young man who told him his name was Lugh of the Strong Arm. In a little while the young man's wife came in and the knight stared with surprise for he recognized her as Dectera, a lovely girl who with fifty of her maidens had disappeared from the court of King Concobar a whole year before.
"When the knight went back to the hut where the others were and told what he had seen, King Concobar at once sent for Dectera to return to the court with him. She refused, but next morning they found in the hut her beautiful baby boy whom she had sent as a gift to the people of Ulster, for the Druids had made great prophecies about what a great hero he should be."
"Who were the Druids?" asked Conn.
"Why," said Angus, "they were the priests of long ago, before the blessed Saint Patrick came and taught our Celtic people about Christ and started the Christian religion in Ireland.
"But everybody in King Concobar's time believed what the Druids said," went on Angus, "so the Red Branch Knights took the baby back with them and found a nurse for him, and the king gave him a large piece of land and a rath for his inheritance and he was named Setanta. By and by, when he was seven years old, he was sent to be brought up in the court and be a foster-son of King Concobar. He was a fine strong boy and soon excelled all the other boys at court in running and leaping and riding horseback and shooting with bow and arrow and in hurling the spear, and all the things you boys now are being taught.
"Now one summer, when Setanta was about ten, King Concobar and some of the knights who had come again for the yearly practice in arms, decided to pay a two days' visit to their friend a flaith named Culain who lived a number of miles from the king's palace. When they were ready to start they asked Setanta to go with them, but he was busy playing a game of hurley and he wanted to finish it; so he said he would come later in the afternoon.
"The king's party went on, and Culain welcomed them and spread a great feast and by the time they had finished it was quite late in the evening, and they had forgotten all about Setanta. Then all at once they heard a most ferocious baying outside."
"Yes," cried Ferdiad, for the boys were very fond of this story, "it was the hound of Culain that had been let loose to guard the rath for the night, and it was as big and fierce as that lion beast that lives across the sea somewhere and everybody is so afraid of! One of the merchants from the south of Gaul told us about it at the fair!"
"I have heard of the lion," said Angus, "and they say it is very terrible, but I believe I would as soon meet it as one of our Celtic wolf-hounds on guard. As the folks in Culain's rath listened the noise grew louder as if the hound was fighting fiercely. At this they rushed out—"
"And there stood Setanta with his foot on the dead hound!" broke in Conn excitedly.
"Yes," said Angus, "when it sprang on him he had seized it by the throat and killed it all by himself. The king and knights were amazed and they carried Setanta into the house and declared he would be a great hero. But while they were all exclaiming about Setanta's feat, Culain stood apart, sad and silent; for he thought a great deal of his hound that had guarded his rath faithfully for years.
"As soon as Setanta noticed this, he said courteously to Culain that he was sorry he had been obliged to kill his hound, but that if he would give him a young dog he would train it so well that in a few years it would be as brave and faithful as the hound he had lost. And he said that meantime, if Culain would give him a spear and shield, he himself would stay and guard the rath from all harm.
"Wasn't that splendid of Setanta!" exclaimed Ferdiad.
"Yes, indeed!" answered Angus, "and from that time on he was called 'Cuculain,' and every one who knows the stories of our Celtic heroes knows that his is the most famous name of all. But that will do for to-day," and Angus rose to go into the house.
"I must go, too," said Conn, and as the boys strolled together to the door of the dun, he added, "Next week school begins in the monastery over the hill. I'll see you there, won't I?"
"Yes," said Ferdiad, "father Angus says that is where I am to go, so good-by till then."
An Ape once took up his abode in a corner of the desert where there were many fig trees. He was a wise creature, and reasoned thus with himself:
"I cannot live without food, and there is nothing here except fig trees. I must therefore eat sparingly of this fruit while it is ripe, and store away a quantity for my winter food."
Accordingly, it was his custom every day to shake a fig tree, eat a few green figs, and then dry the rest. One morning when he was in the top of one of the trees, a wild Boar ran by. He had been chased by a hunter far from his home. When the Ape saw the Boar, he trembled with fear so that the whole tree shook. The Boar, however, bowed low to the Ape, and said,—
"Do you want a guest?"
The Ape thereupon assumed a friendly air, and replied,—
"You are, indeed, most welcome. I regret only that I did not know beforehand of your coming. If I had, I would have prepared a feast in your honor. Now I have nothing to offer you but a few green figs."
The Boar again bowed humbly. "I have come a long distance," he replied, "and am hungry and weary. Anything, however simple it may be, that you will set before me, will taste as fine to me as a feast."
Thereupon the Ape shook the fig tree until not a single fig was left upon it. The Boar ate the fruit eagerly and should have been content, for the Ape had given him a generous meal. But, being a greedy creature, he remarked as he ate the last fig on the ground: "My dear host, these figs are delicious, but I am still ravenous with hunger. I pray you to shake another tree."
The Ape, who was still afraid of his guest, swung himself over into another tree and shook it. The Boar again fell to eating, nor was he satisfied when he had again swallowed the last fig.
"Make haste," he cried rudely to the Ape, at last forgetting his manners, his greediness was so great, "and find another tree as good as this last one."
But the Ape sat quietly where he was. You have already made way with more figs than I eat in a month," he said. "If I give you any more, I myself must starve, for these figs are my only source of food."
Then the Boar growled with rage. "To pay you for your stinginess, I will bring you down from that tree and eat you alive!" he shouted. He climbed into the tree, still growling, to bring down the Ape; but scarcely had he lodged in the first branch before it cracked beneath his weight and he fell to the ground, breaking his own neck.
WEEK 35 |
"Admirals all for England's sake,
Honour be yours; and fame
And honour, as long as waves shall break,
To Nelson's peerless name."
L ET us turn again to Napoleon and Nelson, now ready to begin their conflict.
It has been said that nothing in the history of the world is quite so wonderful as the history of Napoleon, with its monstrous triumphs and its tragic fall,—nothing is more wonderful than the history of France immediately after the Revolution. Her success in the wars that followed was immense, until, in the year 1796, she had won over as her friends Spain and Holland, though England and Austria were still her enemies. Now Austria ruled over a great part of Northern Italy, and it was against her that Napoleon was first sent in the spring of this year.
"Soldiers, you are half starved and half naked," said the young commander to his troops. "I will lead you into the most fertile valleys of the world: there you will find glory and riches."
His success in North Italy astonished not only France but Europe. The "Little Corporal," as his soldiers called him, fought eighteen pitched battles and won them all, till in little over a year he had made himself master of Italy and changed the face of Europe. He returned to Paris amid boundless enthusiasm. He had conquered the Austrians, but the English were still formidable.
"Go!" cried one of the Directors of France, clasping Napoleon to him,—"Go, capture the giant corsair that infests the seas."
Let us turn for a moment to the "giant corsair," and understand the danger of its strength to France. This very year the English had gained two great naval victories over the allies of France—Spain and Holland.
