WEEK 38 |
T OM was a glittering hero once more—the pet of the old, the envy of the young. His name even went into immortal print, for the village paper magnified him. There were some that believed he would be President, yet, if he escaped hanging.
As usual, the fickle, unreasoning world took Muff Potter to its bosom and fondled him as lavishly as it had abused him before. But that sort of conduct is to the world's credit; therefore it is not well to find fault with it.
Tom's days were days of splendor and exultation to him, but his nights were seasons of horror. Injun Joe infested all his dreams, and always with doom in his eye. Hardly any temptation could persuade the boy to stir abroad after nightfall. Poor Huck was in the same state of wretchedness and terror, for Tom had told the whole story to the lawyer the night before the great day of the trial, and Huck was sore afraid that his share in the business might leak out, yet, notwithstanding Injun Joe's flight had saved him the suffering of testifying in court. The poor fellow had got the attorney to promise secrecy, but what of that? Since Tom's harassed conscience had managed to drive him to the lawyer's house by night and wring a dread tale from lips that had been sealed with the dismalest and most formidable of oaths, Huck's confidence in the human race was well-nigh obliterated.
Daily Muff Potter's gratitude made Tom glad he had spoken; but nightly he wished he had sealed up his tongue.
Half the time Tom was afraid Injun Joe would never be captured; the other half he was afraid he would be. He felt sure he never could draw a safe breath again until that man was dead and he had seen the corpse.
Rewards had been offered, the country had been scoured, but no Injun Joe was found. One of those omniscient and awe-inspiring marvels, a detective, came up from St. Louis, moused around, shook his head, looked wise, and made that sort of astounding success which members of that craft usually achieve. That is to say, he "found a clew." But you can't hang a "clew" for murder, and so after that detective had got through and gone home, Tom felt just as insecure as he was before.
The slow days drifted on, and each left behind it a slightly lightened weight of apprehension.
I n early times, some tall, strong people who had light hair, blue eyes, and fair complexions took up their homes in Switzerland. They were a proud, independent race; and proudest of all were those who dwelt in three districts far up in the mountains, known later as the Forest Cantons. Even after those who lived in the lower parts of the land had been obliged to give up much of their liberty, the Forest Cantons were still free. They yielded to the Emperor of Germany, they said, and to no one else.
At one time Rudolph of the family of Hapsburg was emperor. He was of Swiss birth. He loved his people and protected them; but after him came his son Albert, a cruel tyrant. He was determined to bring the Swiss under the rule of Austria, and he was especially bitter against the Forest Cantons. He set governors over them who were free to insult the people, steal from them, imprison them, or even put them to death. The worst of all the governors was a man named Gessler, and the land was full of tales of his insolence and wickedness.
Gessler seemed determined to humble the Swiss in every possible way. One day he put an Austrian hat on a pole and set it up in the market-place with the command that every one who passed should bow down to it as if it were the emperor himself. William Tell, a bold mountaineer, walked through the place with his little son, and did not salute the hat, wherefore he was seized by the guards. Gessler, in cruel sport, told him that since he carried a bow, he might display his archery by shooting an apple from the head of his son, and if he succeeded in doing it without killing the child his own life should be spared. Tell pleaded not to be compelled to make so unnatural a trial, but the tyrant forced him to do it. The mountaineer was a skilful archer, and he hit the apple, to the great joy of all the people who stood round; but Gessler had noticed that Tell had taken another arrow in his hand, and he demanded suspiciously, "Why did you take out a second arrow?" Tell replied boldly, "If I had slain my child this should have found your heart." Gessler was furious. He threw Tell into chains and that night started to take him across the Lake of the Four Cantons to a prison on the other side. It is not at all uncommon for a storm to rise suddenly amidst the mountains that surround the beautiful lake. Without warning the waters will be lashed into fury, and woe betide the boats that are not lying safely at anchor. Such a storm now overtookGessler and his company. "Tell knows the lake, and he is the only man that can save us," declared the peasants who were rowing. "Unbind him, then!" bade the frightened governor, "and give him the helm." Tell did know the lake and he guided the boat through the darkness to where a rock jutted out into the water. Coming as near as he dared, he made a bold spring to the rock, gave a thrust to the boat, and in a moment was free on the land while Gessler and his men were fighting for their lives to prevent the boat from being swamped. Eventually the governor was saved, but the next day he and his escort had to pass through some deep woods. He was exclaiming, "Let him surrender, or one of his children dies to-morrow, another on the second day, and his wife on the third," when suddenly an arrow whizzed through the branches, and the tyrant fell dead. Whether the arrow came from Tell's bow, no one knew.
The Statue of Tell at Altdort
Before this some of the bold mountaineers had met under the stars one night on a little point that stretched out into a lake, and had sworn to stand together to free themselves from the tyranny of the Hapsburgs. The duke himself came with an army to subdue the rebellious Swiss; but as his troops were marching through a deep, narrow pass, suddenly rocks and trunks of trees were hurled down upon them. Then came the Swiss with their clubs and pikes, and the proud Austrians were overpowered and driven back by the mountain peasants.
Again, some seventy years later, the Austrians tried to conquer Switzerland. When the moment of battle had come, the knights dismounted and stood with their long spears in rest, a wall of bristling steel. The Swiss had only swords and short spears, and they could not even reach their enemies. The Austrians were beginning to curve their lines so as to surround the Swiss, when Arnold von Winkelried, a brave Swiss, suddenly cried, "My comrades, I will open a way for you!" and threw himself upon the lances, clasping in his arms as many as he could and dragging them to the ground. In an instant his comrades sprang into the opening. The Austrians fought gallantly, but they were routed. It was by such struggles as these that Switzerland freed herself from the yoke of Austria.
Death of Arnold Von Winkelried.
These two stories have been handed down in Switzerland from father to son for many years. People doubt their truth; but in one way at least there is truth in them; namely, they show how earnestly the Swiss loved liberty. They came to hate everything connected with Austria, even peacock feathers, because they were the symbol of Austria. It is said that once an ardent patriot was drinking from a glass when the sun shone through it and the detested colors appeared. Straightway the man dashed the glass to the floor, and it was shattered into a thousand pieces.
WEEK 38 |
Q UEEN ANNE was the last of the Stuarts, and her husband and all her children died before she did. She had no near relatives except her brother, who was called the Pretender. He was a Roman Catholic and, therefore, could not succeed to the throne; for, in the time of William and Mary, a law had been made that no Roman Catholic should ever again wear the crown. The people had foreseen that after Queen Anne died, there might be quarrels as to who should reign next, so that, too, had been settled by law in the time of William and Mary.
James I. of England had a daughter called Elizabeth, who
married the King of Bohemia, and her grandson, George,
Elector, or King of Hanover, was the nearest Protestant heir
to the throne. He was the great-grandson of
So, as soon as Queen Anne died, George was proclaimed King
in England, Scotland, and Ireland, without any fighting or
quarrelling. But although his grandmother had been British,
George himself was as German as could be, and he could not
even speak a word of English. He was
The Jacobites had never lost hope of having once more a Stuart King. Now they felt was the time to try. The new King was a German, and the people, they thought, would surely rather have a man of their own country than an old German to reign over them.
The Earl of Mar, making believe that he was going to have a
great hunting-party, asked a number of the Highland lords to
his house. They came, but soon it was seen that it was not
deer they meant to hunt, and a large army gathered round
Lord Mar and the standard of
The Pretender's standard was of blue silk, having on one side the arms of Scotland worked in gold, and on the other the Scottish thistle, with the motto, Nemo me impune lacessit, which means, "those who touch me will suffer for it." It had also two streamers of white ribbon, on one of which were the words, "For our wronged King and oppressed country," and on the other, "For our lives and liberties." There was great rejoicing when the standard was unfurled, but scarcely had it been done when the golden ball fell from the top of the staff. That made the Highlanders very sad, for they were superstitious and thought it meant bad luck.
But when our standard was set up,
so fierce the wind did blow, Willie,
The golden knop down from the top
Unto the ground did fa', Willie.
Then second-sighted Sandy said,
We'll dae nae gude at a', Willie;
While pipers played frae right to left
Fy, furich Whigs awa', Willie.
In the north of England, Lord Derwentwater and another gentleman gathered an army of Jacobites and proclaimed James King. But neither Lord Mar nor Lord Derwentwater were good generals. Having got their soldiers together, they did not seem to know what to do with them. So when King George's army met Lord Derwentwater's army, the Jacobites yielded almost without a struggle.
In Scotland, the Jacobites under Lord Mar, and the King's soldiers, under the Duke of Argyle, met at a place called Sheriffmuir, near Dunblane. Lord Mar called a council of war and asked his captains, "Shall we fight or shall we go back?"
And all the captains called out, "Fight! fight!"
Lord Mar agreed, and they all went to their places. No sooner did the Highlanders know they were to fight than a great cheer went through the army, every man tossing his cap in the air. Every Scotchman there was glad at the opportunity of fighting his old enemies the English.
With broadswords drawn, colours flying, and bagpipes playing, they rushed to battle. But brave and fierce though the Highlanders were, they lacked a clever leader. So it happened that one half of Mar's soldiers beat one half of Argyle's, but the other half of Argyle's beat the other half of Mar's, so each side claimed the victory.
There's some say that we wan,
Some say that they wan,
Some say that nane wan at a', man;
But one thing I'm sure,
That at Sheriffmuir
A battle there was, which I saw, man;
And we ran, and they ran, and they ran, and we ran,
And we ran and they ran awa', man.
"If we have not gained a victory," said one Jacobite general, "we ought to fight Argyle once a week until we make it one." But Mar did nothing, and James, who had promised to come from France, did not arrive. So, disappointed and discontented, many of the chieftains and their followers went home again.
But at last James landed. He was greeted with great joy, and rode into Dundee with three hundred gentlemen behind him. "Now," thought the Jacobites, "we have a King. Now we will be led to battle and victory."
But they were again disappointed. James was no soldier. He was pale, grave, and quiet; he never smiled and he hardly ever spoke. The men soon began to despise him, and to ask if he could fight or even speak.
Day after day passed and nothing happened.
"What did you call us to arms for?" asked the angry Highlanders, "was it to run away?"
"What did the King come for? Was it to see his people butchered by hangmen, and not strike one blow for their lives?"
"Let us die like men, and not like dogs."
"If our King is willing to die like a King, there are ten thousand gentlemen who are not afraid to die with him."
But it was of no use. Nothing was done. The Pretender, taking the Earl of Mar with him, slunk back to France, a beaten man for want of courage to strike a blow. And, sad and angry, the Jacobite army melted away. Some of the leaders escaped to foreign lands, others were taken prisoner to the Tower and afterwards beheaded. Among those was Lord Derwentwater.
