WEEK 4 |
HAT was left of the second sheet and the Brunswick black came in very nicely to make a banner bearing the legend
and this was displayed to the Green Dragon about a fortnight after the arrival of the wonderful hamper. The old gentleman saw it, and waved a cheerful response from the train. And when this had been done the children saw that now was the time when they must tell Mother what they had done when she was ill. And it did not seem nearly so easy as they had thought it would be. But it had to be done. And it was done. Mother was extremely angry. She was seldom angry, and now she was angrier than they had ever known her. This was horrible. But it was much worse when she suddenly began to cry. Crying is catching, I believe, like measles and whooping-cough. At any rate, everyone at once found itself taking part in a crying-party.
Mother stopped first. She dried her eyes and then she said:
"I'm sorry I was so angry, darlings, because I know you didn't understand."
"We didn't mean to be naughty, Mammy," sobbed Bobbie, and Peter and Phyllis sniffed.
"Now, listen," said Mother; "it's quite true that we're poor, but we have enough to live on. You mustn't go telling everyone about our affairs—it's not right. And you must never, never, never ask strangers to give you things. Now always remember that—won't you?"
They all hugged her and rubbed their damp cheeks against hers and promised that they would.
"And I'll write a letter to your old gentleman, and I shall tell him that I didn't approve—oh, of course I shall thank him, too, for his kindness. It's you I don't approve of, my darlings, not the old gentleman. He was as kind as ever he could be. And you can give the letter to the Station Master to give him—and we won't say any more about it."
Afterwards, when the children were alone, Bobbie said:
"Isn't Mother splendid? You catch any other grown-up saying they were sorry they had been angry."
"Yes," said Peter, "she is splendid; but it's rather awful when she's angry."
"She's like Avenging and Bright in the song," said Phyllis. "I should like to look at her if it wasn't so awful. She looks so beautiful when she's really downright furious."
They took the letter down to the Station Master.
"I thought you said you hadn't got any friends except in London," said he.
"We've made him since," said Peter.
"But he doesn't live hereabouts?"
"No—we just know him on the railway."
Then the Station Master retired to that sacred inner temple behind the little window where the tickets are sold, and the children went down to the Porter's room and talked to the Porter. They learned several interesting things from him—among others that his name was Perks, that he was married and had three children, that the lamps in front of engines are called head-lights and the ones at the back tail-lights.
"And that just shows," whispered Phyllis, "that trains really are dragons in disguise, with proper heads and tails."
It was on this day that the children first noticed that all engines are not alike.
"Alike?" said the Porter, whose name was Perks, "lor, love you, no, Miss. No more alike nor what you an' me are. That little 'un without a tender as went by just now all on her own, that was a tank, that was—she's off to do some shunting t'other side o' Maidbridge. That's as it might be you, Miss. Then there's goods engines, great, strong things with three wheels each side—joined with rods to strengthen 'em—as it might be me. Then there's main-line engines as it might be this 'ere young gentleman when he grows up and wins all the races at 'is school—so he will. The main-line engine she's built for speed as well as power. That's one to the 9.15 up."
"The Green Dragon," said Phyllis.
"We calls her the Snail, Miss, among ourselves," said the Porter. "She's oftener be'ind'and nor any train on the line."
"But the engine's green," said Phyllis.
"Yes, Miss," said Perks, "so's a snail some seasons o' the year."
The children agreed as they went home to dinner that the Porter was most delightful company.
Next day was Roberta's birthday. In the afternoon she was politely but firmly requested to get out of the way and keep there till tea-time.
"You aren't to see what we're going to do till it's done; it's a glorious surprise," said Phyllis.
And Roberta went out into the garden all alone. She tried to be grateful, but she felt she would much rather have helped in whatever it was than have to spend her birthday afternoon by herself, no matter how glorious the surprise might be.
Now that she was alone, she had time to think, and one of the things she thought of most was what Mother had said in one of those feverish nights when her hands were so hot and her eyes so bright.
The words were: "Oh, what a doctor's bill there'll be for this!"
She walked round and round the garden among the rose-bushes that hadn't any roses yet, only buds, and the lilac bushes and syringas and American currants, and the more she thought of the doctor's bill, the less she liked the thought of it.
And presently she made up her mind. She went out through the side door of the garden and climbed up the steep field to where the road runs along by the canal. She walked along until she came to the bridge that crosses the canal and leads to the village, and here she waited. It was very pleasant in the sunshine to lean one's elbows on the warm stone of the bridge and look down at the blue water of the canal. Bobbie had never seen any other canal, except the Regent's Canal, and the water of that is not at all a pretty colour. And she had never seen any river at all except the Thames, which also would be all the better if its face was washed.
Perhaps the children would have loved the canal as much as the railway, but for two things. One was that they had found the railway first—on that first, wonderful morning when the house and the country and the moors and rocks and great hills were all new to them. They had not found the canal till some days later. The other reason was that everyone on the railway had been kind to them—the Station Master, the Porter, and the old gentleman who waved. And the people on the canal were anything but kind.
The people on the canal were, of course, the bargees, who steered the slow barges up and down, or walked beside the old horses that trampled up the mud of the towing-path, and strained at the long tow-ropes.
Peter had once asked one of the bargees the time, and had been told to "get out of that," in a tone so fierce that he did not stop to say anything about his having just as much right on the towing-path as the man himself. Indeed, he did not even think of saying it till some time later.
Then another day when the children thought they would like to fish in the canal, a boy in a barge threw lumps of coal at them, and one of these hit Phyllis on the back of the neck. She was just stooping down to tie up her bootlace—and though the coal hardly hurt at all it made her not care very much about going on fishing.
On the bridge, however, Roberta felt quite safe, because she could look down on the canal, and if any boy showed signs of meaning to throw coal, she could duck behind the parapet.
Presently there was a sound of wheels, which was just what she expected.
The wheels were the wheels of the Doctor's dogcart, and in the cart, of course, was the Doctor.
He pulled up, and called out:
"Hullo, head-nurse! Want a lift?"
"I wanted to see you," said Bobbie.
"Your mother's not worse, I hope?" said the Doctor.
"Well, step in, then, and we'll go for a drive."
Roberta climbed in and the brown horse was made to turn round—which it did not like at all, for it was looking forward to its tea—I mean its oats.
"This is jolly," said Bobbie, as the dogcart flew along the road by the canal.
"We could throw a stone down any one of your three chimneys," said the Doctor, as they passed the house.
"Yes," said Bobbie, "but you'd have to be a jolly good shot."
"How do you know I'm not?" said the Doctor. "Now, then, what's the trouble?"
Bobbie fidgeted with the hook of the driving apron.
"Come, out with it," said the Doctor.
"It's rather hard, you see," said Bobbie, "to out with it; because of what Mother said."
"What did Mother say?"
"She said I wasn't to go telling everyone that we're poor. But you aren't everyone, are you?"
"Not at all," said the Doctor, cheerfully. "Well?"
"Well, I know doctors are very extravagant—I mean expensive, and Mrs. Viney told me that her doctoring only cost her twopence a week because she belonged to a Club."
"You see she told me what a good doctor you were, and I asked her how she could afford you, because she's much poorer than we are. I've been in her house and I know. And then she told me about the Club, and I thought I'd ask you—and—oh, I don't want Mother to be worried! Can't we be in the Club, too, the same as Mrs. Viney?"
The Doctor was silent. He was rather poor himself, and he had been pleased at getting a new family to attend. So I think his feelings at that minute were rather mixed.
"You aren't cross with me, are you?" said Bobbie, in a very small voice.
The Doctor roused himself.
"Cross? How could I be? You're a very sensible little woman. Now look here, don't you worry. I'll make it all right with your Mother, even if I have to make a special brand-new Club all for her. Look here, this is where the Aqueduct begins."
"What's an Aque—what's its name?" asked Bobbie.
"A water bridge," said the Doctor. "Look."
The road rose to a bridge over the canal. To the left was a steep rocky cliff with trees and shrubs growing in the cracks of the rock. And the canal here left off running along the top of the hill and started to run on a bridge of its own—a great bridge with tall arches that went right across the valley.
Bobbie drew a long breath.
"It is grand, isn't it?" she said. "It's like pictures in the History of Rome."
"Right!" said the Doctor, "that's just exactly what it is like. The Romans were dead nuts on aqueducts. It's a splendid piece of engineering."
"I thought engineering was making engines."
"Ah, there are different sorts of engineering—making road and bridges and tunnels is one kind. And making fortifications is another. Well, we must be turning back. And, remember, you aren't to worry about doctor's bills or you'll be ill yourself, and then I'll send you a bill as long as the aqueduct."
When Bobbie had parted from the Doctor at the top of the field that ran down from the road to Three Chimneys, she could not feel that she had done wrong. She knew that Mother would perhaps think differently. But Bobbie felt that for once she was the one who was right, and she scrambled down the rocky slope with a really happy feeling.
Phyllis and Peter met her at the back door. They were unnaturally clean and neat, and Phyllis had a red bow in her hair. There was only just time for Bobbie to make herself tidy and tie up her hair with a blue bow before a little bell rang.
"There!" said Phyllis, "that's to show the surprise is ready. Now you wait till the bell rings again and then you may come into the dining-room."
So Bobbie waited.
"Tinkle, tinkle," said the little bell, and Bobbie went into the dining-room, feeling rather shy. Directly she opened the door she found herself, as it seemed, in a new world of light and flowers and singing. Mother and Peter and Phyllis were standing in a row at the end of the table. The shutters were shut and there were twelve candles on the table, one for each of Roberta's years. The table was covered with a sort of pattern of flowers, and at Roberta's place was a thick wreath of forget-me-nots and several most interesting little packages. And Mother and Phyllis and Peter were singing—to the first part of the tune of St. Patrick's Day. Roberta knew that Mother had written the words on purpose for her birthday. It was a little way of Mother's on birthdays. It had begun on Bobbie's fourth birthday when Phyllis was a baby. Bobbie remembered learning the verses to say to Father "for a surprise." She wondered if Mother had remembered, too. The four-year-old verse had been:
Daddy dear, I'm only four
And I'd rather not be more.
Four's the nicest age to be,
Two and two and one and three.
What I love is two and two,
Mother, Peter, Phil, and you.
What you love is one and three,
Mother, Peter, Phil, and me.
Give your little girl a kiss
Because she learned and told you this.
The song the others were singing now went like this:
Our darling Roberta,
No sorrow shall hurt her
If we can prevent it
Her whole life long.
Her birthday's our fête day,
We'll make it our great day,
And give her our presents
And sing her our song.
May pleasures attend her
And may the Fates send her
The happiest journey
Along her life's way.
With skies bright above her
And dear ones to love her!
Dear Bob! Many happy
Returns of the day!
When they had finished singing they cried, "Three cheers for our Bobbie!" and gave them very loudly. Bobbie felt exactly as though she were going to cry—you know that odd feeling in the bridge of your nose and the pricking in your eyelids? But before she had time to begin they were all kissing and hugging her.
"Now," said Mother, "look at your presents."
They were very nice presents. There was a green and red needle-book that Phyllis had made herself in secret moments. There was a darling little silver brooch of Mother's shaped like a buttercup, which Bobbie had known and loved for years, but which she had never, never thought would come to be her very own. There was also a pair of blue glass vases from Mrs. Viney. Roberta had seen and admired them in the village shop. And there were three birthday cards with pretty pictures and wishes.
Mother fitted the forget-me-not crown on Bobbie's brown head.
"And now look at the table," she said.
There was a cake on the table covered with white sugar, with 'Dear Bobbie' on it in pink sweets, and there were buns and jam; but the nicest thing was that the big table was almost covered with flowers—wall-flowers were laid all round the tea-tray—there was a ring of forget-me-nots round each plate. The cake had a wreath of white lilac round it, and in the middle was something that looked like a pattern all done with single blooms of lilac or wall-flower or laburnum.
"What is it?" asked Roberta.
"It's a map—a map of the railway!" cried Peter.
"Look—those lilac lines are the metals—and there's the station done in brown wall-flowers. The laburnum is the train, and there are the signal-boxes, and the road up to here—and those fat red daisies are us three waving to the old gentleman—that's him, the pansy in the laburnum train."
"And there's 'Three Chimneys' done in the purple primroses," said Phyllis. "And that little tiny rose-bud is Mother looking out for us when we're late for tea. Peter invented it all, and we got all the flowers from the station. We thought you'd like it better."
"That's my present," said Peter, suddenly dumping down his adored steam-engine on the table in front of her. Its tender had been lined with fresh white paper, and was full of sweets.
"Oh, Peter!" cried Bobbie, quite overcome by this munificence, "not your own dear little engine that you're so fond of?"
"Oh, no," said Peter, very promptly, "not the engine. Only the sweets."
Bobbie couldn't help her face changing a little—not so much because she was disappointed at not getting the engine, as because she had thought it so very noble of Peter, and now she felt she had been silly to think it. Also she felt she must have seemed greedy to expect the engine as well as the sweets. So her face changed. Peter saw it. He hesitated a minute; then his face changed, too, and he said: "I mean not all the engine. I'll let you go halves if you like."
"You're a brick," cried Bobbie; "it's a splendid present." She said no more aloud, but to herself she said:
"That was awfully jolly decent of Peter because I know he didn't mean to. Well, the broken half shall be my half of the engine, and I'll get it mended and give it back to Peter for his birthday."—"Yes, Mother dear, I should like to cut the cake," she added, and tea began.
It was a delightful birthday. After tea Mother played games with them—any game they liked—and of course their first choice was blindman's-buff, in the course of which Bobbie's forget-me-not wreath twisted itself crookedly over one of her ears and stayed there. Then, when it was near bed-time and time to calm down, Mother had a lovely new story to read to them.
"You won't sit up late working, will you, Mother?" Bobbie asked as they said good night.
And Mother said no, she wouldn't—she would only just write to Father and then go to bed.
But when Bobbie crept down later to bring up her presents—for she felt she really could not be separated from them all night—Mother was not writing, but leaning her head on her arms and her arms on the table. I think it was rather good of Bobbie to slip quietly away, saying over and over, "She doesn't want me to know she's unhappy, and I won't know; I won't know." But it made a sad end to the birthday.