The first was fought off Cape St Vincent, where a Spanish fleet of twenty-seven ships was waiting to join two French fleets, when 100 sail would sweep proudly over the seas to invade the British Isles. Sir John Jervis, the English admiral, was cruising off Cape St Vincent, a headland on the coast of Portugal, to prevent the union of the fleets. Nelson was in command of one of his ships—the Captain. "The fate of England hung on the part he was about to play."
It was but daybreak on the morning of February 4, when a hazy dawn suddenly lifted, disclosing to the English admiral the Spanish fleet not far away. Huge ships loomed large out of the fog. Jervis signalled to prepare for battle.
"There are eight ships, Sir John," they reported to him, as one by one they appeared.
"There are twenty ships, Sir John," they reported presently.
"Very well," was the undaunted answer.
"There are twenty-seven ships, Sir John," was the next report, "and we are but fifteen."
"Enough—no more of that. The die is cast, and if there were fifty sail I would go through them."
The battle soon began. It would take too long to tell how Nelson was the moving spirit of it all,—how, with the genius of a great commander, he alone read the purpose of the Spanish admiral, and how he took the one step that saved England.
"Victory or Westminster Abbey!" he had cried, as with fiery zeal he had climbed the bulwarks of a huge Spanish vessel.
So the Spaniards were beaten, and the proposed invasion of Great Britain did not come off this time.
But there was danger of invasion from another of those allies who had recently made their peace with France. The Dutch navy was still renowned: it would help France to defeat England on the high seas.
All through the spring of this year—1797—a splendid Dutch fleet had been lying in the Texel, ready to take French troops to the invasion of Great Britain.
For five long months Admiral Duncan, of the British fleet, had blockaded the enemy's ships at the mouth of the Texel. But mutiny broke out amid English sailors, and one day nearly all his ships spread their sails and disappeared away to England to join the other mutineers. Admiral Duncan now did one of the pluckiest deeds ever chronicled in the annals of the sea.
"Keep the Texel closed!"—these were his orders. He would not fail in obedience. He knew there were some ninety-five ships in the Texel, thirty-three being battleships. Mustering his crew, he told the men that he meant to do his duty till the ship sank. They were in shallow water, and even when they were at the bottom, the flag of England would still fly above them.
" 'I've taken the depth to a fathom!' he cried,
'And I'll sink with a right good will;
For I know when we're all of us under the tide
My flag will be fluttering still.' "
So he anchored his ship at the mouth of the Texel, where the channel was very narrow, and there for three days and nights he "corked up the bottle which held the Dutch fleet." It was a moment of peril—one of the gravest perils of the whole war—when stout-hearted Admiral Duncan represented the sea power of England. In order to deceive the Dutch captains, he kept gallantly signalling to an imaginary fleet beyond the sky-line. The long hours of loneliness and anxiety passed, and the Dutchmen, cooped up in the river mouth, little dreamt that they were being held in check by a "deserted admiral upon a desolate sea."
When at last the Dutch ships emerged, Duncan's danger was over. His faithless vessels had returned to him, and he was only waiting his chance to fight the fleet of Holland. The two fleets met at last off the coast, on the morning of October 11. It was a squally day, and the ships rolled heavily in the dark waters of the North Sea, where the English and Dutch fleets strove for the mastery. The Dutch fleet was one of the finest that ever put to sea, and the men fought with a stubborn courage worthy of their old fame. It was not till their ships were riddled with shot, their masts falling, and their sailors dying by hundreds, that the Dutch admiral, De Winter, was obliged to surrender to the English. The victory assured, old Admiral Duncan—for he was sixty-six—called his crew on deck, and with faces still black with powder, they knelt on the "shot-torn planks" to thank God for their success.
So the crushing victory of Camperdown consoled "one of the bravest of the brave for an agony unrivalled in the story of the sea."
Admiral Duncan had broken the naval strength of Holland. No more need England fear her power by sea.
NOW fell on the four quarters of the world; icy winds blew from every side; the sun and the moon were hidden by storms. It was the Fimbul Winter: no spring came and no summer; no autumn brought harvest or fruit, and winter grew into winter again.
There was three years' winter. The first was called the Winter of Winds: storms blew and snows drove down and frosts were mighty. The children of men might hardly keep alive in that dread winter.
The second winter was called the Winter of the Sword: those who were left alive amongst men robbed and slew for what was left to feed on; brother fell on brother and slew him, and over all the world there were mighty battles.
And the third winter was called the Winter of the Wolf. Then the ancient witch who lived in Jarnvid, the Iron Wood, fed the Wolf Managarm on unburied men and on the corpses of those who fell in battle. Mightily grew and flourished the Wolf that was to be the devourer of Mani, the Moon. The Champions in Valhalla would find their seats splashed with the blood that Managarm dashed from his jaws; this was a sign to the Gods that the time of the last battle was approaching.
COCK crew; far down in the bowels of the earth he was and beside Hela's habitation: the rust-red cock of Hel crew, and his crowing made a stir in the lower worlds. In Jötunheim a cock crew, Fialar, the crimson cock, and at his crowing the Giants aroused themselves. High up in Asgard a cock crew, the golden cock Gullinkambir, and at his crowing the Champions in Valhalla bestirred themselves.
A dog barked; deep down in the earth a dog barked; it was Garm, the hound with bloody mouth, barking in Gnipa's Cave. The Dwarfs who heard groaned before their doors of stone. The tree Ygdrassil moaned in all its branches. There was a rending noise as the Giants moved their ship; there was a trampling sound as the hosts of Muspelheim gathered their horses.
But Jötunheim and Muspelheim and Hel waited tremblingly; it might be that Fenrir the Wolf might not burst the bonds wherewith the Gods had bound him. Without his being loosed the Gods might not be destroyed. And then was heard the rending of the rock as Fenrir broke loose. For the second time the Hound Garm barked in Gnipa's Cave.
Then was heard the galloping of the horses of the riders of Muspelheim; then was heard the laughter of Loki; then was heard the blowing of Heimdall's horn; then was heard the opening of Valhalla's five hundred and forty doors, as eight hundred Champions made ready to pass through each door.
Odin took council with Mimir's head. Up from the waters of the Well of Wisdom he drew it, and by the power of the runes he knew he made the head speak to him. Where best might the Æsir and the Vanir and the Einherjar, who were the Champions of Midgard, meet, and how best might they strive with the forces of Muspelheim and Jötunheim and Hel? The head of Mimir counseled Odin to meet them on Vigard Plain to wage there such war that the powers of evil would be destroyed for ever, even though his own world should be destroyed with them.
The riders of Muspelheim reached Bifröst, the Rainbow Bridge. Now would they storm the City of the Gods and fill it with flame. But Bifröst broke under the weight of the riders of Muspelheim, and they came not to the City of the Gods.