This rebellion is known as "The Fifteen" because it took place in 1715 A.D.
O far frae my hame full soon will I be,
It's far, far frae hame, in a strange countrie,
Where I'll tarry a while, return, and with you be,
And bring many jolly boys to our ain countrie.
I wish you all success till I again you see,
May the lusty Highland lads fight on and never flee.
When the King sets foot aground, and returns from the sea,
Then you'll welcome him hame to his ain countrie.
God bless our royal King, from danger keep him free,
When he conquers all the foes that oppose his Majesty,
God bless the Duke of Mar and all his cavalry,
Who first began the war for our King and our countrie.
Let the traitor King make haste and out of England flee,
With all his spurious race come far beyond the sea;
Then we will crown our royal King with mirth and jollity,
And end our days in peace in our ain countrie.
W E WERE threading our slow way along the narrow divide of the Wallowa Mountains that runs between the branches of the Snake River. Our guide was a former "camp-tender," one who carries provisions to the sheep-herders in the mountains. As we were stopping a moment to breathe our horses and to look down upon the head springs of Big Sheep and Salt Lick Creeks on one side, and the narrow ribbon of the Imnaha on the other, this guide and our mammal-collector rode on ahead. An hour later I saw them round the breast of a peak far along on the trail and disappear. That night they brought into camp a "cony," or pika, or little chief hare.
The year before, this camp-tender, in passing a certain rock-slide among the high peaks of the pass, had heard and seen a peculiar little animal about the size and shape of a small guinea-pig, whistling among the broken rock. He had never seen the little creature before,—had never heard of it. It was to this slide that he now took our naturalist, in the hope of showing him the mountain guinea-pig, and, sure enough, they brought one back with them, and showed me my first "cony," one of the rarest of American mammals.
But I was broken-hearted. That I should have been so near and missed it! For we had descended to Aneroid Lake to camp that night, and there were no cony slides below us on the trail.
While the men were busy about camp the next morning, I slipped off alone on foot, and, following the trail, got back about ten o'clock to the rock-slide where they had killed the cony.
A wilder, barrener, more desolate land of crags and peaks I never beheld. Eternal silence seemed to wrap it round. The slide was of broken pieces of rock, just as if the bricks from an immense chimney had cracked off and rolled down into the valley of the roof. Stunted vegetation grew around, with scraggly wild grass and a few snow-line flowers, for this was on the snow-line, several melting banks glistening in the morning sun about me.
I crept round the sharp slope of the peak and down to the edge of the rock-slide. "Any living thing in that long heap of broken rock!" I said to myself incredulously. That barren, blasted pile of splintered peaks the home of an animal? Why, I was on the top of the world! A great dark hawk was wheeling over toward Eagle Cap Mountain in the distance; far below me flapped a band of ravens; and down, down, immeasurably far down, glistened the small winding waters of the Imnaha; while all about me were the peaks, lonely, solitary, mighty, terrible! Such bleakness and desolation!
But here, they told me, they had shot the cony. I could not believe it. Why should any animal live away up here on the roof of the world? For several feet each side of the steep, piled-up rock grew spears of thin, wiry grass about six inches high, and a few stunted flowers,—pussy's-paws, alpine phlox, and beardtongue, all of them flat to the sand,—and farther down the sides of the ravine were low, twisted pines,—mere prostrate mats of trees that had crept in narrow ascending tongues, up and up, until they could hang on no longer to the bare alpine slopes. But here above the stunted pines, here in the slide rock, where only mosses and a few flat plants could live,—plants that blossom in the snow,—dwell the conies.
I sat down on the edge of the slide, feeling that I had had my labor for my pains. We had been climbing these peaks in the hope of seeing one of the last small bands of mountain sheep that made these fastnesses their home. But, much as I wished to see a wild mountain sheep among the crags, I wished more to see the little cony among the rocks. "As for the stork," says the Bible, "the fir trees are her house. The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies." I had always wondered about those conies—what they looked like and how they lived among the rocks.
I knew that these little conies here in the slide (if indeed they could be here) were not those of the mountain-peaks of Palestine. What of that! The very rocks might be different in kind from the rocks of Nebo or Lebanon; but peaks are peaks, and rocks are rocks, and the strange little "rabbits" that dwell in their broken slides are all conies to me. The cony of the Bible is the little hyrax, a relative of the elephant.
I sat for a while watching. Was this the place? I must make sure before I settled down to waiting, for when in all my life again might I have this chance?
Out in the middle of the slide was a pile of rocks with an uneven look about them, as if they had been heaped up there by other hands than those that hurled them from the peak. Going quietly out, I examined them closely, and found the perfect print of a little bloody paw on one of them.
This was the right place. Here was where they had shot the specimen brought into camp. I got back to my seat, ready now to wait, even while I knew that I was holding back the camp from its day's march.
Perhaps I had been watching for half an hour, when from somewhere, in the rock-slide surely, though I could not tell, there sounded a shrill bleating whistle, not unlike the whistles of the ground squirrels and marmots that I had heard all through the mountains, yet more tremulous and not so piercing.
I waited. Presently a little gray form crept over a stone, stopped and whistled, then disappeared. It was my cony!
If you can think of Molly Cottontail turned into the shape of a guinea-pig about eight inches long, with positively no tail at all, and with big round broad ears, and with all four legs of equal length so that the creature walks instead of hopping,—if you can imagine such a rabbit,—you will get a pretty clear picture of the cony, or pika, or "little chief hare."
I kept as still as the stones. Presently the plaintive, bleating whistle sounded from nowhere again—behind me, beyond me, up the slide or down, I could not tell. The rocks were rough, rusty chunks two or three feet long, piled helter-skelter without form or order, so that any one spot in the slide looked precisely like every other spot. I could not tell just the piece the cony had crossed, once my eyes were off of it, nor into which of the cracks he had disappeared. I could only sit still and wait till I caught him moving, so completely did his color blend with the rusty brown tone of the slide.
All the while the shrill, piteous call kept coming from anywhere in the slide. But it was not the call of several voices, not a colony whistling at once. The conies live in colonies, but, judging from the single small haycock which they had curing in the sun, I think there could not have been more than two or three pairs of them in this particular slide. Possibly there was only the single pair, one of which had been shot, for presently, when my eyes grew sharp enough to pick the little creature out against the rocks, I found that one was doing all the calling, and that for some reason he was greatly disturbed.
Now he would stop on a slab and whistle, then dive into some long passage under the stones, to reappear several feet or yards away. Here he would pause to listen, and, hearing nothing, would call again, waiting for an answer to his tremulous cry which did not come.
Under and over the stones, up and down the slide, now close to me, now on the extreme opposite edge of the pile he traveled, nervously, anxiously looking for something—for some one, I truly think; and my heart smote me when I thought it might be for the dead mate whose little bare foot-pads had left the bloody print upon the rock.
Up and down, in and out, he ran, calling, calling, calling, but getting no answer back. He was the only one that showed himself, the only live one I have ever seen, but this one I followed, as he went searching and crying over the steep rock-slide, with my eye and with the field-glasses, until long past noon—with a whole camp down the cañon looking for me!
But they must know where to look. Let them climb out of the cañon, back to the top of the world to the cony slide, if they could not wait for me.
Higher up than the mountain sheep or the goat can live, where only the burrowing pocket gopher and rare field mice are ever found, dwells the cony. This particular slide was on one of the minor peaks,—loftier ones towered all about,—nor do I know just how high it was, but the cony dwells above the tree-line, up in the Arctic-Alpine Zone, in a world of perpetual snow, from ten to fourteen thousand feet above the sea.
By perpetual snow I mean that the snow-banks never melt in the shadowed ravines and on the bare north slopes. Here, where I was watching, the rock-slide lay open to the sun, the scanty grass was green beyond the gully, and the squat alpine flowers were in bloom, the saxifrage and a solitary aster (April and September together!) blossoming in the edges of the snow just as fast as the melting banks allowed them to lift their heads. But any day the wind might come down from the north, keen and thick and white about the summits, and leave the flowers and the cony slide covered deep beneath a drift.
Spring, summer, and autumn are all one season, all crowded together—a kind of peak piercing for a few short weeks the long, bleak, unbroken land of winter here on the roof of the world.
But during this brief period the thin grass springs up, and the conies cut and cure it, enough of it to last them from the falling of the September snows until the drifts are once more melted and their rock-slide warms in another summer's sun.
For the cony does not hibernate. He stays awake down in his catacombs. Think of being buried alive in pitch-black night with snow twenty-five feet thick above you for nine out of twelve months of the year! Yet here they are away up on the sides of the wildest summits, living their lives, keeping their houses, rearing their children, visiting back and forth through their subways for all this long winter, protected by the drifts which lie so deep that they keep out the cold.
As I looked about me I could not see grass enough to feed a pair of conies for a winter. Right near me was one of their little haycocks, nearly cured and ready for storing in their barns beneath the rocks; but this would not last long. It was already early August and what haying they had to do must be done quickly or winter would catch them hungry.
They cut the grass that grows in the vicinity of the slide, and cock it until it is cured, then they carry it all below against the coming of the cold; and naturalists who have observed them describe with what hurry and excitement the colony falls to taking in the hay when bad weather threatens to spoil it.
Hardy little farmers! Bold small folk! Why climb for a home with your tiny, bare-soled feet above the aerie of the eagle and the cave of the soaring condor of the Sierras? Why not descend to the warm valleys, where winter, indeed, comes, but cannot linger?—or farther down where the grass is always green, with never a need to cut and cure a winter's hay?
I do not know why—nor why upon the tossing waves the little petrel makes her bed; nor why, beneath the waves, "down to the dark, to the utter dark" on
"The great gray level plains of ooze,"
the "blind white sea-snakes" make their home; nor why
at the north, in the fearful, far-off, frozen north,
the little lemmings dwell; nor why, nor why. But as I
sat there above the clouds, listening to the plaintive,
trembling whistle of the little cony, and
hoping his mate was not dead, and wondering why he
stayed here in the barren peak, and how he must fare in
the black, bitter winter, I said over to myself the
lines of Kipling for an
"And God who clears the grounding berg
And steers the grinding floe,
He hears the cry of the little kit-fox
And the lemming on the snow."
The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.
The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.
The sedges flaunt their harvest.
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook,
From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.
By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer.
But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.
'Tis a thing which I remember;
To name it thrills me yet:
One day of one September
I never can forget.
WEEK 38 |
T HE next day Claire and her two brothers could talk of nothing but the experiments of the evening before. It was their subject of conversation the whole morning. The cat's beads of fire and the flashes from the paper had greatly impressed them; so their uncle, in order to profit by this awakening of their attention, resumed as soon as possible his instructive talk.