The very next morning Bobbie began to watch her opportunity to get Peter's engine mended secretly. And the opportunity came the very next afternoon.
Mother went by train to the nearest town to do shopping. When she went there, she always went to the Post-office. Perhaps to post her letters to Father, for she never gave them to the children or Mrs. Viney to post, and she never went to the village herself. Peter and Phyllis went with her. Bobbie wanted an excuse not to go, but try as she would she couldn't think of a good one. And just when she felt that all was lost, her frock caught on a big nail by the kitchen door and there was a great criss-cross tear all along the front of the skirt. I assure you this was really an accident. So the others pitied her and went without her, for there was no time for her to change, because they were rather late already and had to hurry to the station to catch the train.
When they had gone, Bobbie put on her everyday frock, and went down to the railway. She did not go into the station, but she went along the line to the end of the platform where the engine is when the down train is alongside the platform—the place where there are a water tank and a long, limp, leather hose, like an elephant's trunk. She hid behind a bush on the other side of the railway. She had the toy engine done up in brown paper, and she waited patiently with it under her arm.
Then when the next train came in and stopped, Bobbie went across the metals of the up-line and stood beside the engine. She had never been so close to an engine before. It looked much larger and harder than she had expected, and it made her feel very small indeed, and, somehow, very soft—as if she could very, very easily be hurt rather badly.
"I know what silk-worms feel like now," said Bobbie to herself.
The engine-driver and fireman did not see her. They were leaning out on the other side, telling the Porter a tale about a dog and a leg of mutton.
"If you please," said Roberta—but the engine was blowing off steam and no one heard her.
"If you please, Mr. Engineer," she spoke a little louder, but the Engine happened to speak at the same moment, and of course Roberta's soft little voice hadn't a chance.
It seemed to her that the only way would be to climb on to the engine and pull at their coats. The step was high, but she got her knee on it, and clambered into the cab; she stumbled and fell on hands and knees on the base of the great heap of coals that led up to the square opening in the tender. The engine was not above the weaknesses of its fellows; it was making a great deal more noise than there was the slightest need for. And just as Roberta fell on the coals, the engine-driver, who had turned without seeing her, started the engine, and when Bobbie had picked herself up, the train was moving—not fast, but much too fast for her to get off.
All sorts of dreadful thoughts came to her all together in one horrible flash. There were such things as express trains that went on, she supposed, for hundreds of miles without stopping. Suppose this should be one of them? How would she get home again? She had no money to pay for the return journey.
"And I've no business here. I'm an engine-burglar—that's what I am," she thought. "I shouldn't wonder if they could lock me up for this." And the train was going faster and faster.
There was something in her throat that made it impossible for her to speak. She tried twice. The men had their backs to her. They were doing something to things that looked like taps.
Suddenly she put out her hand and caught hold of the nearest sleeve. The man turned with a start, and he and Roberta stood for a minute looking at each other in silence. Then the silence was broken by them both.
The man said, "Here's a bloomin' go!" and Roberta burst into tears.
The other man said he was blooming well blest—or something like it—but though naturally surprised they were not exactly unkind.
"You're a naughty little gell, that's what you are," said the fireman, and the engine-driver said:
"Daring little piece, I call her," but they made her sit down on an iron seat in the cab and told her to stop crying and tell them what she meant by it.
She did stop, as soon as she could. One thing that helped her was the thought that Peter would give almost his ears to be in her place—on a real engine—really going. The children had often wondered whether any engine-driver could be found noble enough to take them for a ride on an engine—and now there she was. She dried her eyes and sniffed earnestly.
"Now, then," said the fireman, "out with it. What do you mean by it, eh?"
"Oh, please," sniffed Bobbie.
"Try again," said the engine-driver, encouragingly.
Bobbie tried again.
"Please, Mr. Engineer," she said, "I did call out to you from the line, but you didn't hear me—and I just climbed up to touch you on the arm—quite gently I meant to do it—and then I fell into the coals—and I am so sorry if I frightened you. Oh, don't be cross—oh, please don't!" She sniffed again.
"We ain't so much cross," said the fireman, "as interested like. It ain't every day a little gell tumbles into our coal bunker outer the sky, is it, Bill? What did you do it for—eh?"
"That's the point," agreed the engine-driver; "what did you do it for?"
Bobbie found that she had not quite stopped crying. The engine-driver patted her on the back and said: "Here, cheer up, Mate. It ain't so bad as all that 'ere, I'll be bound."
"I wanted," said Bobbie, much cheered to find herself addressed as 'Mate'—"I only wanted to ask you if you'd be so kind as to mend this." She picked up the brown-paper parcel from among the coals and undid the string with hot, red fingers that trembled.
Her feet and legs felt the scorch of the engine fire, but her shoulders felt the wild chill rush of the air. The engine lurched and shook and rattled, and as they shot under a bridge the engine seemed to shout in her ears.
The fireman shovelled on coals.
Bobbie unrolled the brown paper and disclosed the toy engine.
"I thought," she said wistfully, "that perhaps you'd mend this for me—because you're an engineer, you know."
The engine-driver said he was blowed if he wasn't blest.
"I'm blest if I ain't blowed," remarked the fireman.
But the engine-driver took the little engine and looked at it—and the fireman ceased for an instant to shovel coal, and looked, too.
"It's like your precious cheek," said the engine-driver—"whatever made you think we'd be bothered tinkering penny toys?"
"I didn't mean it for precious cheek," said Bobbie; "only everybody that has anything to do with railways is so kind and good, I didn't think you'd mind. You don't really—do you?" she added, for she had seen a not unkindly wink pass between the two.
"My trade's driving of an engine, not mending her, especially such a hout-size in engines as this 'ere," said Bill. "An' 'ow are we a-goin' to get you back to your sorrowing friends and relations, and all be forgiven and forgotten?"
"If you'll put me down next time you stop," said Bobbie, firmly, though her heart beat fiercely against her arm as she clasped her hands, "and lend me the money for a third-class ticket, I'll pay you back—honour bright. I'm not a confidence trick like in the newspapers—really, I'm not."
"You're a little lady, every inch," said Bill, relenting suddenly and completely. "We'll see you gets home safe. An' about this engine—Jim—ain't you got ne'er a pal as can use a soldering iron? Seems to me that's about all the little bounder wants doing to it."
"That's what Father said," Bobbie explained eagerly. "What's that for?"
She pointed to a little brass wheel that he had turned as he spoke.
"That's the injector."
"Injector to fill up the boiler."
"Oh," said Bobbie, mentally registering the fact to tell the others; "that is interesting."
"This 'ere's the automatic brake," Bill went on, flattered by her enthusiasm. "You just move this 'ere little handle—do it with one finger, you can—and the train jolly soon stops. That's what they call the Power of Science in the newspapers."
He showed her two little dials, like clock faces, and told her how one showed how much steam was going, and the other showed if the brake was working properly.
By the time she had seen him shut off steam with a big shining steel handle, Bobbie knew more about the inside working of an engine than she had ever thought there was to know, and Jim had promised that his second cousin's wife's brother should solder the toy engine, or Jim would know the reason why. Besides all the knowledge she had gained Bobbie felt that she and Bill and Jim were now friends for life, and that they had wholly and forever forgiven her for stumbling uninvited among the sacred coals of their tender.
At Stacklepoole Junction she parted from them with warm expressions of mutual regard. They handed her over to the guard of a returning train—a friend of theirs—and she had the joy of knowing what guards do in their secret fastnesses, and understood how, when you pull the communication cord in railway carriages, a wheel goes round under the guard's nose and a loud bell rings in his ears. She asked the guard why his van smelt so fishy, and learned that he had to carry a lot of fish every day, and that the wetness in the hollows of the corrugated floor had all drained out of boxes full of plaice and cod and mackerel and soles and smelts.
Bobbie got home in time for tea, and she felt as though her mind would burst with all that had been put into it since she parted from the others. How she blessed the nail that had torn her frock!
"Where have you been?" asked the others.
"To the station, of course," said Roberta. But she would not tell a word of her adventures till the day appointed, when she mysteriously led them to the station at the hour of the 3.19's transit, and proudly introduced them to her friends, Bill and Jim. Jim's second cousin's wife's brother had not been unworthy of the sacred trust reposed in him. The toy engine was, literally, as good as new.
"Good-bye—oh, good-bye," said Bobbie, just before the engine screamed its good-bye. "I shall always, always love you—and Jim's second cousin's wife's brother as well!"
And as the three children went home up the hill, Peter hugging the engine, now quite its own self again, Bobbie told, with joyous leaps of the heart, the story of how she had been an Engine-burglar.
F OR a long while, as we have seen, the Roman Empire had been growing weaker and the Teutons, or Germans, had been growing stronger. These Teutons were a most interesting people. They were tall and strong, with blue eyes and light hair. They were splendid fighters, and nothing made them so happy as the sound of a battle-cry. They cared nothing for wounds, and they felt it a disgrace for any one to meet death quietly at home. A man should die on the field of battle, thought the Teutons; and then one of the Valkyrs, the beautiful war-maidens of Odin, would come and carry him on her swift horse straight to Valhalla, her armour gleaming as she rode through the air, with the flashing glow which men call the northern lights.
The Ride of the Valkyrs
Valhalla, they believed, was a great hall with shields and spears hanging on its walls. The bravest warriors who had ever fought on the earth were to be found there. Every morning they went out to some glorious battle. At night they came back, their wounds were healed, they drank great cups of mead and listened to songs of deeds of valour. Odin, or Woden, king of the gods, ruled in this hall.
He had a son Thor, who was sometimes called the thunder-god. Thor rode about in a chariot drawn by goats. He carried with him a mighty hammer, and this he threw at any one who displeased him. Tyr, another son of Odin, whose sword Attila thought he had found, was the god of war.
Not all the gods were thunderers and fighters. There was Odin's wife, Freya, who ruled the sunshine and the rain, and who loved fairies and flowers and all things dainty and pretty. Then there was Freya's son, Baldur, whom every one loved, and Loki, whom everyone feared and hated. Loki was always getting the gods into trouble, and it was he who brought about the death of Baldur. Freya had once made beasts and birds and trees and everything on the earth that had life promise never to hurt her son; but the mistletoe was so small and harmless that she forgot it. There was a chance for wicked Loki. It was a favourite game of the gods to shoot arrows at Baldur, for they knew that nothing would harm him. One of the gods was blind, and Loki offered to guide his hand, saying that all ought to do honour to so good a god as Baldur. In all innocence, the blind one threw the twig of mistletoe that Loki gave him. Baldur fell down dead, and had to go forever to the land of gloom and darkness.
The Teutonic story of the creation of the earth was this:—Long ago there was far to the northward a gulf of mist. In the mist was a fountain, and from the fountain there flowed twelve rivers. By and by, the waters of the rivers froze, and then in the north there was nothing but a great mass of ice. Far to the southward was a world of warmth and light. From this a warm wind blew upon the ice and melted it. Clouds were formed, and from them came forth the giant Ymir and his children and his cow. The cow was one day licking the hoar frost and salt from the ice, when she saw the hair of a man. The next day she licked still deeper, and then she saw a man's head. On the third day a living being, strong and beautiful, had taken his place in this strange world. He was a god, and one of his children was Odin. Together the children slew Ymir. Of his body they made the earth, of his blood the seas, of his bones the mountains, of his eyebrows they made Midgard, the mid earth. Odin arranged the seasons, and when the world was covered with green things growing, the gods made man of an ash tree and woman of an alder. An immense ash tree, which grew from the body of Ymir, supported the whole universe. One of its roots extended to Asgard, the home of the gods; one to Jötunheim, the abode of the giants; and one to Niflheim, the region of cold and darkness beneath the earth. It was believed that some day all created things would be destroyed. After this a new heaven and a new earth would be formed in which there would be no wickedness or trouble, and gods and men would live together in peace and happiness. All these fancies had some meaning; for instance, Baldur the beautiful, at sight of whose face all things rejoiced, represented the sunshine.
Poetical as the Germans were in some of their fancies, they were by no means poetical when any fighting was to be done. They had a custom of choosing some man as leader and following him wherever he led; but the moment that he showed himself a poor commander or failed to give them a fair share of whatever spoils they had captured, they left him and sought another chief. When the time had come that the Romans were no longer willing to defend themselves, it seemed to them a most comfortable arrangement to send a messenger to some of the Teuton chiefs to say, "If you will help us in this war, we will give you so much gold." Unluckily for themselves, the Romans looked upon barbarians as nothing more than convenient weapons, and did not stop to think that they were men who kept their eyes open, and who sooner or later would be sure to feel that there was no reason why they, as well as the Romans, should not take what they wanted if they could get it.
A Barbarian Ally of the Romans
(From the Column of Trajan, at Rome.His weapons are a club and a sword.)
The Goths, especially, were always ready to give up their old ways if they found something better; and by the time Alaric invaded Italy, those who lived nearest the Roman territories had learned something of Christianity, and Ulfilas, a Greek whom they had captured in war, had translated nearly all of the Bible into their language. They had learned to enjoy some of the comforts and conveniences of the Romans. They had discovered that there were better ways of governing a nation than their haphazard fashion of following any one who had won a victory; and they had begun to see that it was a good thing to have established cities. But if they gave up their roving life and made their home in one place, they could no longer live by fishing and hunting, for the rivers and forests would soon be exhausted; they must cultivate the ground. We have seen how the Goths had become the most powerful of all the Teutonic tribes. To so warlike a people, it seemed much easier to take the cultivated ground of the Romans than to make the wild forest land into fields and gardens. These were reasons why the Goths, among all the Germans, were so persistent in their invasions of the Roman Empire. There was one more reason, however, quite as strong as these. It was that other tribes even more barbarous than they were coming from Asia, and pressing upon them in order to get their land. The Romans might have found some way to save their country; but they were too busy enjoying themselves to be troubled about such matters. Their only care seemed to be to find the easiest way out of a difficulty, and when a nation is faced by pwerful and determined enemies whose hearts are not set upon a life of ease and luxury, they are sure, sooner or later, to be destroyed.
Beautiful faces are those that wear—
It matters little if dark or fair—
Whole-souled honesty printed there.
Beautiful eyes are those that show,
Like crystal panes where hearth fires glow,
Beautiful thoughts that burn below.
