WEEK 40 |
A BOUT noon the next day the boys arrived at the dead tree; they had come for their tools. Tom was impatient to go to the haunted house; Huck was measurably so, also—but suddenly said:
"Looky here, Tom, do you know what day it is?"
Tom mentally ran over the days of the week, and then quickly lifted
his eyes with a startled look in
"My! I never once thought of it, Huck!"
"Well, I didn't neither, but all at once it popped onto me that it was Friday."
"Blame it, a body can't be too careful, Huck. We might 'a' got into an awful scrape, tackling such a thing on a Friday."
"Might! Better say we would! There's some lucky days, maybe, but Friday ain't."
"Any fool knows that. I don't reckon you was the first that found it out, Huck."
"Well, I never said I was, did I? And Friday ain't all, neither. I had a rotten bad dream last night—dreampt about rats."
"No! Sure sign of trouble. Did they fight?"
"Well, that's good, Huck. When they don't fight it's only a sign that there's trouble around, you know. All we got to do is to look mighty sharp and keep out of it. We'll drop this thing for to-day, and play. Do you know Robin Hood, Huck?"
"No. Who's Robin Hood?"
"Why, he was one of the greatest men that was ever in England—and the best. He was a robber."
"Cracky, I wisht I was. Who did he rob?"
"Only sheriffs and bishops and rich people and kings, and such like. But he never bothered the poor. He loved 'em. He always divided up with 'em perfectly square."
"Well, he must 'a' been a brick."
"I bet you he was, Huck. Oh, he was the noblest man that ever was. They ain't any such men now, I can tell you. He could lick any man in England, with one hand tied behind him; and he could take his yew bow and plug a ten-cent piece every time, a mile and a half."
"What's a yew bow?"
"I don't know. It's some kind of a bow, of course. And if he hit that dime only on the edge he would set down and cry—and curse. But we'll play Robin Hood—it's nobby fun. I'll learn you."
So they played Robin Hood all the afternoon, now and then casting a yearning eye down upon the haunted house and passing a remark about the morrow's prospects and possibilities there. As the sun began to sink into the west they took their way homeward athwart the long shadows of the trees and soon were buried from sight in the forests of Cardiff Hill.
On Saturday, shortly after noon, the boys were at the dead tree again. They had a smoke and a chat in the shade, and then dug a little in their last hole, not with great hope, but merely because Tom said there were so many cases where people had given up a treasure after getting down within six inches of it, and then somebody else had come along and turned it up with a single thrust of a shovel. The thing failed this time, however, so the boys shouldered their tools and went away feeling that they had not trifled with fortune, but had fulfilled all the requirements that belong to the business of treasure-hunting.
When they reached the haunted house there was something so weird and grisly about the dead silence that reigned there under the baking sun, and something so depressing about the loneliness and desolation of the place, that they were afraid, for a moment, to venture in. Then they crept to the door and took a trembling peep. They saw a weed-grown, floorless room, unplastered, an ancient fireplace, vacant windows, a ruinous staircase; and here, there, and everywhere hung ragged and abandoned cobwebs. They presently entered, softly, with quickened pulses, talking in whispers, ears alert to catch the slightest sound, and muscles tense and ready for instant retreat.
In a little while familiarity modified their fears and they gave the
place a critical and interested examination, rather admiring their own
boldness, and wondering at it, too. Next they wanted to look up-stairs.
This was something like cutting off
retreat, but they got to daring
each other, and of course there could be but one result—they threw
their tools into a corner and made the ascent. Up there were the same
signs of decay. In one corner they found a closet that promised
mystery, but the promise was a fraud—there was nothing in it. Their
courage was up now and well in hand. They were about to go down and
"What is it?" whispered Huck, blanching with fright.
"Sh! . . . There! . . . Hear it?"
"Yes! . . . Oh, my! Let's run!"
"Keep still! Don't you budge! They're coming right toward the door."
The boys stretched themselves upon the floor with their eyes to knot-holes in the planking, and lay waiting, in a misery of fear.
"They've stopped. . . . No—coming. . . . Here they are. Don't whisper another word, Huck. My goodness, I wish I was out of this!"
Two men entered. Each boy said to himself: "There's the old deaf and dumb Spaniard that's been about town once or twice lately—never saw t'other man before."
"T'other" was a ragged, unkempt creature, with nothing very pleasant in his face. The Spaniard was wrapped in a serape; he had bushy white whiskers; long white hair flowed from under his sombrero, and he wore green goggles. When they came in, "t'other" was talking in a low voice; they sat down on the ground, facing the door, with their backs to the wall, and the speaker continued his remarks. His manner became less guarded and his words more distinct as he proceeded:
"No," said he, "I've thought it all over, and I don't like it. It's dangerous."