"I am sure you are all three asking yourselves why, before
telling you about thunder, I rubbed
"More than a century ago a magistrate of the little town of
Nérac, named de Romas, devised the most momentous
experiment ever registered in the annals of science. One day
he was seen going out into the country in a storm, with an
enormous paper kite and a ball of twine. Over two hundred
persons, keenly interested, accompanied him. What in the
world was that celebrated magistrate going to do?
of his grave functions, did he propose some diversion
unworthy of him? Was it to witness a puerile
"The kite that was to draw the thunderbolt from the midst of
"Such was the simple arrangement of the apparatus invented by de Romas to verify his audacious prevision. What is to be expected from this child's plaything thrown into the air to meet the thunder? Does it not seem to you foolish to suppose that such a plaything can direct the thunderbolt and master it? The magistrate of Nérac must, however, by wise meditations on the nature of thunder, have acquired the certainty of success, to dare thus, before hundreds of witnesses, to undertake this attempt, the failure of which would cover him with confusion. The result of this terrible conflict between thought and thunder cannot be in doubt: thought, as always, when well directed, will gain the upper hand.
"Behold, now, the clouds, forerunners of the storm, are coming near the kite. De Romas moves the exciter toward the tin cylinder suspended at the end of the cord, and suddenly there is a flash of light. It is produced by a dazzling spark which darts upon the exciter, crackles, emits a flash of lightning, and immediately disappears."
"That is just what we got yesterday evening," observed Jules, "when we put the end of a key near the strip of warmed and rubbed paper; it is what the cat's back showed us when it was stroked with the hand."
"The very same thing," replied his uncle. "Thunder, beads of fire from the cat, sparks from paper—all are due to electricity. But let us return to de Romas. We see that there is electricity, the thunderbolt in miniature, in the kite's string. It is inoffensive yet, on account of its feeble quantity; so de Romas does not hesitate to draw it forth with his finger. Every time he brings his finger near the cylinder, he draws a spark like that received by the exciter. Emboldened by his example, the spectators draw near and evoke the electric explosion. They crowd around the wonderful cylinder that now contains the fire from heaven, called down by man's genius; each one wishes to call forth the lightning, and each wishes to see sparkle between his fingers the fulminant substance descended from the clouds. So they play with the thunder for half an hour with impunity, when all at once a violent spark reaches de Romas and almost knocks him over. The hour of peril has come. The storm is getting nearer, stronger, every moment; thick clouds hover over the kite.
"De Romas summons up all his firmness; he quickly makes the
crowd draw back and remains alone at the side of his
apparatus, in the middle of the circle of spectators, who
are beginning to get frightened. Then, with the aid of the
exciter, he elicits from the metallic cylinder first strong
sparks, capable of throwing a person down under the violence
of the commotion, then ribbons of fire that dart in
serpentine lines and burst with a crash. These ribbons soon
measure a length of two or three meters. Any one struck by
one of them would certainly perish. De Romas, fearing from
moment to moment some fatal accident, enlarges the circle of
curious spectators and ceases the perilous provocation of
electric fire. But, braving imminent death, he continues his
perilous observations at close range, with this same
coolness as if he were engaged in the most harmless
experiment. Around him there is heard a roaring like the
continuous blast of a forge; an odor
of burning is in the
"Last evening," Claire remarked, "the down of the feathers and the little pieces of paper jumped in the same way between the electrified sheet of paper and the table."
"That is quite natural," said Jules, "since Uncle has just told us that the rubbed sheet of paper takes to itself the very essence of thunder, only in a very small quantity."
"I am glad to see you grasp the close resemblance between thunder and the electricity that we produce by rubbing certain bodies. De Romas made his perilous experiment on purpose to prove that resemblance. I said perilous experiment; you will see, in fact, what danger the audacious experimenter ran. Three straws, I told you, were jumping from the string to the ground, and from the ground to the string, when all at once everybody turned pale with fright: there came a violent explosion and a thunderbolt fell, making a large hole in the ground and raising a cloud of dust."
"My goodness!" gasped Claire. "Was de Romas killed?"
"No, de Romas was safe and beaming with joy: his previsions were verified with a success that bordered on the prodigious: it was demonstrated that a thunderbolt can be brought from the clouds within reach of the observer; he had proved that electricity is the cause of thunder. That, my children, was no trivial result, fit only to satisfy our curiosity: the nature of thunder being ascertained, it became possible to secure protection from its ravages, as I will tell you in the story of the lightning-conductor."
"De Romas, who made these important experiments at the peril of his life, must have been loaded with honors and riches by his contemporaries," said Claire.
"Alas! my dear child," replied her uncle, "things do not commonly happen that way. Truth rarely finds any free spot in which to plant itself; it has to fight against prejudice and ignorance. The battle is sometimes so painful, that men of strong will succumb to the task. De Romas, wishing to repeat his experiment at Bordeaux, was stoned by the mob, who saw in him a dangerous man evoking thunder by his witchcraft. He was obliged to flee in haste, abandoning his apparatus.
"A short time before de Romas, in the United States of North
America, Franklin made similar researches on the nature of
thunder. Benjamin Franklin was the son of a poor
soap-manufacturer. He found at home merely the requisite
means for learning to read, write, and cipher; and yet he
became by his learning one of the most remarkable men of his
time. One stormy day in 1752 he went into the country near
Philadelphia, accompanied by his son, who carried a kite
made of silk tied at the four corners to two little glass
rods. A metal tail
terminated the apparatus. The kite was
thrown up toward a
In the British West Indies there is a little island called Nevis. The cliffs along its coast are high, and the waves beat against them day and night.
A hundred and fifty years ago there were more French than English people in Nevis; but the English were hurrying as fast as they could to occupy the island, because it was so fertile and was such a fine shipping station.
Among the merchants who went there to try their fortunes was James Hamilton. He was a Scotchman by birth. His people were distinguished, and he himself was a generous and agreeable gentleman.
Everybody liked James Hamilton; he prospered greatly in his new home, and married a beautiful French lady, and they had several children. Then the children died, one by one, until all were gone except the youngest son.
This boy was born on January 11, 1757, and he was named Alexander, after his grandfather in Scotland. He was a winsome baby; he had fine linen and silken garments, and it was said that he had an easy life before him.
Very soon, however, Alexander's father lost all his money, and could hardly keep his family from starving; but the beautiful French mother was always cheerful and gay, and tried to make the child happy. She took long walks with him in the sunshine; and when his little legs were tired with tramping over the sand, she sat down by him on the white beach and told him stories in her own French language.
One day this loving mother became very ill; then she died, and Alexander saw her carried away and buried by the side of his little brothers and sisters; but he never forgot his mother, nor the language she taught him to speak.
When he first went to school, he was so small that he stood on the table by the side of his teacher while learning the Ten Commandments. He did not go to school very long, because his father had no money to pay for his teaching.
When he was only twelve years old, he was sent to the island of Santa Cruz to clerk in the counting-house of Mr. Nicholas Cruger. There were rows of desks in the counting-house where clerks were busy writing, and ironchests where money was kept, and scales where workmen weighed bags of sugar, boxes of indigo, and bales of cotton; and outside the wide doors stood carts and wheelbarrows to carry the merchandise to the waiting ships in the harbor.
Alexander was very busy in the counting-house. He wrote down the long lists of goods for the ladings, and the dates when the ships sailed, and when they came back to port again. His master, Mr. Cruger, was a thrifty merchant. "Method is the soul of business," he often said, as he bustled about the counting-room.
Alexander did not like clerking very well; he wrote to a young friend in Nevis: "I would willingly risk my life, though not my character, to exalt my station."
Those were brave words for a boy of twelve years, were they not? He would not risk his character to improve his fortune!
I think you will find that Alexander Hamilton always prized his character more than life itself.
Now, although he did not like his work, he did not shirk it. He was so diligent that, when only fourteen years old, he was left in charge of the counting-office while his employer was absent in Boston.
He was small for his age; he must have looked like a child playing at keeping store as he went about with a quill pen over one ear, taking note of what the other clerks did. Some letters still exist which he sent to Boston, telling how the business was getting along; they are neat and exact; they must have pleased his employer very much.
When the duties of the day were over, Alexander studied in books which he borrowed from his friend, the Rev. Mr. Knox. He was fond of arithmetic and history, and he liked to read the lives of the great men who have helped to make the world better and happier.
Now, just about this time, a hurricane swept down upon the Leeward Islands; ships were tossed upon the rocks by the wind, trees were torn from their roots, and villages were lifted up and thrown into the raging sea. It was all so terrible that the bravest men fled in terror into the caves; but Alexander was not afraid; he watched the storm from a high ledge of rocks, and he thought it was so grand that everybody should know just how it looked; so he wrote all about it, and sent the account to a newspaper.
When people read it, they were astonished at the language. The description of the hurricane was so beautiful that many who had hidden in the caves wished they had stayed in the open to watch it.
Who on the island could write so well? Nobody knew. The governor set to work to find out; and when he learned that the pale little clerk in the counting-house was the author, he said that such a bright boy should have an education.
Now, people were so eager to contribute money for this that Alexander soon had enough to pay his expenses at school for several years; then, because there were no good schools in the island, it was decided to send him to one of the large cities in America.
And so, clad in a new suit of clothes, Alexander Hamilton climbed the gang plank of a British packet bound for Boston. The sailors shouted; the ropes were drawn up; there were hands waving farewell, and soon the tall cliffs of the island were lost in the mists of the sea.
I like to see it lap the miles,
And lick the valleys up,
And stop to feed itself at tanks;
And then, prodigious, step
Around a pile of mountains,
And, supercilious, peer
In shanties by the sides of roads;
And then a quarry pare.
To fit its sides, and crawl between,
Complaining all the while
In horrid, hooting stanza;
Then chase itself down hill
And neigh like Boanerges;
Then, punctual as a star,
Stop docile and omnipotent
At its own stable door.
WEEK 38 |
Ferdiad and Conn stood together in a group of soldiers who were making campfires for the night, and many were the stories they all had to tell of the day. But most of all were they wondering how a single Dane had been able to kill the king in spite of all the shield men.
"It was that heathen prophecy!" declared one soldier, "and nobody could help it!"
"They say the Dane who struck him was a great sorcerer and that no sword could bite his magic armor," said another. And this explanation seemed to satisfy them best; for they did not like to think an ordinary man could have harmed the king they had taken such pains to guard.
"Did you know the flaith O'Brien was killed?" asked another.
"Yes," spoke up someone else, "his men say that at first he was invisible because of the cloak from the banshee of Craglea, but as the battle grew fiercer he scorned not to be seen and threw it off. It was then a Dane spear struck him, and they say his shield moaned as he fell!"