Beautiful lips are those whose words
Leap from the heart like songs of birds,
Yet whose utterance prudence girds.
Beautiful hands are those that do
Work that is earnest, brave, and true,
Moment by moment the long day through.
Beautiful feet are those that go
On kindly errands to and fro—
Down humblest ways, if God wills it so.
Beautiful shoulders are those that bear
The needful burdens of homely care
With patient grace and daily prayer.
Beautiful lives are those that bless
Silent rivers of happiness,
Whose hidden fountains but few may guess.
WEEK 4 |
T was in 1461 A.D. that the people chose
There could be no peace in the country so long as there were two kings each claiming the throne, so, without waiting to be crowned, Edward marched to meet the Red Rose army and to fight for the crown.
On a cold, bleak day in March the two forces met at Towton in Yorkshire, and fought amid a wild storm of wind and snow. For ten hours the battle raged. The white snow was stained and the river which flowed near ran red with blood, till it seemed as if the earth and the sky had taken sides with the red and white roses. Never since Hastings had such a terrible battle been fought on English ground.
The White Rose was victorious. Henry's cause seemed utterly lost and he and his wife and their little son fled to Scotland.
If Henry had been left to himself he would have given up fighting for the crown, for he loved quiet and peace. But Queen Margaret loved power and would not rest until she had again won the kingdom. She got help from the French king and in three years was back in England once more.
But Edward and the great Earl of Warwick, who had helped to put Edward upon the throne, were too strong for Margaret, and she was utterly defeated.
Without a single friend or servant, Margaret and her little son, who was now about eleven years old, fled into the forest to hide. The night came on, it grew dark, and they lost their way among the winding paths. Hungry and tired, they did not know which way to turn. Afraid to stop, afraid to go on, starting and shrinking at every sound, they clung to each other trembling.
Presently they heard men's voices and saw the glimmer of a fire. Margaret whispered to her little son to be very, very still, as they crept near to find out who these people were, whether friends or enemies.
Hidden by the trees, the Queen and her little boy came quite close to the fire and stood listening and watching.
In a few minutes they found out that these men were robbers. Holding the Prince tight by the hand, Queen Margaret made ready to run away. But suddenly one of the robbers looked towards them. He saw the glitter of jewels in the firelight. With a cry he made a spring at the Queen and, in spite of her screams and struggles, she was dragged into the circle round the fire.
"Ah, ah, what have we here?" cried one robber.
"A fine prize, truly," said another.
"Here is gold enough," said a third, roughly pulling at the chain round Margaret's neck. "Come, lady, we will have all these things," he went on, pointing to her jewels.
The Queen began to take off her rings and jewels, for she was very much afraid. But one robber pushed the other aside. "Let be," he said, "the prize is mine. I took her."
"Nay, nay, share and share alike."
"It is mine, I say."
"I took her, I say, it is mine."
So the robbers began to quarrel fiercely about the treasure, and while they quarrelled, Margaret took the Prince in her arms and ran away.
Where she ran she did not know. On and on she went, stumbling through the dark forest. At last, breathless and weary, unable to go another step, she sank down on a grassy bank. Scarcely had she done so when another robber appeared.
Seeing no escape, Margaret went towards this robber, and putting the little Prince into his arms, "Friend," she said, "take care of him, he is the son of your true King."
The hard, rough man, accustomed only to murder and rob, felt sorry for the poor, tired lady and her little boy. He held the Prince in his arms saying, "Lady, I will not hurt you. Come with me and I will show you where you can rest safely."
The robber led the Queen and Prince through the forest till he came to his secret cave. There he fed them and kept them safe for some days, and at last took them to the shore, where they found a ship in which to sail over the sea.
But King Henry was not so fortunate. He escaped and hid in various places for nearly a year, but he was discovered at last and taken prisoner to London.
As he rode a prisoner into the city, he was met by the Earl of Warwick, and the poor unfortunate King was made to ride through the streets like a common criminal, with his feet tied under his horse. Then he was shut up in the Tower of London.
T HE first snowstorm! I would not miss seeing the first snowstorm, not if I had to climb up to my high, tarry, smoky roof in the city and lie down on my back, as I once did, in order to shut out everything but the gray wavering flakes that came scattering from the sky. But how marvelously white and airy they looked, too, coming down over the blackened city of roofs, transfiguring it with their floating veil of purity! You must see the first snowfall, and, if you want to, jump and caper with the flakes, as I always do.
The sorrows of winter are its storms. They are its greatest glories also. One should no more miss the sight of the winter storms than he should miss the sight of the winter birds and stars, the winter suns and moons! A storm in summer is only an incident; in winter it is an event, a part of the main design. Nature gives herself over by the month to the planning and bringing off of the winter storms—vast arctic shows, the dreams of her wildest moods, the work of her mightiest minions. Do not miss the soft feathery fall that plumes the trees and that roofs the sheds with Carrara marble; the howling blizzard with its fine cutting blast that whirls into smoking crests; the ice-storm that comes as slow, soft rain to freeze as it falls, turning all the world to crystal: these are some of the miracles of winter that you must not fail to see.
You must see how close you had passed to and fro all summer to the vireo's nest, hanging from the fork on a branch of some low bush or tree, so near to the path that it almost brushed your hat. Yet you never saw it!
Go on and make a study of the empty nests; see particularly how many of them were built out along the roads or paths, as if the builders wished to be near their human neighbors—as, indeed, I believe they do. Study how the different birds build—materials, shapes, finish, supports; for winter is the better season in which to make such study, the summer being so crowded with interests of its own.
When the snow hardens, especially after a strong wind, go out to see what you can find in the wind furrows of the snow—in the holes, hollows, pockets, and in footprints in the snow. Nothing? Look again, closely—that dust—wind-sweepings—seeds!
Yes, seeds. Gather several small boxes of them and when you return home take a small magnifying glass and make them out—the sticktights, gray birches, yellow birches, pines, ragweeds, milfoil—I cannot number them! It is a lesson in the way the winds and the snows help to plant the earth. Last winter I followed for some distance the deep frozen tracks of a fox, picking out the various seeds that had drifted into every footprint, just so far apart, as if planted in the snow by some modern planting-machine. It was very interesting.
When the snow lies five or six inches deep, walk out along the fence-rows, roadsides, and old fields to see the juncos, the sparrows, and goldfinches feeding upon the seeds of the dead weeds standing stiff and brown above the snow. Does the sight mean anything to you? What does it mean?
Burns has a fine poem
"When biting Boreas, fell and doure,
Sharp shivers thro' the leafless bow'r,"
in which, he
"Ilk happing bird—wee, helpless
. . . . . . . .
What comes o' thee?
Whare wilt thou cow'r thy chittering wing,
An' close thy e'e?"
Did you ever ask yourself the question? Go forth,
then, as the dusk begins to fall one of these chill
winter days and try to see "what comes
You will come back from your watching in the dusk with the feeling that a winter night for the birds is unspeakably dreary, perilous, and chill. You will close the door on the darkness outside with a shiver as much from dread as from the cold.
"List'ning the doors an' winnocks
you will think of the partridge beneath the snow, the crow in his swaying pine-top, the kinglet in the close-armed cedar, the wild duck riding out the storm in his freezing water-hole, and you will be glad for your four thick walls and downy blankets, and you will wonder how any creature can live through the long, long night of cold and dark and storm. But there is another view of this same picture; another picture, rather, of this same stormy, bitter night which you must not miss seeing. Go out to see how the animals sleep, what beds they have, what covers to keep off the cold: the mice in the corn-shocks; the muskrats in their thick mud homes; the red squirrels in their rocking, wind-swung beds, so soft with cedar bark and so warm that never a tooth of the cold can bite through!
"I heard nae mair, for Chanticleer
Shook off the pouthery snaw,
And hail'd the morning with a cheer,
A cottage-rousing craw."
This winter I have had two letters asking me how best to study the mosses and lichens, and I answered, "Begin now." Winter, when the leaves are off, the ground bare, the birds and flowers gone, and all is reduced to singleness and simplicity—winter is the time to observe the shapes, colors, varieties, and growth of the lichens. Not that every lover of nature needs to know the long Latin names (and many of these lesser plants have no other names), but that every lover of the out-of-doors should notice them—the part they play in the color of things, the place they hold in the scheme of things, their exquisite shapes and strange habits.
You should see the brook, "bordered with sparkling frost-work . . . as gay as with its fringe of summer flowers." You should examine under a microscope the wonderful crystal form of the snowflakes—each flake shaped by an infinitely accurate hand according to a pattern that seems the perfection, the very poetry, of mechanical drawing.
What a world of gray days, waste lands, bare woods, and frozen waters there is to see! And you should see them—gray and bare and waste and frozen. But what is a frozen pond for if not to be skated on? and waste white lands, but to go sleighing over? and cold gray days, but so many opportunities to stay indoors with your good books?
See the winter bleak and cheerless as at times you will, and as at times you ought; still if you will look twice, and think as you look, you will see the fishermen on the ponds catching pickerel through the ice—life swimming there under the frozen surface! You will see the bare empty woodland fresh budded to the tip of each tiny twig—life all over the trees thrust forward to catch the touch of spring! You will see the wide flinty fields thick sown with seeds—life, more life than the sun and the soil can feed, sleeping there under "the tender, sculpturesque, immaculate, warming, fertilizing snow"!
Here lies, whom hound did ne'er pursue,
Nor swifter greyhound follow,
Whose foot ne'er tainted morning dew,
Nor ear heard huntsman's hallo;
Old Tiney, surliest of his kind,
Who, nursed with tender care,
And to domestic bounds confined,
Was still a wild Jack-hare.
Though duly from my hand he took
His pittance every night,
He did it with a jealous look,
And, when he could, would bite.
His diet was of wheaten bread,
And milk, and oats, and straw;
Thistles, or lettuces instead,
With sand to scour his maw.
On twigs of hawthorn he regaled.
On pippins' russet peel;
And, when his juicy salads failed,
Sliced carrot pleased him well.
A Turkey carpet was his lawn,
Whereon he loved to bound,
To skip and gambol like a fawn,
And swing his rump around.
His frisking was at evening hours,
For then he lost his fear;
But most before approaching showers,
Or when a storm drew near.
Eight years and five round-rolling moons
He thus saw steal away,
Dozing out all his idle noon,
And every night at play.
I kept him for his humor's sake,
For he would oft beguile
My heart of thoughts that made it ache,
And force me to a smile.
But now, beneath this walnut-shade
He finds his long, last home,
And waits, in snug concealment laid,
Till gentler Puss shall come.
He, still more agèd, feels the shocks
From which no care can save,
And, partner once of Tiney's box,
Must soon partake his grave.
WEEK 4 |
T HE next day Emile, when only half awake, began to think of the ants' cows. "We must beg uncle," said he to Jules, "to tell us the rest of his story this morning."
No sooner said than done: they went to look for their uncle.
"Aha!" cried he upon hearing their request, "the ants' cows are interesting you. I will do better than tell you about them, I will show them to you. First of all call Claire."
Claire came in haste. Their uncle took them under the elder bush in the garden, and this is what they saw:
The bush is white with flowers. Bees, flies, beetles, butterflies, fly from one flower to another with a drowsy murmur. On the trunk of the elder, amongst the ridges of the bark, numbers of ants are crawling, some ascending, some descending. Those ascending are the more eager. They sometimes stop the others on the way and appear to consult them as to what is going on above. Being informed, they begin climbing again with even more ardor, proof that the news is good. Those descending go in a leisurely manner, with short steps. Willingly they halt to rest or to give advice to those who consult them. One can easily guess the cause of the difference in eagerness of those ascending and those descending. The descending ants have their stomachs swollen, heavy, deformed, so full are they; those ascending have their stomachs thin, folded up, crying hunger. You cannot mistake them: the descending ants are coming back from a feast and, well fed, are returning home with the slowness that a heavy paunch demands; the ascending ants are running to the same feast and put into the assault of the bush the eagerness of an empty stomach.
"What do they find on the elder to fill their stomachs?" asked Jules. "Here are some that can hardly drag along. Oh, the gluttons!"
"Gluttons! no," Uncle Paul corrected him; "for they have a
worthy motive for gorging themselves. There is above, on the
elder, an immense number of the cows. The descending ants
have just milked them, and it is in their paunch that they
carry the milk for the common nourishment of the
Uncle Paul drew down to the children's level the top of a
branch, and all looked at it attentively. Innumerable black
velvety lice, immobile and so close together as to touch one
another, cover the under side of the leaves and the still
tender wood. With a sucker more delicate than a hair plunged
into the bark, they fill themselves peacefully with the sap
of the elder without changing their position. At the end of
their back, they have two short and hollow
hairs, two tubes
from which, if you look attentively, you can see a little
drop of sugary liquid escape from time to time. These black
lice are called
In the midst of the herd, on the
herd, even, when the cattle are too close together, the
famished ants come and go from one louse to another,
watching for the delicious little drop. The one who sees it
runs, drinks, enjoys it, and seems to say on raising its
little head: Oh, how good, oh, how good it is! Then it goes
on its way looking for another mouthful of milk. But
Uncle Paul let go the branch, which sprang back into its natural position. Milkmaids, cattle, and pasture were at once at the top of the elder bush.
"That is wonderful, Uncle," cried Claire.
"Wonderful, my dear child. The elder is not the only bush
that nourishes milk herds for the ants.
Claire and her uncle went
CONSIDERING how slowly news generally traveled from country to country in the time of Columbus, the report of his first voyage seems to have spread with wonderful rapidity. Before long England knew all about it, and the English king was saying to himself, "If Spain has really sent ships to the west and reached these islands off the coast of China, why can't England do the same? And why can't we have some of the wealth of China and Japan? I will see that we do have, and I will see that the English flag is planted in this distant land."
Now England always wanted, and took measures to get,
her full share of whatever offered itself. Still in
This man was John Cabot, and he too was full of enthusiasm over the possibilities of a western voyage.
Cabot was born in 1450, probably in Genoa. He moved to Venice while still young, and later became a citizen of that city. To become a citizen of Venice he had to reside there fifteen years, and during that time he made his living by drawing maps and charts. In 1490 he and his wife left Venice and settled in Bristol, which was at that time the chief seaport of England, and the center of trade with the fisheries of Iceland.