Jörmungand, the serpent that encircles the world, reared itself up from the sea. The waters flooded the lands, and the remnant of the world's inhabitants was swept away. That mighty flood floated Naglfar, the Ship of Nails that the Giants were so long building, and floated the ship of Hel also. With Hrymer the Giant steering it, Naglfar sailed against the Gods, with all the powers of Jötunheim aboard. And Loki steered the ship of Hel with the Wolf Fenrir upon it for the place of the last battle.
Since Bifröst was broken, the Æsir and the Vanir, the Asyniur and the Vana, the Einherjar and the Valkyries rode downward to Vigard through the waters of Thund. Odin rode at the head of his Champions. His helmet was of gold and in his hand was his spear Gungnir. Thor and Tyr were in his company.
In Mirkvid, the Dark Forest, the Vanir stood against the host of Muspelheim. From the broken end of the Rainbow Bridge the riders came, all flashing and flaming, with fire before them and after them. Niord was there with Skadi, his Giant wife, fierce in her war-dress; Freya was there also, and Frey had Gerda beside him as a battle-maiden. Terribly bright flashed Surtur's sword. No sword ever owned was as bright as his except the sword that Frey had given to Skirnir. Frey and Surtur fought; he perished, Frey perished in that battle, but he would not have perished if he had had in his hand his own magic sword.
And now, for the third time, Garm, the hound with blood upon his jaws, barked. He had broken loose on the world, and with fierce bounds he rushed towards Vigard Plain, where the Gods had assembled their powers. Loud barked Garm. The Eagle Hræsvelgur screamed on the edge of heaven. Then the skies were cloven, and the tree Ygdrassil was shaken in all its roots.
To the place where the Gods had drawn up their ranks came the ship of Jötunheim and the ship of Hel, came the riders of Muspelheim, and Garm, the hound with blood upon his jaws. And out of the sea that now surrounded the plain of Vigard the serpent Jörmungand came.
What said Odin to the Gods and to the Champions who surrounded him? "We will give our lives and let our world be destroyed, but we will battle so that these evil powers will not live after us." Out of Hel's ship sprang Fenrir the Wolf. His mouth gaped; his lower jaw hung against the earth, and his upper jaw scraped the sky. Against the Wolf Odin All-Father fought. Thor might not aid him, for Thor had now to encounter Jörmungand, the monstrous serpent.
By Fenrir the Wolf Odin was slain. But the younger Gods were now advancing to the battle; and Vidar, the Silent God, came face to face with Fenrir. He laid his foot on the Wolf's lower jaw, that foot that had on the sandal made of all the scraps of leather that shoemakers had laid by for him, and with his hands he seized the upper jaw and tore his gullet. Thus died Fenfir, the fiercest of all the enemies of the Gods.
Jörmungand, the monstrous serpent, would have overwhelmed all with the venom he was ready to pour forth. But Thor sprang forward and crushed him with a stroke of his hammer Miölnir. Then Thor stepped back nine paces. But the serpent blew his venom over him, and blinded and choked and burnt, Thor, the World's Defender, perished.
Loki sprang from his ship and strove with Heimdall, the Warder of the Rainbow Bridge and the Watcher for the Gods. Loki slew Heimdall and was slain by him.
Bravely fought Tyr, the God who had sacrificed his sword hand for the binding of the Wolf. Bravely he fought, and many of the powers of evil perished by his strong left hand. But Garm, the hound with bloody jaws, slew Tyr.
And now the riders of Muspelheim came down on the field. Bright and gleaming were all their weapons. Before them and behind them went wasting fires. Surtur cast fire upon the earth; the tree Ygdrassil took fire and burned in all its great branches; the World Tree was wasted in the blaze. But the fearful fire that Surtur brought on the earth destroyed him and all his host.
The Wolf Hati caught up on Sol, the Sun; the Wolf Managarm seized on Mani, the Moon; they devoured them; stars fell, and darkness came down on the world.
HE seas flowed over the burnt and wasted earth and the skies were dark above the sea, for Sol and Mani were no more. But at last the seas drew back and earth appeared again, green and beautiful. A new Sun and a new Moon appeared in the heavens, one a daughter of Sol and the other a daughter of Mani. No grim wolves kept them in pursuit
Four of the younger Gods stood on the highest of the world's peaks; they were Vidar and Vali, the sons of Odin, and Modi and Magni, the sons of Thor. Modi and Magni found Miölnir, Thor's hammer, and with it they slew the monsters that still raged through the world, the Hound Garm and the Wolf Managarm.
Vidar and Vali found in the grass the golden tablets on which were inscribed the runes of wisdom of the elder Gods. The runes told them of a heaven that was above Asgard, of Gimli, that was untouched by Surtur's fire. Vili and Ve, Will and Holiness, ruled in it. Baldur and Hodur came from Hela's habitation, and the Gods sat on the peak together and held speech with each other, calling to mind the secrets and the happenings they had known before Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods.
Deep in a wood two of human kind were left; the fire of Surtur did not touch them; they slept, and when they wakened the world was green and beautiful again. These two fed on the dews of the morning; a woman and a man they were, Lif and Lifthrasir. They walked abroad in the world, and from them and from their children came the men and women who spread themselves over the earth.
Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland lass,
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
Oh, listen! for the vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.
No nightingale did ever chant
So sweetly to reposing bands
Of travelers in some shady haunt
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard
In springtime from the cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.
Will no one tell me what she sings?
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day,
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?
Whate'er the theme, the maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending.
I listened motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore
Long after it was heard no more.
WEEK 35 |
When man's strength fails, woman's wit prevails.
I N the days when the great and wise King Solomon lived and ruled, evil spirits and demons were as plentiful in the world as wasps in summer.
So King Solomon, who was so wise and knew so many potent spells that he had power over evil such as no man has had before or since, set himself to work to put those enemies of mankind out of the way. Some he conjured into bottles, and sank into the depths of the sea; some he buried in the earth; some he destroyed altogether, as one burns hair in a candle-flame.
Now, one pleasant day when King Solomon was walking in his garden with his hands behind his back, and his thoughts busy as bees with this or that, he came face to face with a Demon, who was a prince of his kind. "Ho, little man!" cried the evil spirit, in a loud voice, "art not thou the wise King Solomon who conjures my brethren into brass chests and glass bottles? Come, try a fall at wrestling with me, and whoever conquers shall be master over the other for all time. What do you say to such an offer as that?"
"I say aye!" said King Solomon, and, without another word, he stripped off his royal robes and stood bare breasted, man to man with the other.
The world never saw the like of that wrestling match betwixt the king and the Demon, for they struggled and strove together from the seventh hour in the morning to the sunset in the evening, and during that time the sky was clouded over as black as night, and the lightning forked and shot, and the thunder roared and bellowed, and the earth shook and quaked.