"Did you see the war witches dancing on the tips of our Celtic spears?" said another voice.
"To be sure!" came an answering one, "And look! they are flying now over the battle field!"
"Do you see them, Ferdiad?" whispered Conn, in awed tones.
"It looks like fog coming in from the sea," said Ferdiad, gazing through the gathering dusk, "but I suppose the witches are in it."
Just here some other boys came along on their way to see the prisoners, and Ferdiad and Conn went with them to the rear of the camp where scores of sullen-looking Danes were standing under guard waiting their turn to be chained. Torches flared here and there, and as their flickering light fell on the faces of the prisoners all at once Ferdiad stopped short with a long "Oh!" He was standing in front of a tall, cruel-looking man with hands chained behind him and an ugly red scar across his forehead.
He was standing in front of a tall, cruel-looking man.
After his first gasp of surprise, "Conn," whispered Ferdiad excitedly, "he is the man who killed the monk in the raid on Kells! I would know his face in a thousand. And he took what the monk had hid in his robe and I have always thought it was the angel book of Saint Columkille!" Here Ferdiad caught sight of the wooden shield at the Dane's feet: in its center was a pointed boss of iron which was thrust through, and partly held in place, the fragment of a thin sheet of gold. The corners of this were fastened to the wood by a few bronze nails, and the gold was beautifully hammered in a curious design of interlacing lines and queer animal forms with long tails twisting in many intricate spirals.
"Look!" cried Ferdiad, as he examined this eagerly, "now I know it was Saint Columkille's book he got! That gold is part of its case, I've seen it and remember the pattern! I suppose he put it on his shield trying to imitate our handsome Celtic ones with their gold ornaments."
Meantime the captive was staring sullenly at Ferdiad, who was saying to Conn, "I wonder if he understands Celtic? I wish I could ask him some questions."
"No, boy," said a soldier standing near by, "but if you want to ask him something I can help you, for I know his language."
"Oh," said Ferdiad, "ask him where the book is that was in that case. It was the angel book of the blessed Saint Columkille!"
"It was?" exclaimed the soldier in surprise, for almost every Celt had heard of that wonderful book. But to the soldier's question the Dane only shrugged his shoulders and would say nothing.
"I was at Kells when the Danes raided it and I saw him kill the monk who was trying to save the book!" went on Ferdiad.
At this the soldier began fiercely to threaten the man, telling him they would kill him. But still the man sullenly refused to speak; for he had been long enough in Ireland to know that the Celtic law would not allow prisoners to be killed.
Then Ferdiad thought of something. "Tell him," he said, "that my foster-father is the chief poet of Ireland and I will get him to compose a scornful poem about him!"
Now do not laugh, for this was no idle threat of Ferdiad's, and when he suggested it the soldier said approvingly, "That will settle him!" For a Celt dreaded nothing more than for a poet to chant scornful verses about him. They had a peculiar reverence for their poets and believed that by their songs they could, if they wished, call down terrible misfortunes or even death.
So the soldier took pains to impress this on the Dane, who turned pale with fright and at last burst out in a torrent of words to which the soldier listened attentively.
"He says," he interpreted, "that the book has been trouble enough to him. When he was carrying it off fromS Kells another Dane attacked him and tried to get it away, and in the fight he killed the man, but not before he had got a sword thrust that had blinded one of his eyes,—which served him right! though the wicked heathen was ugly enough already with that red-scarred forehead of his!"—put in the soldier on his own account as he went on, "he says the gold was what he wanted, and after his fight with the man he tore the book out of its case and threw it away. And may the blessed Saint Columkille send his soul to everlasting torment for it!" added the soldier as he piously crossed himself.
Ferdiad drew a long breath, "Well," he said at last, "at least it wasn't burned!" For everybody knew the Danes had made many a bonfire of the precious books and manuscripts they had stolen from the Celts. "Perhaps it may be found yet," he said to Conn as they walked away together.
"But it would surely be spoiled if it had been lying on the ground all this while!" said Conn.
And still discussing it they went over to the center of the camp where every one was going. For Angus was beginning to chant the mourning song for the high king, who lay within his tent with lighted candles at his head and feet and the royal waxen one blazing at the door.
In bygone days there lived a King, who was very fond of hunting. The King had a Falcon, which he counted among his chief treasures. This Falcon the King always fed from his own hand, and always carried on his own wrist when he went on the hunt. One day, when the court was out a-hunting, a deer ran across their path and the King started in pursuit. Some of the royal party followed, but none of them could ride as well and as fast as the King. Through some accident the King did not overtake the deer, and became separated from his companions. Hot and thirsty from his long ride, he dismounted to find some water. For a long time he sought in vain, but at last came to the foot of a hill, where a small stream was trickling down over the rocks. The King took a drinking-cup from his sash and held it beneath the stream, catching the water drop by drop. As soon as it was full, he raised the cup to his lips, and was just about to drink when the Falcon flew up, hit the cup, and upset it.
"You awkward bird!" exclaimed the King, and began once more patiently to fill the cup from the stream. A second time the King raised it to his lips, and a second time the Falcon flew against it, knocking it from the King's hand. The thirsty King could no longer control his rage. He threw the Falcon to the ground with such force that he killed it instantly.
Just then one of the attendants rode up, and, hearing that the King was thirsty, drew out his flask to give the King to drink. But the King shook his head.
"I have set my heart," he said, "on drinking from this stream which runs down the mountain-side; but it takes a long time to fill a cup drop by drop here at the bottom. Go therefore to the top of the hill, and bring me down a cup of water from the source of this spring."
The attendant did as the King commanded, but returned with his cup empty.
"Your Majesty," he cried, "you have been perilously near death. At the source of the spring lies a dead dragon, whose poison has polluted the entire stream. Will your Majesty not drink of the water in my flask?"
He held out the cup, and as the King drank, the tears rolled down his face.
"Alas, why does the King weep?" asked the attendant, in great alarm.
The King picked up the dead bird. "This Falcon, the dearest of all my treasures," he said sadly, "saved my life twice, and I, by my own act of anger, killed it with one cruel blow!"
How dear to this heart are the scenes of my childhood,
When fond recollection presents them to view!
The orchard, the meadow, the deep-tangled wild-wood,
And every loved spot which my infancy knew!
The wide-spreading pond, and the mill that stood by it,
The bridge, and the rock where the cataract fell,
The cot of my father, the dairy-house nigh it,
And e'en the rude bucket which hung in the well!
The old oaken bucket,
The iron-bound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket, which hung in the well!
That moss-covered vessel I hailed as a treasure,
For often at noon, when returned from the field,
I found it the source of an exquisite pleasure,
The purest and sweetest that nature can yield.
How ardent I seized it, with hands that were glowing,
And quick to the white-pebbled bottom it fell;
Then soon, with the emblem of truth overflowing,
And dripping with coolness, it rose from the well—
The old oaken bucket,
The iron-bound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket arose from the well!
How sweet from the green mossy brim to receive it,
As poised on the curb it inclined to my lips!
Not a full blushing goblet could tempt me to leave it,
Though filled with the nectar Jupiter sips.
And now, far removed from the loved situation,
The tear of regret will intrusively swell.
As fancy reverts to my father's plantation,
And sighs for the bucket, which hangs in the well—
The old oaken bucket,
The iron-bound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket bucket, which hangs in the well!
WEEK 38 |
"Who, born no king, made millions draw his car;
Whose game was empires and whose stakes were thrones;
Whose table, earth; whose dice were human bones."
T HE dreams of Napoleon, with regard to India, vanished in the thunder and smoke of the battle of the Nile.
"If it had not been for you English," he said, "I should have been Emperor of the East."
A year later, after varied success in Egypt and Syria, he made up his mind to return to France, though the great army must be left behind for the present. One dark night, he embarked in a small ship that had been secretly built, and sailed away along the coast of Africa to Tunis. His voyage was one of great peril, for English ships were patrolling up and down the Mediterranean, and would gladly have fallen in with Napoleon. With all lights out and under cover of the night, the little ship safely accomplished the narrow channel between Sicily and the African coast, and Napoleon reached his old home in Corsica safely.
On October 16, 1799, the citizens of Paris were astounded by the news, that Napoleon was actually among them again. What if he had left them but a year ago, with a magnificent fleet and an army of picked soldiers? He returned alone, but at a time when France stood in need of a strong man.
His arrival inspired all with joy. Men had grown dissatisfied with their Directory. They were ready for a change. Napoleon was at once given command of all the troops in Paris; and, with his military force to support him, he dissolved the Directory and formed a new Government, in which he himself took the highest place. In imitation of the Romans of old, he took the title of Consul. He at once went to live at the palace of the Tuileries. Not a single member of the royal family was left in France, for the little dauphin had died five years before of ill-treatment, and his sister was in exile.
It is curious to remember, that one of Napoleon's first orders as Consul, was to command the French soldiers to wrap their banners in crape, for the death of George Washington in America, for "he was a great man," he said, "who fought against tyranny."
The next object of the Consul, was to reconquer Italy, which had been won back by Austria, during his absence in Egypt. He collected a large force, and, taking command himself, set out as secretly as possible. He knew the Austrians to be encamped in a valley at the foot of Mount St Bernard, a part of the Alps supposed to be impassable.
This famous expedition across the Alps, was one of Napoleon's greatest exploits, and for danger and daring exceeded anything, that had been attempted since the days of Hannibal. With astonishing courage, the French soldiers struggled up the steep and slippery mountain, covered with eternal frost and snow. There was no path. Gallantly they dragged up the cannon, baggage, knapsacks, guns, leading their horses and mules. Amid precipices and glaciers they made their way, across chasm and along airy ridges of rock. And Napoleon himself, dressed in the grey overcoat which had become already famous, cheered on his men, inspiring them with that confidence which had won him so many victories. After seven days' incessant toil they arrived at the end of their goal, and the victory of Marengo repaid them for their tremendous march.
Two months later Napoleon was back in Paris.
"We have done with the romance of the Revolution: we must now begin its history," he said on his return to France.
He was indeed to open that history with an event that affected the whole world, when, in 1804, he was crowned Emperor of France.
Nothing could exceed the magnificence of the ceremony. Napoleon himself was dressed in a French coat of red velvet, embroidered in gold, his collar gleaming with diamonds, over which he wore the long purple robe of velvet and ermine, with a wreath of laurel on his head. His wife, now the Empress Josephine, in white satin glittering with diamonds, was beside him. The Pope had been fetched from Rome to perform the service; but as he was about to crown the Emperor, he was gently waved aside, and Napoleon, with his own hands, crowned himself.