Cabot was soon a great favorite with King Henry; and seeing the King's interest in the voyage of Columbus, he added to it by telling things about China learned from the merchants of Venice. Then Cabot suggested that, if King Henry would fit out a ship to cross the Atlantic, he would gladly sail in command of such an expedition.
So it was agreed; and in May, 1497, John Cabot, and in all probability his son Sebastian, with one vessel and eighteen men set sail from Bristol. On the 24th of June the coast of Labrador was sighted. Where they landed is not definitely known, but probably it was near the island of Cape Breton.
This cold, bleak land was very different from the China they had expected to see. They had hoped to find a land of spicy groves and balmy breezes, but here was a land of snow and icebergs. Most of John Cabot's papers and maps telling of this voyage were lost; but some of them have been kept, and they tell about this cold region with its white bears, and about the great number of codfish that were seen and caught.
Cabot planted the flag of England and took possession of the land in the name of the English king. This planting of the English flag laid the foundation for the English claims in the new continent.
Great was the rejoicing when Cabot returned to England with the tale of his discoveries. The people of Bristol were extremely proud of their "Great Admiral," as he was now called. Whenever he walked the streets, dressed in silks and velvets, great crowds would follow him. He was especially loved by children, who crowded round him to hear him tell of his wondrous voyage.
In 1498 John Cabot determined to undertake another voyage, and in April of that year he and Sebastian sailed with five or six ships. They sailed much farther north in the hope of finding a short passage to India. But the extreme cold of the northern region "chilled their enthusiasm," as Sebastian said; so they turned and sailed south along the American coast.
In September of that year (1498) only one of the six ships returned to England; and it is feared that John Cabot and his ship were lost, as nothing more was ever heard of the man who had first touched the mainland of North America since the days of Leif the Lucky.
There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!
WEEK 4 |
ERE the glassy waters of the River Rhine, holding upon its bosom a mimic picture of the blue sky and white clouds floating above, runs smoothly around a jutting point of land, St. Michaelsburg, rising from the reedy banks of the stream, sweeps up with a smooth swell until it cuts sharp and clear against the sky. Stubby vineyards covered its earthy breast, and field and garden and orchard crowned its brow, where lay the Monastery of St. Michaelsburg—"The White Cross on the Hill." There within the white walls, where the warm yellow sunlight slept, all was peaceful quietness, broken only now and then by the crowing of the cock or the clamorous cackle of a hen, the lowing of kine or the bleating of goats, a solitary voice in prayer, the faint accord of distant singing, or the resonant toll of the monastery bell from the high-peaked belfry that overlooked the hill and valley and the smooth, far-winding stream. No other sounds broke the stillness, for in this peaceful haven was never heard the clash of armor, the ring of iron-shod hoofs, or the hoarse call to arms.
All men were not wicked and cruel and fierce in that dark, far-away age; all were not robbers and terror-spreading tyrants, even in that time when men's hands were against their neighbors, and war and rapine dwelt in place of peace and justice.
Abbot Otto, of St. Michaelsburg, was a gentle, patient, pale-faced old man; his white hands were soft and smooth, and no one would have thought that they could have known the harsh touch of sword-hilt and lance. And yet, in the days of the Emperor Frederick—the grandson of the great Red-beard—no one stood higher in the prowess of arms than he. But all at once—for why, no man could tell—a change came over him, and in the flower of his youth and fame and growing power he gave up everything in life and entered the quiet sanctuary of that white monastery on the hill-side, so far away from the tumult and the conflict of the world in which he had lived.
Abbott Otto, of St. Michaelsburg, was a gentle, patient, pale-faced old man.
Some said that it was because the lady he had loved had loved his brother, and that when they were married Otto of Wolbergen had left the church with a broken heart.
But such stories are old songs that have been sung before.
Clatter! clatter! Jingle! jingle! It was a full-armed knight that came riding up the steep hill road that wound from left to right and right to left amid the vineyards on the slopes of St. Michaelsburg. Polished helm and corselet blazed in the noon sunlight, for no knight in those days dared to ride the roads except in full armor. In front of him the solitary knight carried a bundle wrapped in the folds of his coarse gray cloak.
It was a sorely sick man that rode up the heights of St. Michaelsburg. His head hung upon his breast through the faintness of weariness and pain; for it was the Baron Conrad.
He had left his bed of sickness that morning, had saddled his horse in the gray dawn with his own hands, and had ridden away into the misty twilight of the forest without the knowledge of anyone excepting the porter, who, winking and blinking in the bewilderment of his broken slumber, had opened the gates to the sick man, hardly knowing what he was doing, until he beheld his master far away, clattering down the steep bridle-path.
Eight leagues had he ridden that day with neither a stop nor a stay; but now at last the end of his journey had come, and he drew rein under the shade of the great wooden gateway of St. Michaelsburg.
He reached up to the knotted rope and gave it a pull, and from within sounded the answering ring of the porter's bell. By and by a little wicket opened in the great wooden portals, and the gentle, wrinkled face of old Brother Benedict, the porter, peeped out at the strange iron-clad visitor and the great black war-horse, streaked and wet with the sweat of the journey, flecked and dappled with flakes of foam. A few words passed between them, and then the little window was closed again; and within, the shuffling pat of the sandalled feet sounded fainter and fainter, as Brother Benedict bore the message from Baron Conrad to Abbot Otto, and the mail-clad figure was left alone, sitting there as silent as a statue.
By and by the footsteps sounded again; there came a noise of clattering chains and the rattle of the key in the lock, and the rasping of the bolts dragged back. Then the gate swung slowly open, and Baron Conrad rode into the shelter of the White Cross, and as the hoofs of his war-horse clashed upon the stones of the courtyard within, the wooden gate swung slowly to behind him.
Abbot Otto stood by the table when Baron Conrad entered the high-vaulted room from the farther end. The light from the oriel window behind the old man shed broken rays of light upon him, and seemed to frame his thin gray hairs with a golden glory. His white, delicate hand rested upon the table beside him, and upon some sheets of parchment covered with rows of ancient Greek writing which he had been engaged in deciphering.
Clank! clank! clank! Baron Conrad strode across the stone floor, and then stopped short in front of the good old man.
"What dost thou seek here, my son?" said the Abbot.
"I seek sanctuary for my son and thy brother's grandson," said the Baron Conrad, and he flung back the folds of his cloak and showed the face of the sleeping babe.
For a while the Abbot said nothing, but stood gazing dreamily at the baby. After a while he looked up. "And the child's mother," said he—"what hath she to say at this?"
"She hath naught to say," said Baron Conrad, hoarsely, and then stopped short in his speech. "She is dead," said he, at last, in a husky voice, "and is with God's angels in paradise."
The Abbot looked intently in the Baron's face. "So!" said he, under his breath, and then for the first time noticed how white and drawn was the Baron's face. "Art sick thyself?" he asked.
"Ay," said the Baron, "I have come from death's door. But that is no matter. Wilt thou take this little babe into sanctuary? My house is a vile, rough place, and not fit for such as he, and his mother with the blessed saints in heaven." And once more Conrad of Drachenhausen's face began twitching with the pain of his thoughts.
"Yes," said the old man, gently, "he shall live here," and he stretched out his hands and took the babe. "Would," said he, "that all the little children in these dark times might be thus brought to the house of God, and there learn mercy and peace, instead of rapine and war."
For a while he stood looking down in silence at the baby in his arms, but with his mind far away upon other things. At last he roused himself with a start. "And thou," said he to the Baron Conrad—"hath not thy heart been chastened and softened by this? Surely thou wilt not go back to thy old life of rapine and extortion?"
"Nay," said Baron Conrad, gruffly, "I will rob the city swine no longer, for that was the last thing that my dear one asked of me."
The old Abbot's face lit up with a smile. "I am right glad that thy heart was softened, and that thou art willing at last to cease from war and violence."
"While I lay there with my horse upon me, Baron Frederick ran me down with his lance."
"Nay," cried the Baron, roughly, "I said nothing of ceasing from war. By heaven, no! I will have revenge!" And he clashed his iron foot upon the floor and clinched his fists and ground his teeth together. "Listen," said he, "and I will tell thee how my troubles happened. A fortnight ago I rode out upon an expedition against a caravan of fat burghers in the valley of Gruenhoffen. They outnumbered us many to one, but city swine such as they are not of the stuff to stand against our kind for a long time. Nevertheless, while the men-at-arms who guarded the caravan were staying us with pike and cross-bow from behind a tree which they had felled in front of a high bridge the others had driven the pack-horses off, so that by the time we had forced the bridge they were a league or more away. We pushed after them as hard as we were able, but when we came up with them we found that they had been joined by Baron Frederick of Trutz-Drachen, to whom for three years and more the burghers of Gruenstadt have been paying a tribute for his protection against others. Then again they made a stand, and this time the Baron Frederick himself was with them. But though the dogs fought well, we were forcing them back, and might have got the better of them, had not my horse stumbled upon a sloping stone, and so fell and rolled over upon me. While I lay there with my horse upon me, Baron Frederick ran me down with his lance, and gave me that foul wound that came so near to slaying me—and did slay my dear wife. Nevertheless, my men were able to bring me out from that press and away, and we had bitten the Trutz-Drachen dogs so deep that they were too sore to follow us, and so let us go our way in peace. But when those fools of mine brought me to my castle they bore me lying upon a litter to my wife's chamber. There she beheld me, and, thinking me dead, swooned a death-swoon, so that she only lived long enough to bless her new-born babe and name it Otto, for you, her father's brother. But, by heavens! I will have revenge, root and branch, upon that vile tribe, the Roderburgs of Trutz-Drachen. Their great-grandsire built that castle in scorn of Baron Casper in the old days; their grandsire slew my father's grandsire; Baron Nicholas slew two of our kindred; and now this Baron Frederick gives me that foul wound and kills my dear wife through my body." Here the Baron stopped short; then of a sudden, shaking his fist above his head, he cried out in his hoarse voice: "I swear by all the saints in heaven, either the red cock shall crow over the roof of Trutz-Drachen or else it shall crow over my house! The black dog shall sit on Baron Frederick's shoulders or else he shall sit on mine!" Again he stopped, and fixing his blazing eyes upon the old man, "Hearest thou that, priest?" said he, and broke into a great boisterous laugh.
Abbot Otto sighed heavily, but he tried no further to persuade the other into different thoughts.
"Thou art wounded," said he, at last, in a gentle voice; "at least stay here with us until thou art healed."
"Nay," said the Baron, roughly, "I will tarry no longer than to hear thee promise to care for my child."
"I promise," said the Abbot; "but lay aside thy armor, and rest."
"Nay," said the Baron, "I go back again
At this the Abbot cried out in amazement: "Sure thou, wounded man, would not take that long journey without a due stay for resting! Think! Night will be upon thee before thou canst reach home again, and the forests are beset with wolves."
The Baron laughed. "Those are not the wolves I fear,"
said he. "Urge me no further, I must return
"What comfort I can give thee thou shalt have," said the Abbot, in his patient voice, and so left the room to give the needful orders, bearing the babe with him.
L ONG ago a man owned a very strong Ox. The owner was so proud of his Ox, that he boasted to every man he met about how strong his Ox was.
One day the owner went into a village, and said to the men there: "I will pay a forfeit of a thousand pieces of silver if my strong Ox cannot draw a line of one hundred wagons."
The men laughed, and said: "Very well; bring your Ox, and we will tie a hundred wagons in a line and see your Ox draw them along."
So the man brought his Ox into the village. A crowd gathered to see the sight. The hundred carts were in line, and the strong Ox was yoked to the first wagon.
Then the owner whipped his Ox, and said: "Get up, you wretch! Get along, you rascal!"
But the Ox had never been talked to in that way, and he stood still. Neither the blows nor the hard names could make him move.
"Get along, you rascal."
At last the poor man paid his forfeit, and went sadly home. There he threw himself on his bed and cried: "Why did that strong Ox act so? Many a time he has moved heavier loads easily. Why did he shame me before all those people?"
At last he got up and went about his work. When
he went to feed the Ox that night, the Ox turned to him and
said: "Why did you whip me
Then the man said: "I will never treat you badly again. I am sorry I whipped you and called you names. I will never do so any more. Forgive me."
"Very well," said the Ox.
The next morning the owner fed the Ox well, and hung a garland of flowers about his neck. When they went into the village the men laughed at the man again.
They said: "Did you come back to lose more money?"
A garland of flowers about his neck.
So again the carts were placed in a line, and the Ox was yoked to the first. A crowd came to watch again. The owner said: "Good Ox, show how strong you are! You fine, fine creature!" And he patted his neck and stroked his sides.
At once the Ox pulled with all his strength. The carts moved on until the last cart stood where the first had been.
Then the crowd shouted, and they paid back the forfeit the man had lost, saying: "Your Ox is the strongest Ox we ever saw."
And the Ox and the man went home, happy.
My fairest child, I have no song to give thee,
No lark could pipe to skies so dull and gray;
Yet, ere we part, one lesson I would leave thee,
For every day.
Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever;
Do noble things, not dream them all day long:
And so make life, death, and that vast forever
One grand, sweet song.
WEEK 4 |
"L'État, c'est moi" (I am the State).
N OW, there was one man who watched the growing power of William of Orange with intense alarm. That man was Louis XIV. of France, who was now sheltering the unfortunate James. He had inherited a prosperous kingdom from his father, Louis XIII., and he had dreams of making an empire that should rival that of Charlemagne in size and magnificence—dreams of a great Roman Catholic union of which he himself should be the head. He was but four and a half years old when his father lay dying.
"I have been named Louis XIV.," the child told the sinking king.
"Not yet, not yet," whispered his father, who still clung to life.
But within a month the little Louis was indeed King of France. Sitting in the carriage beside his widowed mother, he entered the capital amid great enthusiasm. Seated upon his throne, he received the great men of the kingdom. Simply dressed in a little velvet frock, he even stood up and made them a speech, prompted by his governess.
Until he came of age, though king in name, a great Minister, Mazarin, ruled the country for him. He was a great statesman, and greatly increased the influence of France abroad. On the death of Mazarin in 1661 Louis stepped firmly on to the scene himself. He had grown up with the hopeless idea that the king was supreme, that he could rule as he liked, without the people, without the Parliament.