But at last the king gave the enemy an under twist, and flung him down on the earth so hard that the apples fell from the trees; and then, panting and straining, he held the evil one down, knee on neck. Thereupon the sky presently cleared again, and all was as pleasant as a spring day.
King Solomon bound the Demon with spells, and made him serve him for seven years. First, he had him build a splendid palace, the like of which was not to be seen within the bounds of the seven rivers; then he made him set around the palace a garden, such as I for one wish I may see some time or other. Then, when the Demon had done all that the king wished, the king conjured him into a bottle, corked it tightly, and set the royal seal on the stopper. Then he took the bottle a thousand miles away into the wilderness, and, when no man was looking, buried it in the ground, and this is the way the story begins.
Well, the years came and the years went, and the world grew older and older, and kept changing (as all things do but two), so that by-and-by the wilderness where King Solomon had hid the bottle became a great town, with people coming and going, and all as busy as bees about their own business and other folks' affairs.
Among these towns-people was a little Tailor, who made clothes for many a worse man to wear, and who lived all alone in a little house with no one to darn his stockings for him, and no one to meddle with his coming and going, for he was a bachelor.
The little Tailor was a thrifty soul, and by hook and crook had laid by enough money to fill a small pot, and then he had to bethink himself of some safe place to hide it. So one night he took a spade and a lamp and went out in the garden to bury his money. He drove his spade into the ground—and click! He struck something hard that rang under his foot with a sound as of iron. "Hello!" said he, "what have we here?" and if he had known as much as you and I do, he would have filled in the earth, and tramped it down, and have left that plate of broth for somebody else to burn his mouth with.
As it was, he scraped away the soil, and then he found a box of adamant, with a ring in the lid to lift it by.
The Tailor clutched the ring and bent his back, and up came the box with the damp earth sticking to it. He cleaned the mould away, and there he saw, written in red letters, these words:
You may be sure that after he had read these words he was not long in breaking open the lid of the box with his spade.
Inside the first box he found a second, and upon it the same words:
Within the second box was another, and within that still another, until there were seven in all, and on each was written the same words:
Inside the seventh box was a roll of linen, and inside that a bottle filled with nothing but blue smoke; and I wish that bottle had burned the Tailor's fingers when he touched it.
"And is this all?" said the little Tailor, turning the bottle upside down and shaking it, and peeping at it by the light of the lamp. "Well, since I have gone so far I might as well open it, as I have already opened the seven boxes." Thereupon he broke the seal that stoppered it.
Pop! out flew the cork, and—Puff! Out came the smoke; not all at once, but in a long thread that rose up as high as the stars, and then spread until it hid their light.
The Tailor stared and goggled and gaped to see so much smoke come out of such a little bottle, and, as he goggled and stared, the smoke began to gather together again, thicker and thicker, and darker and darker, until it was as black as ink. Then out from it there stepped one with eyes that shone like sparks of fire, and who had a countenance so terrible that the Tailor's skin quivered and shrivelled, and his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth at the sight of it.
"Who are thou?" said the terrible being, in a voice that made the very marrow of the poor Tailor's bones turn soft from terror.
"If you please, sir," said he, "I am only a little tailor."
The evil being lifted up both hands and eyes. "How wonderful," he cried, "that one little tailor can undo in a moment that which took the wise Solomon a whole day to accomplish, and in the doing of which he wellnigh broke the sinews of his heart!" Then, turning to the Tailor, who stood trembling like a rabbit, "Hark thee!" said he. "For two thousand years I lay there in that bottle, and no one came nigh to aid me. Thou hast liberated me, and thou shalt not go unrewarded. Every morning at the seventh hour I will come to thee, and I will perform for thee whatever task thou mayst command me. But there is one condition attached to the agreement, and woe be to thee if that condition is broken. If any morning I should come to thee, and thou hast no task for me to do, I shall wring thy neck as thou mightest wring the neck of a sparrow." Thereupon he was gone in an instant, leaving the little Tailor half dead with terror.
Now it happened that the prime-minister of that country had left an order with the Tailor for a suit of clothes, so the next morning, when the Demon came, the little man set him to work on the bench, with his legs tucked up like a journey-man tailor. "I want," said he, "such and such a suit of clothes."
"You shall have them," said the Demon; and thereupon he began snipping in the air, and cutting most wonderful patterns of silks and satins out of nothing at all, and the little Tailor sat and gaped and stared.
Then the Demon began to drive the needle like a spark of fire—the like was never seen in all the seven kingdoms, for the clothes seemed to make themselves.
At last, at the end of a little while, the Demon stood up and brushed his hands. "They are done," said he, and thereupon he instantly vanished. But the Tailor cared little for that, for upon the bench there lay such a suit of clothes of silk and satin stuff, sewed with threads of gold and silver and set with jewels, as the eyes of man never saw before; and the Tailor packed them up and marched off with them himself to the prime-minister.
The prime-minister wore the clothes to court that very day, and before evening they were the talk of the town. All the world ran to the Tailor and ordered clothes of him, and his fortune was made. Every day the Demon created new suits of clothes out of nothing at all, so that the Tailor grew as rich as a Jew, and held his head up in the world.
As time went along he laid heavier and heavier tasks upon the Demon's back, and demanded of him more and more; but all the while the Demon kept his own counsel, and said never a word.
One morning, as the Tailor sat in his shop window taking the world easy—for he had little or nothing to do now—he heard a great hubbub in the street below, and when he looked down he saw that it was the king's daughter passing by.
It was the first time that the Tailor had seen her, and when he saw her his heart stood still within him, and then began fluttering like a little bird, for one so beautiful was not to be met with in the four corners of the world. Then she was gone.
All that day the little Tailor could do nothing but sit and think of the princess, and the next morning when the Demon came he was thinking of her still.
"What hast thou for me to do to-day?" said the Demon, as he always said of a morning.
The little Tailor was waiting for the question.
"I would like you," said he, "to send to the king's palace, and to ask him to let me have his daughter for my wife."
"Thou shalt have thy desire," said the Demon. Thereupon he smote his hands together like a clap of thunder, and instantly the walls of the room clove asunder, and there came out four-and-twenty handsome youths, clad in cloth of gold and silver. After these four-and-twenty there came another one who was the chief of them all, and before whom, splendid as they were, the four-and-twenty paled like stars in daylight. "Go to the king's palace," said the Demon to that one, "and deliver this message: The Tailor of Tailors, the Master of Masters, and One Greater than a King asks for his daughter to wife."
"To hear is to obey," said the other, and bowed his forehead to the earth.
Never was there such a hubbub in the town as when those five-and-twenty, in their clothes of silver and gold, rode through the streets to the king's palace. As they came near, the gates of the palace flew open before them, and the king himself came out to meet them. The leader of the five-and-twenty leaped from his horse, and, kissing the ground before the king, delivered his message: "The Tailor of Tailors, the Master of Masters, and One Greater than a King asks for thy daughter to wife."