He was more than ever bent now on the conquest of England, and all the forces of his vast empire were brought against her. Great Britain was the one "barrier in the path of his ambition." His plan of invasion was very formidable. He constructed a huge camp at Boulogne. In the port he had 1000 ships built, each to carry 100 soldiers and some guns across the Channel to the coast of Kent.
"Let us be masters of the Straits for six hours," said Napoleon, "and we shall be masters of the world."
So sure was he of success, that he actually had a medal struck of Hercules crushing the sea-monster to commemorate the victory that was never won. There were French fleets in the harbours of Toulon and Brest waiting to help, as well as Spanish ships in the harbour of Cadiz. But for the present these were all closely blockaded by English admirals. There is nothing finer in the naval history of England, than the dogged perseverance with which these dauntless men kept watch. For two years Nelson guarded Toulon, for three years Cornwallis watched the French ships in the harbour of Brest, while Collingwood blockaded a port in the north of Spain. It was these "iron blockades" that thwarted the plans of Napoleon, and saved for England "the realm of the circling sea."
It was not till June 1805, that a general move took place. The French fleet escaped from Toulon, joined the Spaniards at Cadiz, and sailed for the West Indies. Nelson, with ten ships, went off in full pursuit, only to learn on arrival that the French admiral Villeneuve had doubled back towards England. There was no time to lose.
"The fleets of England are equal to meet the world in arms," Nelson said confidently. His words were to prove true when, in October, the fleets met in the last great sea-fight off Trafalgar, which was to decide England's supremacy at sea.
Meanwhile, in Schwytz and Uri, Hermann Gessler was making himself as much hated as was Berenger of Landenberg in Unterwalden.
Gessler lived in a great castle at Küssnacht in Schwytz. It was a strong and gloomy castle, and in it were dreadful dungeons where he imprisoned the people and tortured them according to his own wicked will. But he was not pleased to have only one castle, and he made up his mind to build another in Uri. So he began to build one near the little town of Altorf, which lay at the other end of the Lake of the Four Forest Cantons.
Gessler forced the men of Uri to build this castle, and he meant to use it not only as a house for himself, but as a prison for the people.
The men of Uri worked unwillingly. Their hearts sank within them as they hewed the stones and laid them one on another, for they knew that they were building a prison for themselves.
As the walls rose and the dark and gloomy prison cells took shape, the men grew more and more sullen. "Who would be the first," they asked themselves, "to lie in these dark dungeons?"
Gessler often came to watch the building and to jeer and laugh at the unwilling workers. "You do not want to build my castle," he said. "O you fierce lions! O you stiff-necked peasants! Wait a little, and I will make you tame and soft enough to wind around my finger."
"What will you call your castle?" asked a friend one day, as they stood to watch the building.
"I will call it the Curb of Uri," said Gessler, with a cruel laugh, "for with it I will curb the proud spirit of these peasants"; and the hearts of the men who heard him sank still further. Were they thus to be bridled and beaten like beasts of burden?
After watching the work for some time, Gessler and his friend rode away. They were gaily clad, they looked splendid and grand, but as they rode along they were followed by the silent curses of the men of Uri.
"My friend," said Gessler, as he rode, "we will go back to Küssnacht by another way. I have heard that an insolent peasant called Werner Stauffacher has built himself a new house. I wish to see it. There is no end to the impudence of these peasants."
"But what will you do?" asked his friend.
"Do," said Gessler, "why, turn him out, to be sure. What need have these peasants of great houses?"
So they rode on, Gessler talking of the great things he would do, and of how he would grind these "peasant nobles," as he called them, to the earth.
At last they came to a bridge which crossed the little river by which they rode, and there, on the hillside opposite, stood the house which they had come to see.
It was far more beautiful than Gessler had expected, and he stood still gazing at it in wonder and anger.
The house was long and low, and built of wood. The roof was of red tiles, and the walls were painted white. The many windows glittered in the sunlight, and round their black frames, as was the custom in those days, names and proverbs were painted in white letters.
"This house was built by Werner Stauffacher and Gertrude of Iberg, his wife, in the year of Grace 1307. Who labour well, rest well," read Gessler. Pale with rage, he rode across the bridge and stopped before the house. It made him furious to think of the money which had been spent upon it.
Beside the door grew a tall lime-tree, and under it, on a wooden bench, sat Werner Stauffacher.
As Gessler rode up Stauffacher rose, and taking off his cap, greeted him politely. "Welcome, my lord," he said.
Gessler took no notice of Stauffacher's greeting. "Whose house is this?" he demanded, although he knew very well to whom it belonged. He wanted an excuse for robbing Stauffacher, and hoped to find it in his answer.
But Stauffacher, seeing how angry Gessler was, and being a wise man, answered quietly, "My lord, the house belongs to His Majesty the Emperor, and is yours and mine in fief to hold and use for his service."
"I rule this land," said Gessler in a voice shaking with anger. "I rule this land in the name of the Emperor, and I will not allow peasants to build houses as they please without asking leave. I will not permit them to live as lords and gentlemen. I will have you understand that." And turning, he rode from the doorway, followed by his gay train of knights and soldiers.
Werner Stauffacher looked long after them as they clattered away. Then full of sad thoughts he sat down again on the wooden bench under the tall lime-tree.
As he sat there, leaning his head upon his hand, and looking with troubled eyes across the valley to the snow-topped mountains beyond, Gertrude, his wife, came and sat beside him. For some time they sat in silence. Then laying her hand on his arm, "Werner," she said softly, "what troubles you?"
"Dear wife, it is nothing," he said, smiling at her.
"No, no," replied Gertrude, "do not treat me as if I were a child. Tell me what has happened. The Governor has been here I know, and that frightens me. What has he said or done to you?"
"He has done nothing yet," said Werner, "but he is very angry that we have built this house. He looked so fierce as he rode away that I am sure he means to take it from us. Yes, I am sure of it. He will take our house, and our goods and our money as well. Do you wonder that I am sad? Yet what can we do?"
As Werner spoke Gertrude grew pale, then her cheeks flushed red and her eyes sparkled with anger. "Oh," she cried, "it is shameful, shameful! How long are we to suffer the Austrian tyrants? Oh that I were a man!"
Gertrude rose and walked up and down in front of the house for a few minutes, thinking deeply. "Werner," she said at last, stopping before him, "listen to me. Every day we hear cries of despair from our friends around us. Every day we hear some new tale of injustice and wrong. We know that the people of Schwytz are weary to death of the Governor's rule. Can you doubt that in Uri and Unterwalden the people are weary too? You know that they must be. Now listen to me. Go secretly to your friends, talk to them and discuss with them how best we can rid ourselves of Austria. Do you know any one in Uri and Unterwalden whom you could trust and who would help you?"
"Yes," said Werner, "I known all the chief people. Many of them I could trust with my life. There is Walter Fürst in Uri and Henri of Melchthal in Unterwalden. They, I am sure, would help us."
"Then go to them," said Gertrude throwing her head proudly back. "Let us be free, free once more. What matter though we die, if we lose our lives fighting for freedom."
"Gertrude," said Werner rising, "you have put heart into me. I will go this very night. God help me if I fail."
"We will not fail," said Gertrude, smiling at him bravely. And now her eyes, which had before sparkled with anger, were wet with tears.
Across the lonely beach we flit,
One little sandpiper and I,
And fast I gather, bit by bit,
The scattered driftwood, bleached and dry.
The wild waves reach their hands for it,
The wild wind raves, the tide runs high,
As up and down the beach we flit,—
One little sandpiper and I.
Above our heads the sullen clouds
Scud, black and swift, across the sky;
Like silent ghosts in misty shrouds
Stand out the white lighthouses high.
Almost as far as eye can reach
I see the close-reefed vessels fly,
As fast we flit along the beach,—
One little sandpiper and I.
I watch him as he skims along,
Uttering his sweet and mournful cry;
He starts not at my fitful song,
Nor flash of fluttering drapery.
He has no thought of any wrong,
He scans me with a fearless eye;
Stanch friends are we, well tried and strong,
The little sandpiper and I.
Comrade, where wilt thou be to-night,
When the loosed storm breaks furiously?
My driftwood fire will burn so bright!
To what warm shelter canst thou fly?
I do not fear for thee, though wroth
The tempest rushes through the sky;
For are we not God's children both,
Thou, little sandpiper, and I?
WEEK 38 |
I N China, you must know, the Emperor is a Chinaman, and all whom he has about him are Chinamen, too. It happened a good many years ago, but that's just why it's worth while to hear the story before it is forgotten. The Emperor's palace was the most splendid in the world; it was made entirely of porcelain, very costly, but so delicate and brittle that one had to take care how one touched it. In the garden were to be seen the most wonderful flowers, and to the costliest of them silver bells were tied, which sounded so that nobody should pass by without noticing the flowers. Yes, everything in the Emperor's garden was admirably arranged. And it extended so far that the gardener himself did not know where the end was. If a man went on and on he came into a glorious forest with high trees and deep lakes. The wood extended straight down to the sea, which was blue and deep; great ships could sail to and fro beneath the branches of the trees; and in the trees lived a Nightingale, which sang so splendidly that even the poor Fisherman, who had many other things to do, stopped still and listened when he had gone out at night to throw out his nets and heard the Nightingale.
"How beautiful that is!" he said; but he was obliged to attend to his property, and thus forgot the bird. But when on the next night the bird sang again, and the Fisherman heard it, he exclaimed again, "How beautiful that is!"
From all the countries of the world travelers came to the city of the Emperor and admired it and the palace and the garden, but when they heard the Nightingale they said, "That is the best of all!"
And the travelers told of it when they came home; and the learned men wrote many books about the town, the palace, and the garden. But they did not forget the Nightingale; that was placed highest of all; and those who were poets wrote most magnificent poems about the Nightingale in the wood by the deep lake.
The books went through all the world, and a few of them once came to the Emperor. He sat in his golden chair and read and read; every moment he nodded his head, for it pleased him to peruse the masterly descriptions of the city, the palace, and the garden. "But the Nightingale is the best of all!"—it stood written there.
"What's that?" exclaimed the Emperor. "I don't know the Nightingale at all! Is there such a bird in my empire, and even in my garden? I've never heard of that. To think that I should have to learn such a thing for the first time from books!"
And thereupon he called his Cavalier. This Cavalier was so grand that if any one lower in rank than himself dared to speak to him or to ask him any question he answered nothing but "P!"—and that meant nothing.
"There is said to be a wonderful bird here called a Nightingale!" said the Emperor. "They say it is the best thing in all my great empire. Why have I never heard anything about it?"
"I have never heard him named," replied the Cavalier. "He has never been introduced at court."
"I command that he shall appear this evening and sing before me," said the Emperor. "All the world knows what I possess, and I do not know it myself!"