"I am the State," he asserted firmly. "The king alone rules, everything must centre in the king." He made the same fatal mistake that had brought the Stuart kings to grief in England. He tried to rule alone, without the people.
Louis now set to work to make his Court the most magnificent in Europe. Thither flocked poets and play-writers, men of letters and great ministers. And it was such as these that helped to make France so great at this time.
Perhaps most important of all those at Louis' Court was Colbert, the great Minister of Finance, who raised France to take such a high place among the commercial nations of his day. He invited over the best workmen from other countries and started manufactories of steel, iron, glass, and tapestry. He built ships until France had a navy strong enough to beat the combined fleets of England and Holland. He looked after the French colonies in America and the West Indies. And so he made the country richer and richer. No longer did the ladies of Paris ride through the dirty streets on mules, they had now carriages and stage-coaches to convey them from place to place.
There was Molière, the son of an upholsterer, whose masterpieces of comedy so delighted the king that he raised
him to a high position of wealth at the Court. There was Racine, who loved to write of the old Greeks and
Romans. There was Pascal, whose beautiful 'Thoughts' made him known as the "Plato of modern France." There was
La Fontaine, who wrote fables after the style of the old Greek Æsop, which delight every French child of
Fénelon had come to the Court when little Louis was but seven years old. He was a wayward, self-willed child, who, like his grandfather the king, thought that everything must give way to his whims and wishes. Fénelon's task was no easy one, but gently and firmly he accomplished it, until the boy's wondering mind grasped the teaching of his high-souled tutor. He began to learn that there were higher things in life than the mere grandeur of kingship—that honour and courage were above all necessary, that religion must be real and very true. The boy loved the man who taught him of these things with a faithful love that stood the tests of time and exile.
"With you I am only little Louis," he would cry when he escaped from the pomps and shams of the French Court to the tutor, who, if he chided him, loved him as his very life. For this little Louis, Fénelon wrote stories and fables to illustrate the dangers of kingship. He called them the 'Adventures of Telemachus,' because he wrote them in the style of Homer's Odyssey. He wrote about an ideal king, who lived for his people and his country only and not for himself. But in course of time the stories got into the hands of the king himself. He was very angry, and Fénelon was ever after this in deep disgrace.
Louis XIV. at Versailles.
The wars of Louis XIV. also raised the fame of France abroad. The French armies were better equipped and disciplined than any others of that age. The French wars with the Netherlands have already been described. Louis' career of conquest was only stayed by the Triple Alliance, made by England, Holland, and Sweden. He extended the frontiers of France in Alsace, and together with his famous commanders, Condé and Turenne, he conquered town after town in Germany.
All Europe feared him. He had taught his own people to admire him by reason of his military glory and skilful management. He was an absolute despot. He held no Parliament, he raised taxes at pleasure; even the courts of justice yielded to the absolute sway of the king, who interrupted the ordinary course of the law as he pleased.
He built for himself a magnificent palace at Versailles, eleven miles from Paris. He spent vast sums of money, wrung from his people, upon gilded halls and painted rooms, "magnificent but uncomfortable." It was a centre of pleasure and luxury, built to the glory of one man, Louis XIV.
LL Who dwelt in Asgard, the Æsir and the Asyniur, who were the Gods and the Goddesses, and the Vanir, who were the friends of the Gods and the Goddesses, were wroth with Loki. It was no wonder they were wroth with him, for he had let the Giant Thiassi carry off Iduna and her golden apples. Still, it must be told that the show they made of their wrath made Loki ready to do more mischief in Asgard.
One day he saw a chance to do mischief that made his heart rejoice. Sif, the wife of Thor, was lying asleep outside her house. Her beautiful golden hair flowed all round her. Loki knew how much Thor loved that shining hair, and how greatly Sif prized it because of Thor's love. Here was his chance to do great mischief. Smilingly, he took out his shears and he cut off the shining hair, every strand and every tress. She did not waken while her treasure was being taken from her. But Loki left Sif's head cropped and bare.
Thor was away from Asgard. Coming back to the City of the Gods, he went into his house. Sif, his wife, was not there to welcome him. He called to Sif, but no glad answer came from her. To the palaces of all the Gods and Goddesses Thor went, but in none of them did he find Sif, his golden-haired wife.
When he was coming back to his house he heard his name whispered. He stopped, and then a figure stole out from behind a stone. A veil covered her head, and Thor scarce knew that this was Sif, his wife. As he went to her she sobbed and sobbed. "O Thor, my husband," she said, "do not look upon me. I am ashamed that you should see me. I shall go from Asgard and from the company of the Gods and Goddesses, and I shall go down to Svartheim and live amongst the Dwarfs. I cannot bear that any of the Dwellers in Asgard should look upon me now."
"O Sif," cried Thor, "what has happened to change you?"
"I have lost the hair of my head," said Sif, "I have lost the beautiful golden hair that you, Thor, loved. You will not love me any more, and so I must go away, down to Svartheim and to the company of the Dwarfs. They are as ugly as I am now."
Then she took the veil off her head and Thor saw that all her beautiful hair was gone. She stood before him, shamed and sorrowful, and he grew into a mighty rage. "Who was it did this to you, Sif?" he said. "I am Thor, the strongest of all the Dwellers in Asgard, and I shall see to it that all the powers the Gods possess will be used to get your fairness back. Come with me, Sif." And taking his wife's hand in his, Thor went off to the Council House where the Gods and the Goddesses were.
Sif covered her head with her veil, for she would not have the Gods and the Goddesses look upon her shorn head. But from the anger in Thor's eyes all saw that the wrong done to Sif was great indeed. Then Thor told of the cutting of her beautiful hair. A whisper went round the Council House. "It was Loki did this—no one else in Asgard would have done a deed so shameful," one said to the other.
"Loki it was who did it," said Thor. "He has hidden himself, but I shall find him and I will slay him."
"Nay, not so, Thor," said Odin, the Father of the Gods. "Nay, no Dweller in Asgard may slay another. I shall summon Loki to come before us here. It is for you to make him (and remember that Loki is cunning and able to do many things) bring back to Sif the beauty of her golden hair.
Then the call of Odin, the call that all in Asgard have to harken to, went through the City of the Gods. Loki heard it, and he had to come from his hiding-place and enter the house where the Gods held their Council. And when he looked on Thor and saw the rage that was in his eyes, and when he looked on Odin and saw the sternness in the face of the Father of the Gods, he knew that he would have to make amends for the shameful wrong he had done to Sif.
Said Odin, "There is a thing that you, Loki, have to do: Restore to Sif the beauty of her hair."
Loki looked at Odin, Loki looked at Thor, and he saw that what was said would have to be done. His quick mind searched to find a way of restoring to Sif the beauty of her golden hair.
"I shall do as you command, Odin All-Father," he said.
UT before we tell you of what Loki did to restore the beauty of Sif's golden hair, we must tell you of the other beings besides the Gods and Goddesses who were in the world at the time. First, there was the Vanir. When the Gods who were called the Æsir came to the mountains on which they built Asgard, they found other beings there. These were not wicked and ugly like the Giants; they were beautiful and friendly; the Vanir they were named.
Although they were beautiful and friendly the Vanir had no thought of making the world more beautiful or more happy. In that way they differed from the Æsir who had such a thought. The Æsir made peace with them, and they lived together in friendship, and the Vanir came to do things that helped the Æsir to make the world more beautiful and more happy. Freya, whom the Giant wanted to take away with the Sun and the Moon as a reward for the building of the wall round Asgard, was of the Vanir. The other beings of the Vanir were Frey, who was the brother of Freya, and Niörd, who was their father.
On the earth below there were other beings—the dainty Elves, who danced and fluttered about, attending to the trees and the flowers and the grasses. The Vanir were permitted to rule over the Elves. Then below the earth, in caves and hollows, there was another race, the Dwarfs or Gnomes, little, twisted creatures, who were both wicked and ugly, but who were the best craftsmen in the world.
In the days when neither the Æsir nor the Vanir were friendly to him Loki used to go down to Svartheim, the Dwarfs' dwelling below the earth. And now that he was commanded to restore to Sif the beauty of her hair, Loki thought of help he might get from the Dwarfs.
Down, down, through the winding passages in the earth he went, and he came at last to where the Dwarfs who were most friendly to him were working in their forges. All the Dwarfs were master-smiths, and when he came upon his friends he found them working hammer and tongs, beating metals into many shapes. He watched them for a while and took note of the things they were making. One was a spear, so well balanced and made that it would hit whatever mark it was thrown at no matter how bad the aim the thrower had. The other was a boat that could sail on any sea, but that could be folded up so that it would go into one's pocket. The spear was called Gungnir and the boat was called Skidbladnir.
Loki made himself very agreeable to the Dwarfs, praising their work and promising them things that only the Dwellers in Asgard could give, things that the Dwarfs longed to possess. He talked to them till the little, ugly folk thought that they would come to own Asgard and all that was in it.
At last Loki said to them, "Have you got a bar of fine gold that you can hammer into threads—into threads so fine that they would be like the hair of Sif, Thor's wife? Only the Dwarfs could make a thing so wonderful. Ah, there is the bar of gold. Hammer it into those fine threads, and the Gods themselves will be jealous of your work."
Flattered by Loki's speeches, the Dwarfs who were in the forge took up the bar of fine gold and flung it into the fire. Then taking it out and putting it upon their anvil they worked on the bar with their tiny hammers until they beat it into threads that were as fine as the hairs of one's head. But that was not enough. They had to be as fine as the hairs on Sif's head, and these were finer than anything else. They worked on the threads, over and over again, until they were as fine as the hairs on Sif's head. The threads were as bright as sunlight, and when Loki took up the mass of worked gold it flowed from his raised hand down on the ground. It was so fine that it could be put into his palm, and it was so light that a bird might not feel its weight.
Then Loki praised the Dwarfs more and more, and he made more and more promises to them. He charmed them all, although they were an unfriendly and a suspicious folk. And before he left them he asked them for the spear and the boat he had seen them make, the spear Gungnir and the boat Skidbladnir. The Dwarfs gave him these things, though in a while after they wondered at themselves for giving them.
Back to Asgard Loki went. He walked into the Council House where the Dwellers in Asgard were gathered. He met the stern look in Odin's eyes and the rageful look in Thor's eyes with smiling good humor. "Off with thy veil, O Sif," he said. And when poor Sif took off her veil he put upon her shorn head the wonderful mass of gold he held in his palm. Over her shoulders the gold fell, fine, soft, and shining as her own hair. And the Æsir and the Asyniur, the Gods and Goddesses, and the Van and the Vana, when they saw Sif's head covered again with the shining web, laughed and clapped their hands in gladness. And the shining web held to Sif's head as if indeed it had roots and was growing there.
The sky is dark and the hills are white
As the storm-king speeds from the north to-night;
And this is the song the storm-king sings,
As over the world his cloak he flings:
"Sleep, sleep, little one, sleep";
He rustles his wings and gruffly sings:
"Sleep, little one, sleep."
On yonder mountain-side a vine
Clings at the foot of a mother pine;
The tree bends over the trembling thing,
And only the vine can hear her sing:
"Sleep, sleep, little one, sleep—
What shall you fear when I am here?
Sleep, little one, sleep."
The king may sing in his bitter flight,
The tree may croon to the vine to-night,
But the little snowflake at my breast
Liketh the song I sing the best—
Sleep, sleep, little one, sleep;
Weary thou art, a-next my heart,
Sleep, little one, sleep.
WEEK 4 |
L ITTLE Prince Freedling woke up with a jump, and sprang out of bed into the sunshine. He was five years old that morning, by all the clocks and calendars in the kingdom; and the day was going to be beautiful. Every golden minute was precious. He was dressed and out of his room before the attendants knew that he was awake.
In the ante-chamber stood piles on piles of glittering presents; when he walked among them they came up to the measure of his waist. His fairy godmother had sent him a toy with the most humorous effect. It was labelled, "Break me and I shall turn into something else." So every time he broke it he got a new toy more beautiful than the last. It began by being a hoop, and from that it ran on, while the Prince broke it incessantly for the space of one hour, during which it became by turn—a top, a Noah's ark, a skipping-rope, a man-of-war, a box of bricks, a picture puzzle, a pair of stilts, a drum, a trumpet, a kaleidoscope, a steam-engine, and nine hundred and fifty other things exactly. Then he began to grow discontented, because it would never turn into the same thing again; and after having broken the man-of-war he wanted to get it back again. Also he wanted to see if the steam-engine would go inside the Noah's ark; but the toy would never be two things at the same time either. This was very unsatisfactory. He thought his fairy godmother ought to have sent him two toys, out of which he could make combinations.
At last he broke it once more, and it turned into a kite; and while he was flying the kite he broke the string, and the kite went sailing away up into nasty blue sky, and was never heard of again.
Then Prince Freedling sat down and howled at his fairy-godmother; what a dissembling lot fairy-godmothers were, to be sure! They were always setting traps to make their god-children unhappy. Nevertheless, when told to, he took up his pen and wrote her a nice little note, full of bad spelling and tarradiddles, to say what a happy birthday he was spending in breaking up the beautiful toy she had sent him.
Then he went to look at the rest of the presents, and found it quite refreshing to break a few that did not send him giddy by turning into anything else.
Suddenly his eyes became fixed with delight; alone, right at the end of the room, stood a great black rocking-horse. The saddle and bridle were hung with tiny gold bells and balls of coral; and the horse's tail and mane flowed till they almost touched the ground.
The Prince scampered across the room, and threw his arms around the beautiful creature's neck. All its bells jangled as the head swayed gracefully down; and the prince kissed it between the eyes. Great eyes they were, the colour of fire, so wonderfully bright, it seemed they must be really alive, only they did not move, but gazed continually with a set stare at the tapestry-hung wall, on which were figures of armed knights riding to battle.
So Prince Freedling mounted to the back of his rocking-horse; and all day long he rode and shouted to the figures of the armed knights, challenging them to fight, or leading them against the enemy.
At length, when it came to be bedtime, weary of so much glory, he was lifted down from the saddle and carried away to bed.
In his sleep Freedling still felt his black rocking-horse swinging to and fro under him, and heard the melodious chime of its bells, and, in the land of dreams, saw a great country open before him, full of the sound of the battle-cry and the hunting-horn calling him to strange perils and triumphs.