"Dangerous!" grunted the "deaf and dumb" Spaniard—to the vast surprise of the boys. "Milksop!"
This voice made the boys gasp and quake. It was Injun Joe's! There was silence for some time. Then Joe said:
"What's any more dangerous than that job up yonder—but nothing's come of it."
"That's different. Away up the river so, and not another house about. 'Twon't ever be known that we tried, anyway, long as we didn't succeed."
"Well, what's more dangerous than coming here in the daytime!—anybody would suspicion us that saw us."
"I know that. But there warn't any other place as handy after that fool of a job. I want to quit this shanty. I wanted to yesterday, only it warn't any use trying to stir out of here with those infernal boys playing over there on the hill right in full view."
"Those infernal boys" quaked again under the inspiration of this remark, and thought how lucky it was that they had remembered it was Friday and concluded to wait a day. They wished in their hearts they had waited a year.
The two men got out some food and made a luncheon. After a long and thoughtful silence, Injun Joe said:
"Look here, lad—you go back up the river where you belong. Wait there till you hear from me. I'll take the chances on dropping into this town just once more, for a look. We'll do that 'dangerous' job after I've spied around a little and think things look well for it. Then for Texas! We'll leg it together!"
This was satisfactory. Both men presently fell to yawning, and Injun Joe said:
"I'm dead for sleep! It's your turn to watch."
He curled down in the weeds and soon began to snore. His comrade stirred him once or twice and he became quiet. Presently the watcher began to nod; his head drooped lower and lower, both men began to snore now.
The boys drew a long, grateful breath. Tom whispered:
"Now's our chance—come!"
"I can't—I'd die if they was to wake."
Tom urged—Huck held back. At last Tom rose slowly and softly, and started alone. But the first step he made wrung such a hideous creak from the crazy floor that he sank down almost dead with fright. He never made a second attempt. The boys lay there counting the dragging moments till it seemed to them that time must be done and eternity growing gray; and then they were grateful to note that at last the sun was setting.
Now one snore ceased. Injun Joe sat up, stared around—smiled grimly upon his comrade, whose head was drooping upon his knees—stirred him up with his foot and said:
"Here! You're a watchman, ain't you! All right, though—nothing's happened."
"My! have I been asleep?"
"Oh, partly, partly. Nearly time for us to be moving, pard. What'll we do with what little swag we've got left?"
"I don't know—leave it here as we've always done, I reckon. No use to take it away till we start south. Six hundred and fifty in silver's something to carry."
"Well—all right—it won't matter to come here once more."
"No—but I'd say come in the night as we used to do—it's better."
"Yes: but look here; it may be a good while before I get the right chance at that job; accidents might happen; 'tain't in such a very good place; we'll just regularly bury it—and bury it deep."
"Good idea," said the comrade, who walked across the room, knelt down, raised one of the rearward hearthstones and took out a bag that jingled pleasantly. He subtracted from it twenty or thirty dollars for himself and as much for Injun Joe, and passed the bag to the latter, who was on his knees in the corner, now, digging with his bowie-knife.
The boys forgot all their fears, all their miseries in an instant. With gloating eyes they watched every movement. Luck!—the splendor of it was beyond all imagination! Six hundred dollars was money enough to make half a dozen boys rich! Here was treasure-hunting under the happiest auspices—there would not be any bothersome uncertainty as to where to dig. They nudged each other every moment—eloquent nudges and easily understood, for they simply meant—"Oh, but ain't you glad now we're here!"
Joe's knife struck upon something.
"Hello!" said he.
"What is it?" said his comrade.
"Half-rotten plank—no, it's a box, I believe. Here—bear a hand and we'll see what it's here for. Never mind, I've broke a hole."
He reached his hand in and drew it
"Man, it's money!"
The two men examined the handful of coins. They were gold. The boys above were as excited as themselves, and as delighted.
Joe's comrade said:
"We'll make quick work of this. There's an old rusty pick over amongst the weeds in the corner the other side of the fireplace—I saw it a minute ago."
He ran and brought the boys' pick and shovel. Injun Joe took the pick, looked it over critically, shook his head, muttered something to himself, and then began to use it. The box was soon unearthed. It was not very large; it was iron-bound and had been very strong before the slow years had injured it. The men contemplated the treasure awhile in blissful silence.
"Pard, there's thousands of dollars here," said Injun Joe.
"I know it," said Injun Joe; "and this looks like it, I should say."
"Now you won't need to do that job."
The half-breed frowned. Said he:
"You don't know me. Least you don't know all about that thing. 'Tain't robbery altogether—it's revenge!" and a wicked light flamed in his eyes. "I'll need your help in it. When it's finished—then Texas. Go home to your Nance and your kids, and stand by till you hear from me."
"Well—if you say so. What'll we do with this—bury it again?"