"I have never heard him mentioned," said the Cavalier. "I will seek for him. I will find him."
But where was he to be found? The Cavalier ran up and down all the staircases, through halls and passages, but no one among all those whom he met had heard talk of the Nightingale. And the Cavalier ran back to the Emperor and said that it must be a fable invented by the writers of books.
"Your Imperial Majesty cannot believe how much is written that is fiction besides something that they call the black art."
"But the book in which I read this," said the Emperor, "was sent to me by the high and mighty Emperor of Japan, and therefore it cannot be a falsehood. I will hear the Nightingale! It must be here this evening! It has my imperial favor; and if it does not come all the court shall be trampled upon after the court has supped!"
"Tsing-pe!" said the Cavalier; and again he ran up and down all the staircases, and through all the halls and corridors; and half the court ran with him, for the courtiers did not like being trampled upon.
Then there was a great inquiry after the wonderful Nightingale, which all the world knew excepting the people at court.
At last they met with a poor little girl in the kitchen who said:
"The Nightingale? I know it well; yes, it can sing gloriously. Every evening I get leave to carry my poor sick mother the scraps from the table. She lives down by the strand, and when I get back and am tired, and rest in the wood, then I hear the Nightingale sing. And then the water comes into my eyes, and it is just as if my mother kissed me!"
"Little Kitchen-girl," said the Cavalier, "I will get you a place in the kitchen, with permission to see the Emperor dine, if you will lead us to the Nightingale, for it is announced for this evening."
So they all went out into the wood where the Nightingale was accustomed to sing; half the court went forth. When they were in the midst of their journey a cow began to low.
"Oh!" cried the court pages, "now we have it! That shows a wonderful power in so small a creature! I have certainly heard it before."
"No, those are cows lowing!" said the little Kitchen-girl. "We are a long way from the place yet."
Now the frogs began to croak in the marsh.
"Glorious!" said the Chinese Court Preacher. "Now I hear it—it sounds just like little church bells."
"No, those are frogs!" said the little Kitchen-maid. "But now I think we shall soon hear it."
And then the Nightingale began to sing.
"That is it!" exclaimed the little Girl. "Listen, listen! And yonder it sits." And she pointed to a little gray bird up in the boughs.
"Is it possible?" cried the Cavalier. "I should never have thought it looked like that! How simple it looks! It must certainly have lost its color at seeing such grand people around."
"Little Nightingale!" called the little Kitchen-maid, quite loudly, "our gracious Emperor wishes you to sing before him."
"With the greatest pleasure!" replied the Nightingale, and began to sing most delightfully.
"It sounds just like glass bells!" said the Cavalier. "And look at its little throat, how it's working! It's wonderful that we should never have heard it before. That bird will be a great success at court."
"Shall I sing once more before the Emperor?" asked the Nightingale, for it thought the Emperor was present.
"My excellent little Nightingale," said the Cavalier, "I have great pleasure in inviting you to a court festival this evening, when you shall charm his Imperial Majesty with your beautiful singing."
"My song sounds best in the greenwood," replied the Nightingale; still it came willingly when it heard what the Emperor wished.
The palace was festively adorned. The walls and the flooring, which were of porcelain, gleamed in the rays of thousands of golden lamps. The most glorious flowers which could ring clearly had been placed in the passages. There was a running to and fro and a thorough draught, and all the bells rang so loudly that one could not hear oneself speak.
In the midst of the great hall, where the Emperor sat, a golden perch had been placed, on which the Nightingale was to sit. The whole court was there, and the little Cook-maid had got leave to stand behind the door, as she had now received the title of a real court cook. All were in full dress, and all looked at the little gray bird, to which the Emperor nodded.
And the Nightingale sang so gloriously that the tears came into the Emperor's eyes and the tears ran down over his cheeks; and then the Nightingale sang still more sweetly, that went straight to the heart. The Emperor was so much pleased that he said the Nightingale should have his golden slipper to wear around its neck. But the Nightingale declined this with thanks, saying it had already received a sufficient reward.
"I have seen tears in the Emperor's eyes—that is the real treasure to me. An emperor's tears have a peculiar power. I am rewarded enough!" And then it sang again with a sweet, glorious voice.
"That's the most amiable coquetry I ever saw!" said the ladies who stood round about, and then they took water in their mouths to gurgle when any one spoke to them. They thought they should be nightingales too. And the lackeys and chambermaids reported that they were satisfied, too; and that was saying a good deal, for they are the most difficult to please. In short, the Nightingale achieved a real success.
It was now to remain at court, to have its own cage, with liberty to go out twice every day and once at night. Twelve servants were appointed when the Nightingale went out, each of whom had a silken string fastened to the bird's leg, which they held very tight. There was really no pleasure in an excursion of that kind.
The whole city spoke of the wonderful bird; and when two people met, one said nothing but "Nightin," and the other said "gale"; and then they sighed and understood each other. Eleven peddlers' children were named after the bird; but not one of them could sing a note.
One day the Emperor received a large parcel on which was written, "The Nightingale."
"There we have a new book about this celebrated bird," said the Emperor.
But it was not a book, but a little work of art contained in a box, an artificial Nightingale, which was to sing like a natural one and was brilliantly ornamented with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. So soon as the artificial bird was wound up he could sing one of the pieces that he really sang, and then his tail moved up and down and shone with silver and gold. Round his neck hung a little ribbon, and on that was written, "The Emperor of China's Nightingale is poor compared with that of the Emperor of Japan."
"That is capital!" said they all; and he who had brought the artificial bird immediately received the title, Imperial-Head Nightingale-bringer.
"Now they must sing together. What a duet that will be!"
And so they had to sing together; but it did not sound very well, for the real Nightingale sang in its own way, and the artificial bird sang waltzes.
"That's not his fault," said the Play-master; "he's quite perfect, and very much in my style."
Now the artificial bird was to sing alone. He had just as much success as the real one, and then it was much handsomer to look at—it shone like bracelets and breastpins.
Three-and-thirty times over did it sing the same piece, and yet was not tired. The people would gladly have heard it again, but the Emperor said that the living Nightingale ought to sing something now. But where was it? No one had noticed that it had flown away out of the open window back to the greenwood.
"But what is become of that?" said the Emperor.
And all the courtiers abused the Nightingale and declared that it was a very ungrateful creature.
"We have the best bird, after all," said they.
And so the artificial bird had to sing again, and that was the thirty-fourth time that they listened to the same piece. For all that they did not know it quite by heart, for it was so very difficult. And the Play-master praised the bird particularly; yes, he declared it was better than a nightingale, not only with regard to its plumage and the many beautiful diamonds, but inside as well.
"For you see, ladies and gentlemen and, above all, your Imperial Majesty, with a real nightingale one can never calculate what is coming, but in this artificial bird everything is settled. One can explain it; one can open it and make people understand where the waltzes come from, how they go, and how one follows up another."
"Those are quite our own ideas," they all said.
And the speaker received permission to show the bird to the people on the next Sunday. The people were to hear it sing too, the Emperor commanded; and they did hear it, and were as much pleased as if they had all got tipsy upon tea, for that's quite the Chinese fashion; and they all said, "Oh!" and held up their forefingers and nodded. But the poor Fisherman, who had heard the real Nightingale said:
"It sounds pretty enough, and the melodies resemble each other; but there's something wanting, though I know not what!"
The real Nightingale was banished from the country and empire. The artificial bird had its place on a silken cushion close to the Emperor's bed; all the presents it had received, gold and precious stones, were ranged about it; in title it had advanced to be the High Imperial After-dinner Singer, and in rank to number one on the left hand; for the Emperor considered that side the most important on which the heart is placed, and even in an emperor the heart is on the left side; and the Play-master wrote a work of five-and-twenty volumes about the artificial bird; it was very learned and very long, full of the most difficult Chinese words; but yet all the people declared that they had read it and understood it for fear of being considered stupid and having their bodies trampled on.
So a whole year went by. The Emperor, the court, and all the other Chinese knew every little twitter in the artificial bird's song by heart. But just for that reason it pleased them best—they could sing with it themselves, and they did so. The street-boys sang, "Tsi-tsi-tsi-glug-glug!" and the Emperor himself sang it, too. Yes, that was certainly famous.
But one evening, when the artificial bird was singing its best and the Emperor lay in bed listening to it, something inside the bird said, "Whizz!" Something cracked. "Whir-r-r!" All the wheels ran round, and then the music stopped.
The Emperor immediately sprang out of bed and caused his body physician to be called; but what could he do? Then they sent for a Watchmaker, and after a good deal of talking and investigation the bird was put into something like order; but the Watchmaker said that the bird must be carefully treated, for the barrels were worn, and it would be impossible to put new ones in in such a manner that the music would go. There was a great lamentation; only once in a year was it permitted to let the bird sing, and that was almost too much. But then the Play-master made a little speech full of heavy words, and said this was just as good as before—and so, of course, it was as good as before.
Now five years had gone by and a real grief came upon the whole nation. The Chinese were really fond of their Emperor, and now he was ill and could not, it was said, live much longer. Already a new Emperor had been chosen, and the people stood out in the street and asked the Cavalier how their old Emperor did.
"P!" said he, and shook his head.
Cold and pale lay the Emperor in his great gorgeous bed; the whole court thought him dead, and each one ran to pay homage to the new ruler. The chamberlains ran out to talk it over, and the ladies'-maids had a great coffee party. All about, in all the halls and passages, cloth had been laid down so that no footstep could be heard, and therefore it was quiet there, quite quiet. But the Emperor was not dead yet; stiff and pale he lay on the gorgeous bed with the long velvet curtains and the heavy gold tassels; high up a window stood open, and the moon shone in upon the Emperor and the artificial bird.
The poor Emperor could scarcely breathe; it was just as if something lay upon his chest; he opened his eyes, and then he saw that it was Death who sat upon his chest, and had put on his golden crown and held in one hand the Emperor's sword and in the other his beautiful banner. And all around from among the folds of the splendid velvet curtains strange heads peered forth; a few very ugly, the rest quite lovely and mild. These were all the Emperor's bad and good deeds that stood before him now that Death sat upon his heart.
"Do you remember this?" whispered one to the other. "Do you remember that?" and then they told him so much that the perspiration ran from his forehead.
"I did not know that!" said the Emperor. "Music! music! The great Chinese drum," he cried, "so that I need not hear all they say!"
And they continued speaking, and Death nodded like a Chinaman to all they said.
"Music! music!" cried the Emperor. "You little precious golden bird, sing, sing! I have given you gold and costly presents; I have even hung my golden slipper around your neck—sing now, sing!"
But the bird stood still; no one was there to wind him up, and he could not sing without that; but Death continued to stare at the Emperor with his great hollow eyes, and it was quiet, fearfully quiet.