In the middle of the night he grew softly awake, and his heart was full of love for his black rocking-horse. He crept gently out of bed: he would go and look at it where it was standing so grand and still in the next room, to make sure that it was all safe and not afraid of being by itself in the dark night. Parting the door-hangings he passed through into the wide hollow chamber beyond, all littered about with toys.
The moon was shining in through the window, making a square cistern of light upon the floor. And then, all at once, he saw that the rocking-horse had moved from the place where he had left it! It had crossed the room, and was standing close to the window, with its head toward the night, as though watching the movement of the clouds and the trees swaying in the wind.
The Prince could not understand how it had been moved so; he was a little bit afraid, and stealing timidly across, he took hold of the bridle to comfort himself with the jangle of its bells. As he came close, and looked up into the dark solemn face he saw that the eyes were full of tears, and reaching up felt one fall warm against his hand.
"Why do you weep, my Beautiful?" said the Prince.
The rocking-horse answered, "I weep because I am a prisoner, and not free. Open the window, Master, and let me go!"
"But if I let you go I shall lose you," said the Prince. "Cannot you be happy here with me?"
"Let me go," said the horse, "for my brothers call me out of Rocking-Horse Land; I hear my mare whinnying to her foals; and they all cry, seeking me through the ups and hollows of my native fastnesses! Sweet Master, let me go this night, and I will return to you when it is day!"
Then Freedling said, "How shall I know that you will return: and what name shall I call you by?"
And the rocking-horse answered, "My name is Rollonde. Search my mane till you find in it a white hair; draw it out and wind it upon one of your fingers; and so long as you have it so wound you are my master; and wherever I am I must return at your bidding."
So the Prince drew down the rocking-horse's head, and searching the mane, he found the white hair, and wound it upon his finger and tied it. Then he kissed Rollonde between the eyes, saying, "Go, Rollonde, since I love you, and wish you to be happy; only return to me when it is day!" And so saying, he threw open the window to the stir of the night.
Then the rocking-horse lifted his dark head and neighed aloud for joy, and swaying forward with a mighty circling motion rose full into the air, and sprang out into the free world before him.
Freedling watched how with plunge and curve he went over the bowed trees; and again he neighed into the darkness of the night, then swifter than wind disappeared in the distance. And faintly from far away came a sound of the neighing of many horses answering him.
Then the Prince closed the window and crept back to bed; and all night long he dreamed strange dreams of Rocking-Horse Land. There he saw smooth hills and valleys that rose and sank without a stone or a tree to disturb the steel-like polish of their surface, slippery as glass, and driven over by a strong wind; and over them, with a sound like the humming of bees, flew the rocking-horses. Up and down, up and down, with bright manes streaming like coloured fires, and feet motionless behind and before, went the swift pendulum of their flight. Their long bodies bowed and rose; their heads worked to give impetus to their going; they cried, neighing to each other over hill and valley, "Which of us shall be first? which of us shall be first?" After them the mares with their tall foals came spinning to watch, crying also among themselves, "Ah! which shall be first?"
"Rollonde, Rollonde is first!" shouted the Prince, clapping his hands as they reached the goal; and at that, all at once, he woke and saw it was broad day. Then he ran and threw open the window, and holding out the finger that carried the white hair, cried, "Rollonde, Rollonde, come back, Rollonde!"
Far away he heard an answering sound; and in another moment there came the great rocking-horse himself, dipping and dancing over the hills. He crossed the woods and cleared the palace-wall at a bound, and floating in through the window, dropped to rest at Prince Freedling's side, rocking gently to and fro as though panting from the strain of his long flight.
"Now are you happy?" asked the Prince as he caressed him.
"Ah! sweet Prince," said Rollonde, "ah, kind Master!" And then he said no more, but became the still stock staring rocking-horse of the day before, with fixed eyes and rigid limbs, which could do nothing but rock up and down with a jangling of sweet bells so long as the Prince rode him.
That night Freedling came again when all was still in the palace; and now as before Rollonde had moved from his place and was standing with his head against the window waiting to be let out. "Ah, dear Master," he said, so soon as he saw the Prince coming, "let me go this night also, and surely I will return with day."
So again the Prince opened the window, and watched him disappear, and heard from far away the neighing of the horses in Rocking-Horse Land calling to him. And in the morning with the white hair round his finger he called "Rollonde, Rollonde!" and Rollonde neighed and came back to him, dipping and dancing over the hills.
Now this same thing happened every night; and every morning the horse kissed Freedling, saying, "Ah! dear Prince and kind Master," and became stock still once more.
So a year went by, till one morning Freedling woke up to find it was his sixth birthday. And as six is to five, so were the presents he received on his sixth birthday for magnificence and multitude to the presents he had received the year before. His fairy godmother had sent him a bird, a real live bird; but when he pulled its tail it became a lizard, and when he pulled the lizard's tail it became a mouse, and when he pulled the mouse's tail it became a cat. Then he did very much want to see if the cat would eat the mouse, and not being able to have them both he got rather vexed with his fairy godmother. However, he pulled the cat's tail and the cat became a dog, and when he pulled the dog's the dog became a goat; and so it went on till he got to a cow. And he pulled the cow's tail and it became a camel, and he pulled the camel's tail and it became an elephant, and still not being contented, he pulled the elephant's tail and it became a guinea-pig. Now a guinea-pig has no tail to pull, so it remained a guinea-pig, while Prince Freedling sat down and howled at his fairy godmother.
But the best of all his presents was the one given to him by the King his father. It was a most beautiful horse, for, said the King, "You are now old enough to learn to ride."
So Freedling was put upon the horse's back, and from having ridden so long upon his rocking-horse he learned to ride perfectly in a single day, and was declared by all the courtiers to be the most perfect equestrian that was ever seen.
Now these praises and the pleasure of riding a real horse so occupied his thoughts that that night he forgot all about Rollonde, and falling fast asleep dreamed of nothing but real horses and horsemen going to battle. And so it was the next night too.
But the night after that, just as he was falling asleep, he heard someone sobbing by his bed, and a voice saying, "Ah! dear Prince and kind Master, let me go, for my heart breaks for a sight of my native land." And there stood his poor rocking-horse Rollonde, with tears falling out of his beautiful eyes on to the white coverlet.
Then the Prince, full of shame at having forgotten his friend, sprang up and threw his arms round his neck saying, "Be of good cheer, Rollonde, for now surely I will let thee go!" and he ran to the window and opened it for the horse to go through. "Ah, dear Prince and kind Master!" said Rollonde. Then he lifted his head and neighed so that the whole palace shook, and swaying forward till his head almost touched the ground he sprang out into the night and away towards Rocking-Horse Land.
Then Prince Freedling, standing by the window, thoughtfully unloosed the white hair from his finger, and let it float away into the darkness, out of sight of his eye or reach of his hand.
"Good-bye, Rollonde," he murmured softly, "brave Rollonde, my own good Rollonde! Go and be happy in your own land, since I, your Master, was forgetting to be kind to you." And far away he heard the neighing of horses in Rocking-Horse Land.
Many years after, when Freedling had become King in his father's stead, the fifth birthday of the Prince his son came to be celebrated; and there on the morning of the day, among all the presents that covered the floor of the chamber, stood a beautiful foal rocking-horse, black, with deep-burning eyes.
No one knew how it had come there, or whose present it was, till the King himself came to look at it. And when he saw it so like the old Rollonde he had loved as a boy, he smiled, and, stroking its dark mane, said softly in its ear, "Art thou, then, the son of Rollonde?" And the foal answered him, "Ah, dear Prince and kind Master!" but never a word more.
Then the King took the little Prince his son, and told him the story of Rollonde as I have told it here; and at the end he went and searched in the foal's mane till he found one white hair, and, drawing it out, he wound it about the little Prince's finger, bidding him guard it well and be ever a kind master to Rollonde's son.
So here is my story of Rollonde come to a good ending.
T HERE are not nearly so many butterflies as there are moths. But as the moths often fly at night, we know butterflies best, because they flutter about in the bright sunshine. Their caterpillars do not do so much harm in the garden as the moth caterpillars, except those of the Cabbage butterfly, which we read about in Book III.
You will find it very interesting, in the spring and early summer, to look for the chrysalis of each common butterfly, and keep them in a box with a piece of coarse muslin over it, so as to watch when they come out.
If you do this you will see their colours much better than by catching them, because when they first come out of their sheath, their wings are not battered with wind and rain. And you need not kill them, when you have looked at them you can set them free to enjoy the sunshine.
It is curious that so many butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves of stinging nettles. Perhaps it is because the cows and sheep will not eat these plants, so the eggs are safe. The Peacock butterfly, the small Tortoiseshell, and the Red Admiral all leave their eggs on nettles. It is there that you will find their pupas or chrysalises. Let me tell you how to know them.
The eggs of the Peacock butterfly are gummed in patches under the nettle leaves, and in June you may find the little black caterpillars spotted with white all feeding together in groups. Early in July they will each of them have spun a little cushion of silk under some leaf, by which the curious stiff chrysalis hangs head downwards, looking like a brown shining shell (3, Plate, p. 10).
If you carry home either the caterpillar (2), or the chrysalis, you will find that about the end of July a glorious butterfly (1) will come out. Its hind wings are brown and its front wings bright red and blue, and on each of the four wings there is a large bright eye-spot, like the eyes on a peacock's tail. The body is dark blue, and the feelers on the head are long and thin, with knobs at the end. But when the butterfly shuts its wings (1a), all the bright colours are hidden and the whole insect is brown like the trunk of a tree, with pale edges like wood newly cut, so that the birds are not so likely to see it when it is resting.
But, if you bring home another chrysalis from the nettles by mistake, a different butterfly will surprise you. This one has wings much notched round the edge, and they are coloured black with red markings and white spots. It is the Red Admiral, whose pupa also hangs head downwards under nettle leaves. You will not make this mistake if you find the caterpillar, for it is not black like that of the Peacock butterfly, but dark green with a yellow line on its sides, and it has spikes all over it. It feeds on nettle leaves which it ties round itself with silken threads. And you must remember that these green and yellow caterpillars will turn into Red Admirals.
Again, you may find a bunch of nettle leaves tied together with silk, which have many caterpillars inside them. These will be very spiny, and have four yellow stripes on their black bodies. They will turn into small Tortoiseshell butterflies.
Unless you know these three kinds of caterpillars well, the safe way is to bring them all home and keep them till the butterflies come out, and then notice many little differences which I cannot give you here.
On the thistles you may find another caterpillar which draws the leaves round it, and whose chrysalis has gold spots upon it. This will turn into a reddish brown butterfly called the Painted Lady. In some years there are very few of these, while in other years they are plentiful.
Our next search shall be among the alder trees by the riverside either in the early spring or about the end of July, for there are two broods of this butterfly.
You must look among the small twigs for a pretty green chrysalis with red dots on it, something like a ribbed shell. It will be tied round the middle to the stem of the twig by a fine rope of silk (5, Plate, p. 10). Notice how cleverly the caterpillar has swung it, so that the heavy broad end balances the long thin one. Then cut off the twig and take it home. The chrysalis will turn into the Brimstone butterfly (4), whose pale yellow wings have four red spots on them. You will know it quite well, for it is generally the first butterfly to come out in the spring.
Next we shall have to look low down among the plants by the roadside. There are some with white and pink flowers whose petals are in the form of a cross. They are called rockcress and bittercress, and if you can find out which they are, and look under their leaves you may find a most curious chrysalis (7, p. 10) shaped like a boat pointed at both ends. This will turn into the Orange-tip butterfly (6), which has a broad orange patch on the tip of its front wings. This butterfly is very gay when it is flying, but when it settles (8) and folds its wings upwards, it can scarcely be seen on the flowers of the wild parsley from which it sips honey. This is because the underside of the wings are dotted with green and like the tiny parsley flowers with their white petals and green centres.
Another common butterfly is the small Heath (9) which may be seen any fine day in June or September sipping honey from the heath on the common. It feeds as a green caterpillar on the tall grasses, and comes out a pretty little butterfly with tawny yellow wings, with a round eye-spot.
Now you know how to look for caterpillars, and chrysalises, and butterflies, you can learn about them for yourself. Anywhere on the violet beds you may find the spiny caterpillars of the pretty striped and dotted butterflies called Fritillaries. Blue butterflies are found mostly in chalk districts, though the Common Blue lives almost everywhere, and you may often see the little Copper butterflies flying with it, their dark glittering wings gleaming amongst the lovely blues. And wherever you see a butterfly on the wing you should try to follow it till it alights, for one of the most interesting points to notice, among all butterflies, is how the under colour of their wings helps to hide them when they are resting, while the upper colour is bright and gay.
Bring in caterpillars and chrysalises, and watch them. Notice the plant on which the caterpillar feeds. Compare the under surface of their wings with the plants on which they settle.
Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant
No! no! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I've got it right.)
Howe'er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee
(I fear I'd better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)
WEEK 4 |
Matthew ii: 1 to 23.
OR some time after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary stayed with him in Bethlehem. The little baby was not kept long in the stable, sleeping in the manger; for after a few days they found room in a house; and there another visit was made to Jesus by strange men from a land far away.
In a country east of Judea, and many miles distant, were living some very wise men, who studied the stars. One night they saw a strange star shining in the sky; and in some way they learned that the coming of this star meant that a king was soon to be born in the land of Judea. These men felt a call of God to go to Judea, far to the west of their own home, and there to see this new-born king. They took a long journey, with camels and horses, and at last they came to the land of Judea, just at the time when Jesus was born at Bethlehem. As soon as they were in Judea they supposed that every one would know all about the king; and they said:
"Where is he that is born the King of the Jews? In the east we have seen his star; and we have come to worship him."
Strange men from far away come to see the
But no one of whom they asked had ever seen this king
heard of him. The news of their coming was sent
to Herod, the king, who was now a very old man. He
ruled the land of Judea, as you know, under the emperor
at Rome, Augustus Caesar. (See Story 110.)