When the king heard what the messenger said, he thought and pondered a long time. At last he said, "If he who sent you is the Master of Masters, and greater than a king, let him send me an asking gift such as no king could send."
"It shall be as you desire," said the messenger, and thereupon the five-and-twenty rode away as they had come, followed by crowds of people.
The next morning when the Demon came the tailor was ready and waiting for him. "What hast thou for me to do to-day?" said the Evil One.
"I want," said the tailor, "a gift to send to the king such as no other king could send him."
"Thou shalt have thy desire," said the Demon. Thereupon he smote his hands together, and summoned, not five-and-twenty young men, but fifty youths, all clad in clothes more splendid than the others.
All of the fifty sat upon coal-black horses, with saddles of silver and housings of silk and velvet embroidered with gold. In the midst of all the five-and-seventy there rode a youth in cloth of silver embroidered in pearls. In his hand he bore something wrapped in a white napkin, and that was the present for the king such as no other king could give. So said the Demon: "Take it to the royal palace, and tell his majesty that it is from the Tailor of Tailors, the Master of Masters, and One Greater than a King."
"To hear is to obey," said the young man, and then they all rode away.
When they came to the palace the gates flew open before them, and the king came out to meet them. The young man who bore the present dismounted and prostrated himself in the dust, and, when the king bade him arise, he unwrapped the napkin, and gave to the king a goblet made of one single ruby, and filled to the brim with pieces of gold. Moreover, the cup was of such a kind that whenever it was emptied of its money it instantly became full again. "The Tailor of Tailors, the Master of Masters, and One Greater than a King sends your majesty this goblet, and bids me, his ambassador, to ask for your daughter," said the young man.
When the king saw what had been sent him he was filled with amazement. "Surely," said he to himself, "there can be no end to the power of one who can give such a gift as this." Then to the messenger, "Tell your master that he shall have my daughter for his wife if he will build over yonder a palace such as no man ever saw or no king ever lived in before."
"It shall be done," said the young man, and then they all went away, as the others had done the day before.
The next morning when the Demon appeared the Tailor was ready for him. "Build me," said he, "such and such a palace in such and such a place."
And the Demon said, "It shall be done." He smote his hands together, and instantly there came a cloud of mist that covered and hid the spot where the palace was to be built. Out from the cloud there came such a banging and hammering and clapping and clattering as the people of that town never heard before. Then when evening had come the cloud arose, and there, where the king had pointed out, stood a splendid palace as white as snow, with roofs and domes of gold and silver. As the king stood looking and wondering at this sight, there came five hundred young men riding, and one in the midst of all who wore a golden crown on his head, and upon his body a long robe stiff with diamonds and pearls. "We come," said he, "from the Tailor of Tailors, and Master of Masters, and One Greater than a King, to ask you to let him have your daughter for his wife."
"Tell him to come!" cried the king, in admiration, "for the princess is his."
The next morning when the Demon came he found the Tailor dancing and shouting for joy. "The princess is mine!" he cried, "so make me ready for her."
"It shall be done," said the Demon, and thereupon he began to make the Tailor ready for his wedding. He brought him to a marble bath of water, in which he washed away all that was coarse and ugly, and from which the little man came forth as beautiful as the sun. Then the Demon clad him in the finest linen, and covered him with clothes such as even the emperor of India never wore. Then he smote his hands together, and the wall of the tailor-shop opened as it had done twice before, and there came forth forty slaves clad in crimson, and bearing bowls full of money in their hands. After them came two leading a horse as white as snow, with a saddle of gold studded with diamonds and rubies and emeralds and sapphires. After came a body-guard of twenty warriors clad in gold armor. Then the Tailor mounted his horse and rode away to the king's palace, and as he rode the slaves scattered the money amongst the crowd, who scrambled for it and cheered the Tailor to the skies.
That night the princess and the Tailor were married, and all the town was lit with bonfires and fireworks. The two rode away in the midst of a great crowd of nobles and courtiers to the palace which the Demon had built for the Tailor; and, as the princess gazed upon him, she thought that she had never beheld so noble and handsome a man as her husband. So she and the Tailor were the happiest couple in the world.
But the next morning the Demon appeared as he had appeared ever since the Tailor had let him out of the bottle, only now he grinned till his teeth shone and his face turned black. "What hast thou for me to do?" said he, and at the words the Tailor's heart began to quake, for he remembered what was to happen to him when he could find the Demon no more work to do—that his neck was to be wrung—and now he began to see that he had all that he could ask for in the world. Yes; what was there to ask for now?
"I have nothing more for you to do," said he to the Demon; "you have done all that man could ask—you may go now."
"Go!" cried the Demon, "I shall not go until I have done all that I have to do. Give me work, or I shall wring your neck." And his fingers began to twitch.
Then the Tailor began to see into what a net he had fallen. He began to tremble like one in an ague. He turned his eyes up and down, for he did not know where to look for aid. Suddenly, as he looked out of the window, a thought struck him. "Maybe," thought he, "I can give the Demon such a task that even he cannot do it. "Yes, yes!" he cried, "I have thought of something for you to do. Make me out yonder in front of my palace a lake of water a mile long and a mile wide, and let it be lined throughout with white marble, and filled with water as clear as crystal."
"It shall be done," said the Demon. As he spoke he spat in the air, and instantly a thick fog arose from the earth and hid everything from sight. Then presently from the midst of the fog there came a great noise of chipping and hammering, of digging and delving, of rushing and gurgling. All day the noise and the fog continued, and then at sunset the one ceased and the other cleared away. The poor Tailor looked out the window, and when he saw what he saw his teeth chattered in his head, for there was a lake a mile long and a mile broad, lined within with white marble, and filled with water as clear as crystal, and he knew that the Demon would come the next morning for another task to do.
That night he slept little or none, and when the seventh hour of the morning came the castle began to rock and tremble, and there stood the Demon, and his hair bristled and his eyes shone like sparks of fire. "What hast thou for me to do?" said he, and the poor Tailor could do nothing but look at him with a face as white as dough.
"What hast thou for me to do?" said the Demon again, and then at last the Tailor found his wits and his tongue from sheer terror. "Look!" said he, "at the great mountain over yonder; remove it, and make in its place a level plain with fields and orchards and gardens." And he thought to himself when he had spoken, "Surely, even the Demon cannot do that."
"It shall be done," said the Demon, and, so saying, he stamped his heel upon the ground. Instantly the earth began to tremble and quake, and there came a great rumbling like the sound of thunder. A cloud of darkness gathered in the sky, until at last all was as black as the blackest midnight. Then came a roaring and a cracking and a crashing, such as man never heard before. All day it continued, until the time of the setting of the sun, when suddenly the uproar ceased, and the darkness cleared away; and when the Tailor looked out of the window the mountain was gone, and in its place were fields and orchards and gardens.
It was very beautiful to see, but when the Tailor beheld it his knees began to smite together, and the sweat ran down his face in streams. All that night he walked up and down and up and down, but he could not think of one other task for the Demon to do.