Then there sounded from the window, suddenly, the most lovely song. It was the little live Nightingale that sat outside on a spray. It had heard of the Emperor's sad plight and had come to sing to him of comfort and hope. And as it sang the specters grew paler and paler; the blood ran quickly and more quickly through the Emperor's weak limbs; and even Death listened and said:
"Go on, little Nightingale, go on!"
"But will you give me that splendid golden sword? Will you give me that rich banner? Will you give me the Emperor's crown?"
And Death gave up each of these treasures for a song. And the Nightingale sang on and on; and it sang of the quiet church-yard where the white roses grow, where the elder-blossoms smell sweet, and where the fresh grass is moistened by the tears of survivors. Then Death felt a longing to see his garden, and floated out at the window in the form of a cold, white mist.
"Thanks! thanks!" said the Emperor. "You heavenly little bird! I know you well. I banished you from my country and empire, and yet you have charmed away the evil faces from my couch and banished Death from my heart! How can I reward you?"
"You have rewarded me!" replied the Nightingale. "I drew tears from your eyes when I sang the first time—I shall never forget that. Those are the jewels that rejoice a singer's heart. But now sleep and grow fresh and strong again. I will sing you something."
And it sang, and the Emperor fell into a sweet slumber. Ah! how mild and refreshing that sleep was! The sun shone upon him through the windows when he awoke refreshed and restored; not one of his servants had yet returned, for they all thought he was dead; only the Nightingale still sat beside him and sang.
"You must always stay with me," said the Emperor. "You shall sing as you please; and I'll break the artificial bird into a thousand pieces."
"Not so," replied the Nightingale. "It did well as long as it could; keep it as you have done till now. I cannot build my nest in the palace to dwell in it, but let me come when I feel the wish; then I will sit in the evening on the spray yonder by the window and sing you something, so that you may be glad and thoughtful at once. I will sing of those who are happy and of those who suffer. I will sing of good and of evil that remain hidden round about you. The little singing-bird flies far around—to the poor fisherman, to the peasant's roof, to every one who dwells far away from you and from your court. I love your heart more than your crown, and yet the crown has an air of sanctity about it. I will come and sing to you—but one thing you must promise me."
"Everything!" said the Emperor; and he stood there in his imperial robes, which he had put on himself, and pressed the sword, which was heavy with gold, to his heart.
"One thing I beg of you: tell no one that you have a little bird who tells you everything. Then it will go all the better."
And the Nightingale flew away!
The servants came in to look to their dead Emperor, and—yes, there he stood; and the Emperor said, "Good morning!"
"D O the hornets keep on tearing down the inside and building up the outside until they have made those great big nests we find in the trees? Uncle Will o' the Wasps?" Theodore asked the next time he and Uncle Will were in the garden together.
"Yes, indeed," was the answer, "they put on more and more layers of paper as the house increases in size, so even when they tear away the inside to enlarge the space, there remains a thick, strong wall to protect the precious treasures within and keep that children warm."
"It seems to me," said Theodore, "that all kinds of parents take great care of their children."
"Do you know why?"
"I suppose it is because they love them so much."
"Yes, they love them dearly. Even the wasps love their children and will die fighting for them. Children, you know, are the most precious things in the whole world."
"They are not worth more than fathers and mothers, are they?"
"Well, yes, I think they are on the whole. They are the
mothers and fathers—the
"Ought I to be better than father?"
Uncle Will laughed. "That would be asking a good deal, I know. If you are as good as your father, you will do well. But as you grow up you can help other people who have not had your chance, for so much depends on the chance, you know."
"Do wasps train their children, Uncle Will?"
"No, I do not think so. Wasps are not like people. They do not need to think about good and bad. But people are going on, you know. The human race is all the time getting wiser and better. The wasps can go on forever building paper nests just the same way, and stinging people who interfere, and nothing more is asked of them."
The Vulture eats between his meals,
And that's the reason why
He very, very, rarely feels
As well as you and I.
His eye is dull, his head is bald,
His neck is growing thinner.
Oh! what a lesson for us all
To only eat at dinner!
WEEK 38 |
Matthew xxi: 18, to xxiii: 39;
Mark xi: 12, to xii: 44;
Luke xix: 45, to xxi: 4.
N Monday morning, the second day of the week, Jesus rose very early in the morning and, without waiting to take his breakfast, went with his disciples from Bethany over the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem. On the mountain he saw at a distance a fig-tree covered with leaves, and although it was early for figs to be ripe, he hoped that he might find upon it some figs fit to be eaten. Among the Jews, and by their law, any one passing a tree could eat of its fruit, even though he were not the owner; but he would not be allowed to carry any away.
But when Jesus came near to this tree he saw that there was no fruit upon it, neither ripe nor green, but leaves only. Then a thought came into the mind of Jesus; and he spoke to the tree, while his disciples heard his words, "No fruit shall grow on thee from this time forever." And then he walked on his way to Jerusalem. We shall see later why Jesus spoke those words, and what came from them.
You remember that when Jesus came to Jerusalem the first time after he began to preach, he found the courts of the Temple filled with people buying, and selling, and changing money, and he drove them all out. This we read in Story 116. But that had been three years before; and now when Jesus came into the Temple on the Monday morning before the Passover he found all the traders there once more, selling the oxen, and sheep, and doves for sacrifices and changing money at the tables.
And again Jesus rose up against these people who would
make his Father's house a shop and a place of gain. He
drove them all out; he turned over the tables of the
money-changers, scattering their money on the floor; he
cleared away the seats of those that were selling
doves; and whenever he saw any one even carrying a jar,
or a basket, or any load through the Temple, he stopped
him, and made him go back. He said to all the people,
"It is written in the prophets, 'My house shall be
called a house of prayer for all nations, but you have
made it a den of
Jesus drives out the traders.
The Jews had made it a rule that no blind man, nor any lame man, could go into the Temple; for they thought only those perfect in body should come before the Lord. But they forgot that God looks at hearts and not at bodies. And when Jesus found that many blind and lame people were at the doors of the Temple he allowed them to come in, and made them all well.
And the little children, who always loved Jesus, saw him in the Temple, and they cried out, as they heard others crying, "Hosanna to the Son of David!"
The chief priests and scribes were greatly displeased as they heard the voices of these children, and they said to Jesus, "Do you hear what these are saying?"
And Jesus said, "Yes; and have you never read what is
written in the Psalms, 'Out of the mouth of babes and
little ones, thou hast made thy praise
And all the common people came to hear Jesus as he taught in the Temple, and they listened to him gladly, for he gave them plain and simple teachings, with many parables or stories. But the rulers and chief priests grew more and more angry as they saw the courts of the Temple filled with people eager to hear Jesus. They tried to find some way to lay hands on Jesus, and to kill him; but they dared not while all the crowds were around him.
All that day Jesus taught the people, and when night came he went out of the city, over the Mount of Olives, to Bethany, where he was safe among his friends.
And on the next morning, which was Tuesday of the week before the Passover, Jesus again went over the Mount of Olives with his disciples. They passed the fig-tree to which Jesus had spoken such strange words on the day before. And now the disciples saw that the tree was standing, withered and dried, with its leaves dry and rustling in the wind.
"Look, Master!" said Peter.
"The fig-tree to which you spoke yesterday is withered!"
And Jesus said to them all, "Have faith in God, for in truth I say to you, that if you have faith, you shall not only do this which has been done to the fig-tree; but also, if you shall say to this mountain, 'Be moved away and thrown into the sea!' it shall be done. And all things, whatever they may be, that you ask in prayer, if you have faith, shall be given to you." Again Jesus went into the Temple and taught the people.
And Jesus gave another parable or story, that of "The Wedding Feast." He said:
"There was a certain king who made a great feast at the
wedding of his son; and he sent out his servant to call
those whom he had invited to the feast. But they would
not come. Then he sent forth other servants, and said,
'Tell those who were invited that my dinner is all
ready; my oxen are killed, and the dishes are on the
table. Say to them, "All things are ready; come to the
"But the men who had been sent for would not come. One went to his farm, another to his shop, and some of them seized the servants whom he sent, and beat them, and treated them roughly; and some of them they killed. This made the king very angry. He sent his armies, and killed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding-feast is ready, but those that were invited were not worthy of such honor. Go out into the streets, and call in everybody that you can find, high and low, rich and poor, good and bad, and tell them that they are welcome.'
"The servants went out and invited all the people of every kind, and brought them to the feast, so that all the places were filled. And to all who came they gave a wedding garment, so that every one might be dressed as was fitting before the king.
"But when the king came in to meet his guests, he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. He said to him, 'Friend, why have you come to the feast without a wedding garment?'
"The man had nothing to say; he stood as one dumb. Then
the king said to his officers, 'Bind him hand and foot,
and throw him out into the darkness, where there shall
be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For in the kingdom of
God many are called, but few are
The enemies of Jesus thought that they had found a way to bring him into trouble, either with the people, or with the Romans, who were the rulers over the land. So they sent to him some men, who acted as though they were honest and true, but were in their hearts seeking to destroy Jesus. These men came, and they said, "Master, we know that you teach the truth, and that you are not afraid of any man. Now tell what is right, and what we should do. Ought our people, the Jews, to pay taxes to the Roman Emperor Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?"
And they watched for his answer. If he should say, "It is right to pay the tax," then these men could tell the people, "Jesus is the friend of the Romans, and the enemy of the Jews," and then they would turn away from him. But if he should say, "It is not right to pay the tax; refuse to pay it," then they might say to the Roman governor that Jesus would not obey the laws, and the governor might put him in prison or kill him. So whatever answer Jesus might give, they hoped he might make trouble for himself.
But Jesus knew their hate and the thoughts of their hearts, and he said, "Let me see a piece of the money that is given for the tax."
They brought him a silver piece, and he looked at it, and said, "Whose head is this on the coin? Whose name is written over it?"
They answered him, "That is Caesar, the Roman emperor."
"Well, then," said Jesus, "give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and give to God the things that are God's!"
Jesus and the piece of money.
They wondered at his answer, for it was so wise that they could speak nothing against it. They tried him with other questions, but he answered them all, and left his enemies with nothing to say. Then Jesus turned upon his enemies, and spoke to them his last words. He told them of their wickedness, and warned them that they would bring down the wrath of God upon them.
Jesus was in the part of the Temple called "The Treasury," because around the wall were boxes in which the people dropped their gifts when they came to worship. Some that were rich gave much money; but a poor widow came by and dropped in two little coins, the very smallest, the two together worth only a quarter of a cent. Jesus said, "I tell you in truth that this poor widow has dropped into the treasury more than all the rest. For the others gave out of their plenty, but she, in her need, has given all that she had."