Herod was a very wicked man; and when he heard
of some one born to be a king he feared that he might
lose his own kingdom. He made up his mind to kill this
new king, and thus to keep his own power. He sent for
the priests and scribes, the men who studied and taught
the books of the Old Testament, and asked them about this
Christ for whom all the people were looking. He said,
"Can you tell me where Christ, the King of Israel, is
to be born?" They looked at the books of the prophets,
and then they said, "He is to be born in Bethlehem of
Judea; for thus it is written by the prophet, 'And
thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the
least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall
come forth one who shall rule my people
Then Herod sent for the wise men from the east, and met them alone, and found from them at what time the star was first seen. Then he said to them:
"Go to Bethlehem, and there search carefully for the little child; and when you have found him bring me word again, so that I also may come and worship him."
Then the wise men went on their way toward Bethlehem, and suddenly they saw the star again shining upon the road before them. At this they were glad, and followed the star until it led them to the very house where the little child was. They came in, and there they saw the little one, with Mary, its mother. They knew at once that this was the King, and they fell down on their faces and worshipped him as the Lord. Then they brought out gifts of gold and precious perfumes, frankincense and myrrh, which were used in offering sacrifices, and they gave them as presents to the royal child.
That night God sent a dream to the wise men, telling them not to go back to Herod, but to go home at once to their own land by another way. They obeyed the Lord, and found another road to their own country without passing through Jerusalem, where Herod was living. So Herod could not learn from these men who the child was that was born to be a king.
And very soon after these wise men had gone away the Lord sent another dream to Joseph, the husband of Mary. He saw an angel, who spoke to him, saying:
"Rise up quickly; take the little child and his mother, and go down to the land of Egypt; for Herod will try to find the little child, to kill him."
Then at once, Joseph rose up in the night, without waiting even for the morning. He took his wife and her baby, and quietly and quickly went with them down to Egypt, which was on the southwest of Judea. There they all stayed in safety as long as the wicked King Herod lived, which was not many months.
The flight into Egypt.
King Herod waited for the wise men to come back to him from their visit to Bethlehem; but he soon found that they had gone to their home without bringing to him any word. Then Herod was very angry. He sent out his soldiers to Bethlehem. They came, and by the cruel king's command they seized all the little children in Bethlehem who were three years old, or younger, and killed them all. What a cry went up to God from the mothers of Bethlehem as their children were torn from their arms and slain! But all this time the child Jesus, whom they were seeking, was safe with his mother in the land of Egypt.
Soon after this King Herod died, a very old man, cruel to the last. Then the angel of the Lord came again and spoke to Joseph in a dream, saying:
"You may now take the young child back to his own land, for the king who sought to kill him is dead."
Then Joseph took his wife and the little child Jesus and started to go again to the land of Judea. Perhaps it was his thought to go again to Bethlehem, the city of David and there bring up the child. But he heard that in that part of the land Archelaus was now ruling, who was a son of Herod, and as wicked and cruel as his father. He feared to go under his rule, and instead took his wife and the child to Nazareth, which had been his own home and that of Mary his wife, before the child was born. Nazareth was in the part of the land called Galilee, which at that time was ruled by another son of King Herod, a king named Herod Antipas. He was not a good man, but was not so cruel nor bloody as his wicked father had been.
So again Joseph, the carpenter, and Mary his wife, were living in Nazareth. And there they stayed for many years while Jesus was growing up. Jesus was not the only child in their house, for other sons and daughters were given to them.
T HE next day was very wet—too wet to go out, and far too wet to think of disturbing a Sand-fairy so sensitive to water that he still, after thousands of years, felt the pain of once having his left whisker wetted. It was a long day, and it was not till the afternoon that all the children suddenly decided to write letters to their mother. It was Robert who had the misfortune to upset the ink well—an unusually deep and full one—straight into that part of Anthea's desk where she had long pretended that an arrangement of mucilage and cardboard painted with Indian ink was a secret drawer. It was not exactly Robert's fault; it was only his misfortune that he chanced to be lifting the ink across the desk just at the moment when Anthea had got it open, and that that same moment should have been the one chosen by the Lamb to get under the table and break his squeaking bird. There was a sharp convenient wire inside the bird, and of course the Lamb ran the wire into Robert's leg at once; and so, without anyone's meaning to do it the secret drawer was flooded with ink. At the same time a stream was poured over Anthea's half-finished letter.
So that her letter was something like
"Darling Mother,—I hope you are quite well, and I hope Granny is better. The other day we. . . ."
Then came a flood of ink, and at the bottom these words in
"It was not me upset the ink, but it took such a time clearing up, so no more as it is post-time.—From your loving daughter
Robert's letter had not even been begun. He had been drawing a ship on the blotting paper while he was trying to think of what to say. And of course after the ink was upset he had to help Anthea to clean out her desk, and he promised to make her another secret drawer, better than the other. And she said, "Well, make it now." So it was post-time and his letter wasn't done. And the secret drawer wasn't done either.
Cyril wrote a long letter, very fast, and then went to set a trap for slugs that he had read about in the Home-made Gardener, and when it was post-time the letter could not be found, and it was never found. Perhaps the slugs ate it.
Jane's letter was the only one that went. She meant to tell her mother
all about the Psammead,—in fact they had all meant to do this,—but she
spent so long thinking how to spell the word that there was no time to
tell the story properly, and it is useless to tell a story unless you
do tell it properly, so she had to be
"My dear Mother Dear,—We are all as good as we can, like you told us to, and the Lamb has a little cold, but Martha says it is nothing, only he upset the gold-fish into himself yesterday morning. When we were up at the sand-pit the other day we went round by the safe way where carts go, and we found a"—
Half an hour went by before Jane felt quite sure that they could none of
them spell Psammead. And they could not find it in the dictionary
either, though they looked. Then Jane hastily finished her
"We found a strange thing, but it is nearly post-time, so no more at present from your little girl,
"P.S.—If you could have a wish come true what would you have?"
Then the postman was heard blowing his horn, and Robert rushed out in the rain to stop his cart and give him the letters. And that was how it happened that, though all the children meant to tell their mother about the Sand-fairy, somehow or other she never got to know. There were other reasons why she never got to know, but these come later.
The next day Uncle Richard came and took them all to Maidstone in a wagonette—all except the Lamb. Uncle Richard was the very best kind of uncle. He bought them toys at Maidstone. He took them into a shop and let them all choose exactly what they wanted, without any restrictions about price, and no nonsense about things being instructive. It is very wise to let children choose exactly what they like, because they are very foolish and inexperienced, and sometimes they will choose a really instructive thing without meaning to do so. This happened to Robert, who chose, at the last moment, and in a great hurry, a box with pictures on it of winged bulls with men's heads and winged men with eagles' heads. He thought there would be animals inside, the same as on the box. When he got it home it was a Sunday puzzle about ancient Nineveh! The others chose in haste, and were happy at leisure. Cyril had a model engine, and the girls had two dolls, as well as a china tea-set with forget-me-nots on it, to be "between them." The boys' "between them" was bow and arrow.
Then Uncle Richard took them on the beautiful Medway in a boat, and then they all had tea at a beautiful confectioner's and when they reached home it was far too late to have any wishes that day.
They did not tell Uncle Richard anything about the Psammead. I do not know why. And they do not know why. But I daresay you can guess.
The day after Uncle Richard had behaved so handsomely was a very hot day indeed. The people who decide what the weather is to be, and put its orders down for it in the newspapers every morning, said afterwards that it was the hottest day there had been for years. They had ordered it to be "warmer—some showers," and warmer it certainly was. In fact it was so busy being warmer that it had no time to attend to the order about showers, so there weren't any.
Have you ever been up at five o'clock on a fine summer morning? It is very beautiful. The sunlight is pinky and yellowy, and all the grass and trees are covered with dew-diamonds. And all the shadows go the opposite way to the way they do in the evening, which is very interesting and makes you feel as though you were in a new other world.
Anthea woke at five. She had made herself wake, and I must tell you how it is done, even if it keeps you waiting for the story to go on.
You get into bed at night, and lie down quite flat on your little back, with your hands straight down by your sides. Then you say "I must wake up at five" (or six, or seven, or eight, or nine, or whatever the time is that you want), and as you say it you push your chin down on your chest and then whack your head back on the pillow. And you do this as many times as there are ones in the time you want to wake up at. (It is quite an easy sum.) Of course everything depends on your really wanting to get up at five (or six, or seven, or eight, or nine); if you don't really want to, it's all of no use. But if you do—well, try it and see. Of course in this, as in doing Latin proses or getting into mischief, practice makes perfect.
Anthea was quite perfect.
At the very moment when she opened her eyes she heard the black-and-gold
clock down in the dining-room strike eleven. So she knew it was three
minutes to five. The
Then she took her shoes in her hand and crept softly down the stairs. She opened the dining-room window and climbed out. It would have been just as easy to go out by the door, but the window was more romantic, and less likely to be noticed by Martha.
"I will always get up at five," she said to herself. "It was quite too awfully pretty for anything."
Her heart was beating very fast, for she was carrying out a plan quite her own. She could not be sure that it was a good plan, but she was quite sure that it would not be any better if she were to tell the others about it. And she had a feeling that, right or wrong, she would rather go through with it alone. She put on her shoes under the iron verandah, on the red-and-yellow shining tiles, and then she ran straight to the sand-pit, and found the Psammead's place, and dug it out; it was very cross indeed.
"It's too bad," it said, fluffing up its fur as pigeons do their feathers at Christmas time. "The weather's arctic, and it's the middle of the night."
"I'm so sorry," said Anthea gently, and she took off her white pinafore and covered the Sand-fairy up with it, all but its head, its bat's ears, and its eyes that were like a snail's eyes.
"Thank you," it said, "that's better. What's the wish this morning?"
"I don't know," she said; "that's just it. You see we've been very unlucky, so far. I wanted to talk to you about it. But—would you mind not giving me any wishes till after breakfast? It's so hard to talk to anyone if they jump out at you with wishes you don't really want!"
"You shouldn't say you wish for things if you don't wish for them. In the old days people almost always knew whether it was Megatherium or Ichthyosaurus they really wanted for dinner."
"I'll try not to do so," said Anthea, "but I do
"Look out!" said the Psammead in a warning voice, and it began to blow itself out.
"Oh, this isn't a magic wish—it's just—I should be so glad if you'd not swell yourself out and nearly burst to give me anything just now. Wait till the others are here."
"Well, well," it said indulgently, but it shivered.
"Would you," asked Anthea kindly—"would you like to come and sit on my lap? You'd be warmer, and I could turn the skirt of my frock up around you. I'd be very careful."
Anthea had never expected that it would, but it did.
"Thank you," it said; "you really are rather thoughtful." It crept on to her lap and snuggled down, and she put her arms round it with a rather frightened gentleness. "Now then!" it said.
"Well then," said Anthea, "everything we have wished has turned out rather horrid. I wish you would advise us. You are so old, you must be very wise."
"I was always generous from a child," said the Sand-fairy. "I've spent the whole of my waking hours in giving. But one thing I won't give—that's advice."
"You see," Anthea went on, "it's such a wonderful thing—such a splendid, glorious chance. It's so good and kind and dear of you to give us our wishes, and it seems such a pity it should all be wasted just because we are too silly to know what to wish for."
Anthea had meant to say that—and she had not wanted to say it before the others. It's one thing to say you're silly, and quite another to say that other people are.
"Child," said the Sand-fairy sleepily, "I can only advise you to think
"But I thought you never gave advice."
"That piece doesn't count," it said. "You'll never take it! Besides, it's not original. It's in all the copy-books."
"But won't you just say if you think wings would be a silly wish?"
"Wings?" it said. "I should think you might do worse. Only, take care you aren't flying high at sunset. There was a little Ninevite boy I heard of once. He was one of King Sennacherib's sons, and a traveller brought him a Psammead. He used to keep it in a box of sand on the palace terrace. It was a dreadful degradation for one of us, of course; still the boy was the Assyrian King's son. And one day he wished for wings and got them. But he forgot that they would turn into stone at sunset, and when they did he fell on to one of the winged lions at the top of his father's great staircase; and what with his stone wings and the lion's stone wings—well it's not a very pretty story! But I believe the boy enjoyed himself very much till then."
"Tell me," said Anthea, "why don't our wishes turn into stone now? Why do they just vanish?"
"Autre temps autres mœurs," said the creature.
"Is that the Ninevite language?" asked Anthea, who had learned no foreign language at school except French.
"What I mean is," the Psammead went on, "that in the old days people wished for good solid everyday gifts,—Mammoths and Pterodactyls and things,—and those could be turned into stone as easy as not. But people wish such high-flying fanciful things nowadays. How are you going to turn being beautiful as the day, or being wanted by everybody, into stone? You see it can't be done. And it would never do to have two rules, so they simply vanish. If being beautiful as the day could be turned into stone it would last an awfully long time, you know—much longer than you would. Just look at the Greek statues. It's just as well as it is. Good-bye. I am so sleepy."
It jumped off her lap—dug frantically, and vanished.
Anthea was late for breakfast. It was Robert who quietly poured a spoonful of molasses down the Lamb's frock, so that he had to be taken away and washed thoroughly directly after breakfast. And it was of course a very naughty thing to do; yet it served two purposes—it delighted the Lamb, who loved above all things to be completely sticky, and it engaged Martha's attention so that the others could slip away to the sand-pit without the Lamb.
They did it, and in the lane Anthea, breathless from the hurry of that
"I want to propose we take turns to wish. Only, nobody's to have a wish if the others don't think it's a nice wish. Do you agree?"
"Who's to have first wish?" asked Robert cautiously.
"Me, if you don't mind," said Anthea apologetically. "And I've thought about it—and it's wings."
There was a silence. The others rather wanted to find fault, but it was hard, because the word "wings" raised a flutter of joyous excitement in every breast.
"Not so dusty," said Cyril generously; and Robert added, "Really, Panther, you're not quite such a fool as you look."
Jane said, "I think it would be perfectly lovely. It's like a bright dream of delirium."
They found the Sand-fairy easily. Anthea
"I wish we all had beautiful wings to fly with."
The Sand-fairy blew himself out, and next moment each child felt a funny feeling, half heaviness and half lightness, on its shoulders. The Psammead put its head on one side and turned its snail eyes from one side to the other.
The Sand-fairy blew himself out.
"Not so bad," it said dreamily. "But really, Robert, you're not quite such an angel as you look." Robert almost blushed.