When the next morning came the Demon appeared like a whirlwind. His face was as black as ink and smoke, and sparks of fire flew from his nostrils.
"What have you for me to do?" cried he.
"I have nothing for you to do!" piped the poor Tailor.
"Nothing?" cried the Demon.
"Then prepare to die."
"Stop!" cried the Tailor, falling on his knees, "let me first see my wife."
"So be it," said the Demon, and if he had been wiser he would have said "No."
When the Tailor came to the princess, he flung himself on his face, and began to weep and wail. The princess asked him what was the matter, and at last, by dint of question, got the story from him, piece by piece. When she had it all she began laughing. "Why did you not come to me before?" said she, "instead of making all this trouble and uproar for nothing at all? I will give the Monster a task to do." She plucked a single curling hair from her head. "Here," said she, "let him take this hair and make it straight."
The Tailor was full of doubt; nevertheless, as there was nothing better to do, he took it to the Demon.
"Hast thou found me a task to do?" cried the Demon.
"Yes," said the Tailor. "It is only a little thing. Here is a hair from my wife's head; take it and make it straight."
When the Demon heard what was the task that the Tailor had set him to do he laughed aloud; but that was because he did not know. He took the hair and stroked it between his thumb and finger, and, when he done, it curled more than ever. Then he looked serious, and slapped it between his palms, and that did not better matters, for it curled as much as ever. Then he frowned, and, began beating the hair with his palm upon his knees, and that only made it worse. All that day he labored and strove at his task trying to make that one little hair straight, and, when the sun set, there was the hair just as crooked as ever. Then, as the great round sun sank red behind the trees, the Demon knew that he was beaten. "I am conquered! I am conquered!" he howled, and flew away, bellowing so dreadfully that all the world trembled.
So ends the story, with only this to say:
Where man's strength fails, woman's wit prevails.
For, to my mind, the princess—not to speak of her husband the little Tailor—did more with a single little hair and her mother wit than King Solomon with all his wisdom.
declare," said Theodore, after looking for a minute or
two, "if she isn't making honey-comb out of paper!" And sure
enough there were three little cells very much like
"That doesn't look very much like a hornet's nest," said Theodore.
"How about this?" and Uncle Will drew very carefully from his pocket something almost as round as a ball, but made of gray wasp paper.
"Oh dear!" cried Theodore, "is that the way they begin?" He
looked into the open end of the pretty little round cup, and
saw there was nothing inside except five or
six little paper
cells like those under the
"Yes," said Uncle Will, "this is the beginning. You see each room is partitioned off with a paper wall—like a Japanese house—only these walls are not movable."
"Are these little paper rooms meant for honey, Uncle Will?"
"No, my dear nephew, they are not meant for honey. Wasps would never think of such a thing as storing honey in paper cups,—it is only my dear little wise nephew who could imagine such a thing."
"Oh, Uncle Will!" and Theodore reached out in a threatening manner, but Uncle Will slipped to one side.
"The paper rooms are not for honey," he went on, as seriously as though nothing had happened. "They are the nurseries of the young hornets. In time the youngsters grow so big they quite full up the room, which then becomes a cradle, you see."
"Tell us all about it, and draw pictures so it will be like looking at the real thing."
Uncle Will grunted, then answered, "I don't know how well I can do that, but it will do no harm to try—;here goes!" and he drew a picture in his notebook, then said, "This is the first cell the mother hornet makes—then she lays an egg in it—see?—she pastes it on the side wall of the cell. You must make believe this cell of mine is transparent like glass—so you can see the inside—the hornet continues this until she has made a little cluster of paper cells. Then she builds this pretty paper tent about them, but as fast as the cells are finished she lays a little white egg in each and glues it to the wall of the cell, so"; and Uncle Will drew a picture.
"But when the egg hatches I should think the little grub would tumble out," said Theodore, in perplexity. "The cells are all open at the bottom. I suppose the mother hornet puts in spiders and seals it up," he added with a look of relief.
"Not at all," said Uncle Will. "Your Vespa does not seal up
her children and leave them to shift for themselves; she
cares for them very much as the
"Then why don't the grubs fall out?" persisted Theodore; "does she paste them in?"
"No," said Uncle Will; "she pastes the egg fast but not the larva. When it hatches, it attaches itself to the cell wall by two little claws at the end of the tail, and there it stays for awhile; but when it has reached a certain size, in order to have room it is necessary for it to attach itself to the roof of the cell, and then trouble begins, for you see it has to double up and get hold of the top of the top of the cell with its little jaws. When it has accomplished this, it finds itself fastened to the roof all right, but it is wrong end up!"
"Oh my!" exclaimed Theodore, looking at another picture Uncle Will had drawn, "I should think so. It is clinging with its mouth at the wrong end of the cell—how does it eat?"
"That is the trouble; it now has to turn round again by doubling up its body and catching hold of the roof with its two little feet at the tail end. Then it lets go with its mouth, stretches out, and behold, it is hanging head down, no doubt as hungry as a bear after all this exertion!"
"Did you ever see one do this, Uncle Will?"
"No, I never did, but I have read that that is what happens. I confess I have often wondered if that is really the way the larva changes its place, it seems so much less skillful than the way the wasps usually do things. But it is certain that the grub does move to the top of the cell, and that the change is hard for it, is proved but the fact that it sometimes tumbles out."
"Poor little thing! What becomes of it then?"
"I think it dies," said Uncle Will, "although it is said that the mother wasp sometimes puts it back again."
"I should think they would always be falling out, Uncle Will. I should think that when they want to sleep they would forget to hold on."
"Oh, it is not so bad as that! You see, nature provides pretty well for her children, and no doubt the two little tail feet cling without effort on the part of the larva, just as a bird's feet clasp the perch without effort on the part of the bird."
WEEK 35 |
Luke xvi: 1 to 31, to xviii: 1 to 34;
Matthew xix: 13 to 30; xx: 17 to 19;
Mark x: 13 to 34.
NOTHER parable that Jesus gave was that of "The Rich Man and Lazarus." He said,
"There was a rich man; and he was dressed in garments of purple and fine linen, living every day in splendor. And at the gate leading to his house was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores, and seeking for his food the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs of the street came and licked his sores.
"After a time the beggar died, and his soul was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, and his body was buried. And in the world of the dead he lifted up his eyes, being in misery; and far away he saw Abraham, and Lazarus resting in his bosom. And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering in this flame!'
"But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that you had your good things in your lifetime, and that Lazarus had his evil things; but now here he is comforted and you are in sufferings. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that no one may cross over from us to you, and none can come from your place to us.'
"And he said, 'I pray, O father Abraham, if Lazarus cannot come to me, command that he be sent to my father's house, for I have five brothers, and let him speak to them, so that they will not come to this place of torment.'
"But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them!'