And with these words Jesus rose up, and went out of the Temple for the last time. Never again was the voice of Jesus heard within those walls.
The poor widow drops in two little coins.
P AFLAGONIA, ten or twenty thousand years ago, appears to have been one of those kingdoms where the laws of succession were not settled; for when King Savio died, leaving his brother regent of the kingdom, and guardian of Savio's orphan infant, this unfaithful regent took no sort of regard of the late monarch's will; had himself proclaimed sovereign of Paflagonia under the title of King Valoroso XXIV., had a most splendid coronation, and ordered all the nobles of the kingdom to pay him homage. So long as Valoroso gave them plenty of balls at Court, plenty of money, and lucrative places, the Paflagonian nobility did not care who was king; and as for the people, in those early times, they were equally indifferent. The Prince Giglio, by reason of his tender age at his royal father's death, did not feel the loss of his crown and empire. As long as he had plenty of toys and sweetmeats, a holiday five times a week, and a horse and gun to go out shooting when he grew a little older, and, above all, the company of his darling cousin, the King's only child, poor Giglio was perfectly contented; nor did he envy his uncle the royal robes and sceptre, the great hot, uncomfortable throne of state, and the enormous cumbersome crown in which that monarch appeared, from morning till night. King Valoroso's portrait has been left to us; and I think you will agree with me that he must have been sometimes rather tired of his velvet, and his diamonds, and his ermine, and his grandeur. I shouldn't like to sit in that stifling robe with such a thing as that on my head.
No doubt the Queen must have been lovely in her youth; for though she grew rather stout in after life, yet her features, as shown in her portrait, are certainly pleasing.
If she was fond of flattery, scandal, cards, and fine clothes, let us deal gently with her infirmities, which, after all, may be no greater than our own. She was kind to her nephew; and if she had any scruples of conscience about her husband's taking the young Prince's crown, consoled herself by thinking that the King, though a usurper, was a most respectable man, and that at his death Prince Giglio would be restored to his throne, and share it with his cousin, whom he loved so fondly.
The Prime Minister was Glumboso, an old statesman, who most cheerfully swore fidelity to King Valoroso, and in whose hands the monarch left all the affairs of his kingdom. All Valoroso wanted was plenty of money, plenty of hunting, plenty of flattery, and as little trouble as possible. As long as he had his sport, this monarch cared little how his people paid for it; he engaged in some wars, and of course the Paflagonian newspapers announced that he gained prodigious victories; he had statues erected to himself in every city of the empire; and of course his pictures placed everywhere, and in all the print shops; he was Valoroso the Magnanimous, Valoroso the Victorious, Valoroso the Great, and so forth;—for even in these early times courtiers and people knew how to flatter.
This royal pair had one only child, the Princess Angelica, who, you may be sure, was a paragon in the courtiers' eyes, in her parents', and in her own. It was said she had the longest hair, the largest eyes, the slimmest waist, the smallest foot, and the most lovely complexion of any young lady in the Paflagonian dominions. Her accomplishments were announced to be even superior to her beauty; and governesses used to shame their idle pupils by telling them what Princess Angelica could do. She could play the most difficult pieces of music at sight. She could answer any one of Mangnal's Questions. She knew every date in the history of Paflagonia, and every other country. She knew French, English, Italian, German, Spanish, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Cappadocian, Samothracian, Ægean, and Crim Tartar. In a word, she was a most accomplished young creature; and her governess and lady-in-waiting was the severe Countess Gruffanuff.
Would you not fancy, from this picture, that Gruffanuff must have been a person of the highest birth? She looks so haughty that I should have thought her a princess at the very least, with a pedigree reaching as far back as the deluge. But this lady was no better born than many other ladies who give themselves airs; and all sensible people laughed at her absurd pretensions; the fact is she had been maid-servant to the Queen when her Majesty was only Princess, and her husband had been head footman, but after his death or disappearance, of which you shall hear presently, this Mrs. Gruffanuff, by flattering, toadying, and wheedling her royal mistress, became a favorite with the Queen (who was rather a weak woman), and her Majesty gave her a title, and made her nursery governess to the Princess.
And now I must tell you about the Princess' learning and accomplishments, for which she had such a wonderful character. Clever Angelica certainly was, but as idle as possible. Play at sight, indeed! she could play one or two pieces, and pretend that she had never seen them before; she could answer half a dozen Mangnal's Questions; but then you must take care to ask the right ones. As for her languages, she had masters in plenty, but I doubt whether she knew more than a few phrases in each, for all her pretence; and as for her embroidery and her drawing, she showed beautiful specimens, it is true, but who did them?
This obliges me to tell the truth, and to do so I must go back ever so far, and tell you about the FAIRY BLACKSTICK.
B ETWEEN the kingdoms of Paflagonia and Crim Tartary, there lived a mysterious personage, who was known in those countries as the Fairy Blackstick, from the ebony wand or crutch which she carried; on which she rode to the moon sometimes, or upon other excursions of business or pleasure, and with which she performed her wonders.
When she was young, and had been first taught the art of conjuring, by the necromancer, her father, she was always practising her skill, whizzing about from one kingdom to another upon her black stick, and conferring her fairy favors upon this Prince or that. She had scores of royal godchildren; turned numberless wicked people into beasts, birds, millstones, clocks, pumps, bootjacks, umbrellas, or other absurd shapes; and in a word was one of the most active and officious of the whole College of fairies.
But after two or three thousand years of this sport, I suppose Blackstick grew tired of it. Or perhaps she thought, "What good am I doing by sending this Princess to sleep for a hundred years? by fixing a black pudding on to that booby's nose? by causing diamonds and pearls to drop from one little girl's mouth, and vipers and toads from another's? I begin to think I do as much harm as good by my performances. I might as well shut my incantations up, and allow things to take their natural course.
"There were my two young goddaughters, King Savio's wife, and Duke Padella's wife; I gave them each a present, which was to render them charming in the eyes of their husbands, and secure the affection of those gentlemen as long as they lived. What good did my Rose and my Ring do these two women? None on earth. From having all their whims indulged by their husbands, they became capricious, lazy, ill-humored, absurdly vain, and leered and languished, and fancied themselves irresistibly beautiful, when they were really quite old and hideous, the ridiculous creatures! They used actually to patronize me when I went to pay them a visit:—me, the Fairy Blackstick, who knows all the wisdom of the necromancers, and who could have turned them into baboons, and all their diamonds into strings of onions, by a single wave of my rod!" So she locked up her books in her cupboard, declined further magical performances, and scarcely used her wand at all except as a cane to walk about with.
So when Duke Padella's lady had a little son (the Duke was at that time only one of the principal noblemen in Crim Tartary), Blackstick, although invited to the christening, would not so much as attend; but merely sent her compliments and a silver papboat for the baby, which was really not worth a couple of guineas. About the same time the Queen of Paflagonia presented his Majesty with a son and heir; and guns were fired, the capital illuminated, and no end of feasts ordained to celebrate the young Prince's birth. It was thought the fairy, who was asked to be his godmother, would at least have presented him with an invisible jacket, a flying horse, a Fortunatus' purse, or some other valuable token of her favor; but instead, Blackstick went up to the cradle of the child Giglio, when everybody was admiring him and complimenting his royal papa and mamma, and said: "My poor child, the best thing I can send you is a little misfortune," and this was all she would utter, to the disgust of Giglio's parents, who died very soon after, when Giglio's uncle took the throne, as we read in the first chapter.
In like manner, when CAVOLFIORE, King of Crim Tartary, had a christening of his only child, ROSALBA, the Fairy Blackstick, who had been invited, was not more gracious than in Prince Giglio's case. Whilst everybody was expatiating over the beauty of the darling child, and congratulating its parents, the Fairy Blackstick looked very sadly at the baby and its mother, and said: "My good woman (for the Fairy was very familiar, and no more minded a Queen than a washerwoman)—my good woman, these people who are following you will be the first to turn against you; and, as for this little lady, the best thing I can wish her is a little misfortune." So she touched Rosalba with her black wand, looked severely at the courtiers, motioned the Queen an adieu with her hand, and sailed slowly up into the air out of the window.
When she was gone, the Court people, who had been awed and silent in her presence, began to speak. "What an odious Fairy she is [they said]—a pretty Fairy, indeed! Why, she went to the King of Paflagonia's christening, and pretended to do all sorts of things for that family; and what has happened—the Prince, her godson, has been turned off his throne by his uncle. Would we allow our sweet Princess to be deprived of her rights by any enemy? Never, never, never, never!"
And they all shouted in a chorus, "Never, never, never, never!"
Now, I should like to know, and how did
these fine courtiers show their fidelity? One of King
Cavolfiore's vassals, the Duke Padella just mentioned,
rebelled against the King, who went out to chastise his
rebellious subject. "Any one rebel against our beloved
and august Monarch!" cried the courtiers; "any one
resist him? He is invincible, irresistible.
bring home Padella a prisoner; and tie him to a
donkey's tail, and drive him round the town, saying: 'This
is the way the Great Cavolfiore treats
The King went forth to vanquish Padella; and the poor Queen, who was a very timid, anxious creature, grew so frightened and ill, that I am sorry to say she died, leaving injunctions with her ladies to take care of the dear little Rosalba. Of course they said they would. Of course they vowed they would die rather than any harm should happen to the Princess. At first the Crim Tartar Court Journal stated that the King was obtaining great victories over the audacious rebel; then it was announced that the troops of the infamous Padella were in flight; then it was said that the royal army would soon come up with the enemy; and then—then the news came that King Cavolfiore was vanquished and slain by His Majesty, King Padella the First!
At this news, half the courtiers ran off to pay their duty to the conquering chief, and the other half ran away, laying hands on all the best articles in the palace, and poor little Rosalba was left there quite alone—quite alone; and she toddled from one room to another, crying: "Countess! Duchess! [only she said 'Tountess, Duttess,' not being able to speak plain] bring me my mutton sop; my Royal Highness hungry! Tountess, Duttess!" And she went from the private apartments into the throne-room and nobody was there; and thence into the ball-room, and nobody was there; and thence into the pages' room, and nobody was there; and she toddled down the great staircase into the hall, and nobody was there; and the door was open, and she went into the court, and into the garden, and thence into the wilderness, and thence into the forest where the wild beasts live, and was never heard of any more!
A piece of her torn mantle and one of her shoes were found in the wood in the mouths of two lioness' cubs, whom KING PADELLA and a royal hunting party shot—for he was King now, and reigned over Crim Tartary. "So the poor little Princess is done for," said he; "well, what's done can't be helped. Gentlemen, let us go to luncheon!" And one of the courtiers took up the shoe and put it in his pocket. And there was an end of Rosalba!