The wings were very big, and more beautiful than you can possibly imagine—for they were soft and smooth, and every feather lay neatly in its place. And the feathers were of the most lovely mixed changing colors, like the rainbow, or iridescent glass, or the beautiful scum that sometimes floats on water that is not at all nice to drink.
"Oh—but how can we fly?" Jane said, standing anxiously first on one foot and then on the other.
"Look out!" said Cyril; "you're treading on my wing."
"Does it hurt?" asked Anthea with interest; but no one answered, for Robert had spread his wings and jumped up, and now he was slowly rising in the air. He looked very awkward in his knickerbocker suit—his boots in particular hung helplessly, and seemed much larger than when he was standing in them. But the others cared but little how he looked,—or how they looked, for that matter. For now they all spread out their wings and rose in the air. Of course you all know what flying feels like, because everyone has dreamed about flying, and it seems so beautifully easy—only, you can never remember how you did it; and as a rule you have to do it without wings, in your dreams, which is more clever and uncommon, but not so easy to remember the rule for. Now the four children rose flapping from the ground, and you can't think how good the air felt as it ran against their faces. Their wings were tremendously wide when they were spread out, and they had to fly quite a long way apart so as not to get in each other's way. But little things like this are easily learned.
All the words in the English Dictionary, and in the Greek Lexicon as well, are, I find, of no use at all to tell you exactly what it feels like to be flying, so I will not try. But I will say that to look down on the fields and woods instead of along at them, is something like looking at a beautiful live map, where, instead of silly colors on paper, you have real moving sunny woods and green fields laid out one after the other. As Cyril said, and I can't think where he got hold of such a strange expression, "It does you a fair treat!" It was most wonderful and more like real magic than any wish the children had had yet. They flapped and flew and sailed on their great rainbow wings, between green earth and blue sky; and they flew over Rochester and then swerved round towards Maidstone, and presently they all began to feel extremely hungry. Curiously enough, this happened when they were flying rather low, and just as they were crossing an orchard where some early plums shone red and ripe.
They flew over Rochester.
They paused on their wings. I cannot explain to you how this is done, but it is something like treading water when you are swimming, and hawks do it extremely well.
"Yes, I daresay," said Cyril, though no one had spoken. "But stealing is stealing even if you've got wings."
"Do you really think so?" said Jane briskly. "If you've got wings you're a bird, and no one minds birds breaking the commandments. At least, they may mind, but the birds always do it, and no one scolds them or sends them to prison."
It was not so easy to perch on a plum-tree as you might think, because the rainbow wings were so very large; but somehow they all managed to do it, and the plums were certainly very sweet and juicy.
Fortunately, it was not till they had all had quite as many plums as were good for them that they saw a stout man, who looked exactly as though he owned the plum-trees, come hurrying through the orchard gate with a thick stick, and with one accord they disentangled their wings from the plum-laden branches and began to fly.
The man stopped short, with his mouth open. For he had seen the boughs
of his trees moving and twitching, and he had said to himself, "Them
young varmint—at it again!" And he had come out at once, for the lads
of the village had taught him in past seasons that plums want looking
after. But when he saw
the rainbow wings flutter up out of the
plum-tree he felt that he must have gone quite mad, and he did not like
the feeling at all. And when Anthea looked down and saw his mouth go
slowly open, and stay so, and his face become green and mauve in
patches, she called
"Don't be frightened," and felt hastily in her pocket for a threepenny-bit with a hole in it, which she had meant to hang on a ribbon round her neck, for luck. She hovered round the unfortunate plum-owner, and said, "We have had some of your plums; we thought it wasn't stealing, but now I am not so sure. So here's some money to pay for them."
She swooped down toward the terror-stricken grower of plums, and slipped the coin into the pocket of his jacket, and in a few flaps she had rejoined the others.
The farmer sat down on the grass, suddenly and heavily.
The farmer sat down on the grass suddenly and heavily.
"Well—I'm blessed!" he said. "This here is what they call delusions, I suppose. But this here threepenny"—he had pulled it out and bitten it,—"that's real enough. Well, from this day forth I'll be a better man. It's the kind of thing to sober a chap for life, this is. I'm glad it was only wings, though. I'd rather see the birds as aren't there, and couldn't be, even if they pretend to talk, than some things as I could name."
He got up slowly and heavily, and went indoors, and he was so nice to his wife that day that she felt quite happy, and said to herself, "Law, whatever have a-come to the man!" and smartened herself up and put a blue ribbon bow at the place where her collar fastened on, and looked so pretty that he was kinder than ever. So perhaps the winged children really did do one good thing that day. If so, it was the only one; for really there is nothing like wings for getting you into trouble. But, on the other hand, if you are in trouble, there is nothing like wings for getting you out of it.
This was the case in the matter of the fierce dog who sprang out at them when they had folded up their wings as small as possible and were going up to a farm door to ask for a crust of bread and cheese, for in spite of the plums they were soon just as hungry as ever again.
Now there is no doubt whatever that, if the four had been ordinary wingless children, that black and fierce dog would have had a good bite out of the brown-stockinged leg of Robert, who was the nearest. But at its first growl there was a flutter of wings, and the dog was left to strain at his chain and stand on his hind-legs as if he were trying to fly too.
They tried several other farms, but at those where there were no dogs the people were far too frightened to do anything but scream; and at last, when it was nearly four o'clock, and their wings were getting miserably stiff and tired, they alighted on a church-tower and held a council of war.
"We can't possibly fly all the way home without dinner or tea," said Robert with desperate decision.
"And nobody will give us any dinner, or even lunch, let alone tea," said Cyril.
"Perhaps the clergyman here might," suggested Anthea. "He must know all
"Anybody could see we're not that," said Jane. "Look at Robert's boots and Squirrel's plaid necktie."
"Well," said Cyril firmly, "if the country you're in won't sell provisions, you take them. In wars I mean. I'm quite certain you do. And even in other stories no good brother would allow his little sisters to starve in the midst of plenty."
"Plenty?" repeated Robert hungrily; and the others looked vaguely round the bare leads of the church-tower, and murmured, "In the midst of?"
"Yes," said Cyril impressively. "There is a larder window at the side of
the clergyman's house, and I saw things to eat inside—custard pudding
and cold chicken and tongue—and pies—and jam. It's rather a high
"How clever of you!" said Jane.
"Not at all," said Cyril modestly; "any born general—Napoleon or the Duke of Marlborough—would have seen it just the same as I did."
"It seems very wrong," said Anthea.
"Nonsense," said Cyril. "What was it Sir Philip Sidney said when the
soldier wouldn't give him a drink?—'My necessity is greater than
"We'll club together our money, though, and leave it to pay for the things, won't we?" Anthea was persuasive, and very nearly in tears, because it is most trying to feel enormously hungry and unspeakably sinful at one and the same time.
"Some of it," was the cautious reply.
Everyone now turned out its pockets on the lead roof of the tower, where visitors for the last hundred and fifty years had cut their own and their sweethearts' initials with penknives in the soft lead. There was five-and-seven-pence halfpenny altogether, and even the upright Anthea admitted that that was too much to pay for four people's dinners. Robert said he thought eighteenpence.
Every one now turned out his pockets.
And half-a-crown was finally agreed to be "handsome."
So Anthea wrote on the back of her last term's report, which happened to
be in her pocket, and from which she first tore her own name and that of
the school, the following
"Dear Reverend Clergyman,—We are very hungry indeed because of having to fly all day, and we think it is not stealing when you are starving to death. We are afraid to ask you for fear you should say 'No,' because of course you know about angels, but you would not think we were angels. We will only take the necessities of life, and no pudding or pie, to show you it is not grediness but true starvation that makes us make your larder stand and deliver. But we are not highwaymen by trade."
"Cut it short," said the others with one accord. And Anthea hastily
"Our intentions are quite honourable if you only knew. And here is half-a-crown to show we are sinseer and grateful.
"Thank you for your kind hospitality.
"From Us Four."
The half-crown was wrapped in this letter, and all the children felt that when the clergyman had read it he would understand everything, as well as anyone could who had not even seen the wings.
"Now," said Cyril, "of course there's some risk; we'd better fly straight down the other side of the tower and then flutter low across the churchyard and in through the shrubbery. There doesn't seem to be anyone about. But you never know. The window looks out into the shrubbery. It is embowered in foliage, like a window in a story. I'll go in and get the things. Robert and Anthea can take them as I hand them out through the window; and Jane can keep watch,—her eyes are sharp,—and whistle if she sees anyone about. Shut up, Robert! she can whistle quite well enough for that, anyway. It ought not to be a very good whistle—it'll sound more natural and birdlike. Now then—off we go!"
I cannot pretend that stealing is right. I can only say that on this occasion it did not look like stealing to the hungry four, but appeared in the light of a fair and reasonable business transaction. They had never happened to learn that a tongue,—hardly cut into,—a chicken and a half, a loaf of bread, and a syphon of soda-water cannot be bought in the stores for half-a-crown. These were the necessaries of life, which Cyril handed out of the larder window when, quite unobserved and without hindrance or adventure, he had led the others to that happy spot. He felt that to refrain from jam, apple pie, cake, and mixed candied peel, was a really heroic act—and I agree with him. He was also proud of not taking the custard pudding,—and there I think he was wrong,—because if he had taken it there would have been a difficulty about returning the dish; no one, however starving, has a right to steal china pie-dishes with little pink flowers on them. The soda-water syphon was different. They could not do without something to drink, and as the maker's name was on it they felt sure it would be returned to him wherever they might leave it. If they had time they would take it back themselves. The man appeared to live in Rochester, which would not be much out of their way home.
These were the necessaries of life.
Everything was carried up to the top of the tower, and laid down on a sheet of kitchen paper which Cyril had found on the top shelf of the larder. As he unfolded it, Anthea said, "I don't think that's a necessity of life."
"Yes, it is," said he. "We must put the things down somewhere to cut them up; and I heard father say the other day people got diseases from germans in rain-water. Now there must be lots of rain-water here,—and when it dries up the germans are left, and they'd get into the things, and we should all die of scarlet fever."
"What are germans?"
"Little waggly things you see with microscopes," said Cyril, with a scientific air. "They give you every illness you can think of. I'm sure the paper was a necessary, just as much as the bread and meat and water. Now then! Oh, I'm hungry!"
I do not wish to describe the picnic party on the top of the tower. You can imagine well enough what it is like to carve a chicken and a tongue with a knife that has only one blade and that snapped off short about half-way down. But it was done. Eating with your fingers is greasy and difficult—and paper dishes soon get to look very spotty and horrid. But one thing you can't imagine, and that is how soda-water behaves when you try to drink it straight out of a syphon—especially a quite full one. But if imagination will not help you, experience will, and you can easily try it for yourself if you can get a grown-up to give you the syphon. If you want to have a really thorough experience, put the tube in your mouth and press the handle very suddenly and very hard. You had better do it when you are alone—and out of doors is best for this experiment.
However you eat them, tongue and chicken and new bread are very good things, and no one minds being sprinkled a little with soda-water on a really fine hot day. So that everyone enjoyed the dinner very much indeed, and everyone ate as much as it possibly could: first, because it was extremely hungry; and secondly, because, as I said, tongue and chicken and new bread are very nice.
Now, I daresay you will have noticed that if you have to wait for your dinner till long after the proper time, and then eat a great deal more dinner than usual, and sit in the hot sun on the top of a church-tower—or even anywhere else—you become soon and strangely sleepy. Now Anthea and Jane and Cyril and Robert were very like you in many ways, and when they had eaten all they could, and drunk all there was, they became sleepy, strangely and soon—especially Anthea, because she had gotten up so early.
One by one they left off talking and leaned back, and before it was a quarter of an hour after dinner they had all curled round and tucked themselves up under their large soft warm wings and were fast asleep.
The children were fast asleep.
And the sun was sinking slowly in the west. (I must say it was in the west, because it is usual in books to say so, for fear careless people should think it was setting in the east. In point of fact, it was not exactly in the west either—but that's near enough.) The sun, I repeat, was sinking slowly in the west, and the children slept warmly and happily on—for wings are cosier than eider-down quilts to sleep under. The shadow of the church-tower fell across the churchyard, and across the Vicarage, and across the field beyond; and presently there were no more shadows, and the sun had set, and the wings were gone. And still the children slept. But not for long. Twilight is very beautiful, but it is chilly; and you know, however sleepy you are, you wake up soon enough if your brother or sister happens to be up first and pulls your blankets off you. The four wingless children shivered and woke. And there they were,—on the top of a church-tower in the dusky twilight, with blue stars coming out by ones and twos and tens and twenties over their heads,—miles away from home, with three shillings and three-halfpence in their pockets, and a doubtful act about the necessities of life to be accounted for if anyone found them with the soda-water syphon.
They looked at each other. Cyril spoke first, picking up the
"We'd better get along down and get rid of this beastly thing. It's dark enough to leave it on the clergyman's doorstep, I should think. Come on."
There was a little turret at the corner of the tower, and the little turret had a door in it. They had noticed this when they were eating, but had not explored it, as you would have done in their place. Because, of course, when you have wings and can explore the whole sky, doors seem hardly worth exploring.
Now they turned towards it.
"Of course," said Cyril, "this is the way down."
It was. But the door was locked on the inside!
And the world was growing darker and darker. And they were miles from home. And there was the soda-water syphon.
I shall not tell you whether anyone cried, nor, if so, how many cried, nor who cried. You will be better employed in making up your minds what you would have done if you had been in their place.
My mother's hands are cool and fair,
They can do anything.
Delicate mercies hide them there
Like flowers in the spring.
When I was small and could not sleep,
She used to come to me,
And with my cheek upon her hand
How sure my rest would be.
For everything she ever touched
Of beautiful or fine,
Their memories living in her hands
Would warm that sleep of mine.
Her hands remember how they played
One time in meadow streams,—
And all the flickering song and shade
Of water took my dreams.
Swift through her haunted fingers pass
Memories of garden things;—
I dipped my face in flowers and grass
And sounds of hidden wings.
One time she touched the cloud that kissed
Brown pastures bleak and far;—
I leaned my cheek into a mist
And thought I was a star.
All this was very long ago
And I am grown; but yet
The hand that lured my slumber so
I never can forget.
For still when drowsiness comes on
It seems so soft and cool,
Shaped happily beneath my cheek,
Hollow and beautiful.