"And he said, 'O father Abraham, if one should go to them from the dead, they will turn to God.'
"And Abraham said, 'If they will not hear Moses and the
prophets, they will not believe, even though one should
rise from the
And this was true, for as the people would not listen to the words of Moses and the prophets about Christ, they would not believe, even after Jesus himself arose from the dead. There was another parable of Jesus, called "The Unjust Steward."
"A certain rich man had a steward, a man who took the care of all his possessions. He heard that his steward was wasting his property; and he sent for him, and said, 'What is this that I hear about you? You shall soon give up your place, and be my steward no longer.'
"Then the steward said to himself, 'In a few days I shall lose my place; and what shall I do? I cannot work in the fields, and I am ashamed to go begging from door to door. But I have thought of a plan that will give me friends, so that when I am put out of my place, some people will take me into their houses, because of what I have done for them.'
"And this was his plan. He sent for the men who were in debt to his master, and said to the first one, 'How much do you owe to my master?'
"The man said, 'I owe him a thousand gallons of oil.'
"Then said the steward, 'You need only pay five hundred gallons.' Then to another he said, 'How much do you owe?'
"The man answered, 'I owe fifteen hundred bushels of wheat.' And the steward said to him, 'You need pay only twelve hundred bushels.'
"When his master heard of this which his steward had
done, he said, 'That is a sharp, shrewd man, who takes
And Jesus said, "Be as earnest and as thoughtful for the eternal life as men are for this present life."
The unjust steward.
Jesus did not approve the actions of this unjust steward, but he told his disciples to learn some good lessons even from his wrong deeds.
Jesus spoke another parable to show that people should pray always, and not be discouraged. It was the parable of "The Unjust Judge and the Widow." Jesus said:
"There was in a city a judge who did not fear God, nor seek to do right; nor did he care for man. And there was a poor widow in that city who had suffered wrong. She came to him over and over again, crying out, 'Do justice for me against my enemy who has done me wrong!'
"And for a time the judge, because he did not care for the right, would do nothing. But as the widow kept on crying, at last he said to himself, 'Even though I do not fear God nor care for man, yet because this widow troubles me and will not be still, I will give her justice, or else she will wear me out by her continual crying.'
And the Lord said, "Hear what this unjust judge says! And will not a just God do right for his own who cry to him by day and night, even though he may seem to wait long? I tell you that he will answer their prayer, and will answer it soon!"
And Jesus spoke another parable to some who thought that they were righteous and holy, and set others at nought. This was the parable of "The Pharisee and the Publican."
"Two men went up into the Temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are. I do not rob, I do not deal unjustly. I am free from wickedness. I am not even like this publican. I fast twice in each week. I give to God one-tenth of all that I have.' But the publican standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God be merciful to me, a sinner!'
The Pharisee and the Publican.
"I say unto you," said Jesus, "this man went down to his house having his sins forgiven rather than the other. For every one that lifteth up himself shall be brought low; and he that is humble shall be lifted up."
And at this time the mothers brought to Jesus their little children, that he might lay his hands on them and bless them. The disciples were not pleased at this, and told them to take their children away. But Jesus called them to him, and said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God. Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter into it." And he put his hands on them and blessed them. And a certain young man, a ruler, came running to Jesus, and said, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may have everlasting life?"
"Why do you call me good?" said Jesus. "No one is good except one, that is God. You know the commandments; keep them."
"What commandments?" asked the young man.
"Do not kill; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor thy father and mother."
The young man said, "All these I have kept from my youth up. What do I need more than these?"
"One thing more you need to do," said Jesus. "Go sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me."
But when he heard this he turned and went away very sad, for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw this, he said, "How hard it is for those that are rich to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God."
At this the disciples were filled with wonder. They said, "If that be so, then who can be saved?"
And Jesus said, "The things that are impossible with men are possible with God."
And Peter said, "Lord, we have left our homes and all that we have, and have followed thee."
And Jesus answered him, "Verily, I say to you, there is no man who has left house, or wife, or brothers, or parents, or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not have given to him many more times in this life, and in the world to come life everlasting."
Then Jesus again told his twelve disciples of what was soon to come to pass, even in a few weeks. He said, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and there all the things written by the prophets about the Son of man shall come true. He shall be made a prisoner, and shall be mocked, and treated shamefully, and shall be spit upon, and beaten, and shall be killed; and then the third day he shall rise again."
But they could not understand these things, and they did not believe that their Master was to die.
H E had all at once remembered the resolution of the goblins to carry out their second plan upon the failure of the first. No doubt they were already busy, and the mine was therefore in the greatest danger of being flooded and rendered useless—not to speak of the lives of the miners.
When he reached the mouth of the mine, after rousing all the miners within reach, he found his father and a good many more just entering. They all hurried to the gang by which he had found a way into the goblin country. There the foresight of Peter had already collected a great many blocks of stone, with cement, ready for building up the weak place—well enough known to the goblins. Although there was not room for more than two to be actually building at once, they managed, by setting all the rest to work in preparing the cement, and passing the stones, to finish in the course of the day a huge buttress filling the whole gang, and supported everywhere by the live rock. Before the hour when they usually dropped work, they were satisfied that the mine was secure.
They had heard goblin hammers and pickaxes busy all the time, and at length fancied they heard sounds of water they had never heard before. But that was otherwise accounted for when they left the mine; for they stepped out into a tremendous storm which was raging all over the mountain. The thunder was bellowing, and the lightning lancing out of a huge black cloud which lay above it, and hung down its edges of thick mist over its sides. The lightning was breaking out of the mountain, too, and flashing up into the cloud. From the state of the brooks, now swollen into raging torrents, it was evident that the storm had been storming all day.
The wind was blowing as if it would blow him off the mountain, but, anxious about his mother and the princess, Curdie darted up through the thick of the tempest. Even if they had not set out before the storm came on, he did not judge them safe, for, in such a storm even their poor little house was in danger. Indeed he soon found that but for a huge rock against which it was built, and which protected it both from the blasts and the waters, it must have been swept if it was not blown away; for the two torrents into which this rock parted the rush of water behind it united again in front of the cottage—two roaring and dangerous streams, which his mother and the princess could not possibly have passed. It was with great difficulty that he forced his way through one of them, and up to the door.
The moment his hand fell on the latch, through all the uproar of
winds and waters came the
joyous cry of the
"There's Curdie! Curdie! Curdie!"
She was sitting wrapped in blankets on the bed, his mother trying for the hundredth time to light the fire which had been drowned by the rain that came down the chimney. The clay floor was one mass of mud, and the whole place looked wretched. But the faces of the mother and the princess shone as if their troubles only made them merrier. Curdie laughed at the sight of them.
"I never had such fun!" said the princess, her eyes twinkling and her pretty teeth shining. "How nice it must be to live in a cottage on the mountain!"
"It all depends on what kind your inside house is," said the mother.
"I know what you mean," said Irene. "That's the kind of thing my grandmother says."
By the time Peter returned, the storm was nearly over, but the streams were so fierce and so swollen, that it was not only out of the question for the princess to go down the mountain, but most dangerous for Peter even or Curdie to make the attempt in the gathering darkness.
"They will be dreadfully frightened about you," said Peter to the princess, "but we cannot help it. We must wait till the morning."
With Curdie's help, the fire was lighted at last, and the mother set about making their supper; and after supper they all told the princess stories till she grew sleepy. Then Curdie's mother laid her in Curdie's bed, which was in a tiny little garret-room. As soon as she was in bed, through a little window low down in the roof she caught sight of her grandmother's lamp shining far away beneath, and she gazed at the beautiful silvery globe until she fell fast asleep.
T HE next morning the sun rose so bright that Irene said the rain had washed his face and let the light out clean. The torrents were still roaring down the side of the mountain, but they were so much smaller as not to be dangerous in the daylight. After an early breakfast, Peter went to his work, and Curdie and his mother set out to take the princess home. They had difficulty in getting her dry across the streams, and Curdie had again and again to carry her, but at last they got safe on the broader part of the road, and walked gently down toward the king's house. And what should they see as they turned the last corner, but the last of the king's troop riding through the gate!
"Oh, Curdie!" cried Irene, clapping her hands right joyfully, "my king-papa is come."
The moment Curdie heard that, he caught her up in his arms, and set
off at full speed,
"Come on, mother dear! The king may break his heart before he knows that she is safe."
Irene clung round his neck, and he ran with her like a deer. When he entered the gate into the court, there sat the king on his horse, with all the people of the house about him, weeping and hanging their heads. The king was not weeping, but his face was white as a dead man's, and he looked as if the life had gone out of him. The men-at-arms he had brought with him, sat with horror-stricken faces, but eyes flashing with rage, waiting only for the word of the king to do something—they did not know what, and nobody knew what.
The day before the men-at-arms belonging to the house, as soon as they were satisfied the princess had been carried away, rushed after the goblins into the hole, but found that they had already so skilfully blockaded the narrowest part, not many feet below the cellar, that without miners and their tools they could do nothing. Not one of them knew where the mouth of the mine lay, and some of those who had set out to find it had been overtaken by the storm and had not even yet returned. Poor Sir Walter was especially filled with shame, and almost entertained the hope that the king would order him to be decapitated, for the very thought of that sweet little face down amongst the goblins was unendurable.
When Curdie ran in at the gate with the princess in his arms, they were all so absorbed in their own misery and awed by the king's presence and grief, that no one observed his arrival. He went straight up to the king, where he sat on his horse.
"Papa! papa!" the princess cried, stretching out her arms to him; "here I am!"
The king started. The color rushed to his face. He gave an inarticulate cry. Curdie held up the princess, and the king bent down and took her from his arms. As he clasped her to his bosom, the big tears went dropping down his cheeks and his beard. And such a shout arose from all the bystanders, that the startled horses pranced and capered, and the armor rang and clattered, and the rocks of the mountain echoed back the noises. The princess greeted them all as she nestled in her father's bosom, and the king did not set her down until she had told them all the story. But she had more to tell about Curdie than about herself, and what she did tell about herself none of them could understand except the king and Curdie, who stood by the king's knee stroking the neck of the great white horse. And still as she told what Curdie had done, Sir Walter and others added to what she told, even Lootie joining in the praises of his courage and energy.
Curdie held his peace, looking quietly up in the king's face. And his mother stood on the outskirts of the crowd listening with delight, for her son's deeds were pleasant in her ears, until the princess caught sight of her.
"And there is his mother, king-papa!" she said. "See—there. She is such a nice mother, and has been so kind to me!"
They all parted asunder as the king made a sign to her to come forward. She obeyed, and he gave her his hand, but could not speak.
"And now, king-papa," the princess went on, "I must tell you another thing. One night long ago Curdie drove the goblins away and brought Lootie and me safe from the mountain. And I promised him a kiss when we got home, but Lootie wouldn't let me give it to him. I would not have you scold Lootie, but I want you to impress upon her that a princess must do as she promises."
"Indeed she must, my child—except it be wrong," said the king. "There, give Curdie a kiss."
And as he spoke he held her toward him.
The princess reached down, threw her arms round Curdie's neck, and
kissed him on the mouth,
"There, Curdie! There's the kiss I promised you!"
Then they all went into the house, and the cook rushed to the kitchen, and the servants to their work. Lootie dressed Irene in her shiningest clothes, and the king put off his armor, and put on purple and gold; and a messenger was sent for Peter and all the miners, and there was a great and grand feast, which continued long after the princess was put to bed.
Three jolly Farmers
Once bet a pound
Each dance the others would
Off the ground.
Out of their coats
They slipped right soon,
And neat and nicesome
Put each his shoon.
And away they go,
Not too fast,
And not too slow;
Out from the elm-tree's
Into the sun
And across the meadow.
Past the schoolroom,
With knees well bent
They dancing went.
Up sides and over,
And round and round,
They crossed click-clacking,
The Parish bound,
By Tupman's meadow
They did their mile,
On a three-barred stile.
Then straight through Whipham,
Downhill to Week,
Footing it lightsome,
But not too quick,
Up fields to Watchet,
And on through Wye,
Till seven fine churches
They'd seen skip by—
Seven fine churches,
And five old mills,
Farms in the valley,
And sheep on the hills;
Old Man's Acre
And Dead Man's Pool
All left behind,
As they danced through Wool.
And Wool gone by,
Like tops that seem
To spin in sleep
They danced in dream:
Like an old clock
Their heels did go.
A league and a league
And a league they went,
And not one weary,
And not one spent.
And lo, and behold!
Stretched with its waters
The great green sea.
Says Farmer Bates,
"I puffs and I blows,
What's under the water,
Why, no man knows!"
Says Farmer Giles,
"My wind comes weak,
And a good man drownded
Is far to seek."
But Farmer Turvey,
On twirling toes
Up's with his gaiters,
And in he goes:
Down where the mermaids
Pluck and play
On their twangling harps
In a sea-green day;
Down where the mermaids,
Finned and fair,
Sleek with their combs
Their yellow hair. . . .
Bates and Giles—
On the shingle sat,
Gazing at Turvey's
But never a ripple
Nor bubble told
Where he was supping
Off plates of gold.
Never an echo
Rilled through the sea
Of the feasting and dancing
Came no reply:
Nought but the ripples'
Then glum and silent
They sat instead,
On home and bed,
Till both together
Stood up and said:—
"Us knows not, dreams not,
Where you be,
In the deep blue sea;
But excusing silver—
And it comes most willing—
Here's us two paying
Our forty shilling;
For it's sartin sure, Turvey,
Safe and sound,
You danced us square, Turvey,
Off the ground!"