"Yes. [Ravishing delight overhead.] No! by the great Sachem, no! [Profound distress overhead.] I'd nearly forgot. That pick had fresh earth on it! [The boys were sick with terror in a moment.] What business has a pick and a shovel here? What business with fresh earth on them? Who brought them here—and where are they gone? Have you heard anybody?—seen anybody? What! bury it again and leave them to come and see the ground disturbed? Not exactly—not exactly. We'll take it to my den."
"Why, of course! Might have thought of that before. You mean Number One?"
"No—Number Two—under the cross. The other place is bad—too common."
"All right. It's nearly dark enough to start."
Injun Joe got up and went about from window to window cautiously peeping out. Presently he said:
"Who could have brought those tools here? Do you reckon they can be up-stairs?"
The boys' breath forsook them. Injun Joe put his hand on his knife, halted a moment, undecided, and then turned toward the stairway. The boys thought of the closet, but their strength was gone. The steps came creaking up the stairs—the intolerable distress of the situation woke the stricken resolution of the lads—they were about to spring for the closet, when there was a crash of rotten timbers and Injun Joe landed on the ground amid the debris of the ruined stairway. He gathered himself up cursing, and his comrade said:
"Now what's the use of all that? If it's anybody, and they're up there, let them stay there—who cares? If they want to jump down, now, and get into trouble, who objects? It will be dark in fifteen minutes—and then let them follow us if they want to. I'm willing. In my opinion, whoever hove those things in here caught a sight of us and took us for ghosts or devils or something. I'll bet they're running yet."
Joe grumbled awhile; then he agreed with his friend that what daylight was left ought to be economized in getting things ready for leaving. Shortly afterward they slipped out of the house in the deepening twilight, and moved toward the river with their precious box.
Tom and Huck rose up, weak but vastly relieved, and stared after them through the chinks between the logs of the house. Follow? Not they. They were content to reach ground again without broken necks, and take the townward track over the hill. They did not talk much. They were too much absorbed in hating themselves—hating the ill luck that made them take the spade and the pick there. But for that, Injun Joe never would have suspected. He would have hidden the silver with the gold to wait there till his "revenge" was satisfied, and then he would have had the misfortune to find that money turn up missing. Bitter, bitter luck that the tools were ever brought there!
They resolved to keep a lookout for that Spaniard when he should come to town spying out for chances to do his revengeful job, and follow him to "Number Two," wherever that might be. Then a ghastly thought occurred to Tom:
"Revenge? What if he means us, Huck!"
"Oh, don't!" said Huck, nearly fainting.
They talked it all over, and as they entered town they agreed to believe that he might possibly mean somebody else—at least that he might at least mean nobody but Tom, since only Tom had testified.
Very, very small comfort it was to Tom to be alone in danger! Company would be a palpable improvement, he thought.
T he Hundred Years' War was renewed when Henry V. came to the throne, and by his great victory at Agincourt in 1415 France was quite at his mercy. At length the French became so discouraged that they agreed that when their king should die they would accept an English ruler. The daughter of the French king was married to Henry, who died shortly afterwards. At the death of Henry V. the new king of England was a little boy. His guardians tried to enforce his claims, and they invaded France. They succeeded in getting possession of Northern France, but they could not press farther into the country without capturing Orleans. This they made strong efforts to do; they laid siege to the city; it grew weaker and weaker, and all saw that it must soon fall into their hands.
The French were good soldiers, but they needed a leader. They were fighting for the rights of the young king Charles, but it did not seem to enter his mind that he should do aught except wear the crown after they had captured it for him. At length word came that a young peasant girl named Joan, from Domrémy insisted upon seeing him. She declared that she had seen visions of angels and had heard voices bidding her raise the siege of Orleans and conduct the king to Rheims to be crowned.
Joan of Arc
She was brought before the king; but he had dressed himself more plainly than his courtiers to see if she would recognize him. She looked about her a moment, then knelt before him. "I am not the king," said Charles. "Noble prince, you and no one else, are the king," Joan responded; and she told him of the voices that she had heard. Now, there was an old saying in France that some day the country would be saved by a maiden, and both king and courtiers became interested. They gave her some light armour, all white and shining, and set her upon a great white charger with a sword in her hand. Her banner was a standard of pure white, and on it was a picture of two angels bearing lilies and one of God holding up the world. The French were wild with enthusiasm. They fell down before her, and those who could come near enough to touch her armour or even her horse's hoofs thought themselves fortunate. Joan of Arc, as she is known in history, was only seventeen, and she had seen nothing of war, but she succeeded in leading the French troops into Orleans. When once she had made her way within the walls, the French shut up in the city began to believe that she was sent by Heaven to save them. She bade them follow her to do battle with the English, and they obeyed joyfully. The English had heard of this. Some thought she was, indeed, sent by Heaven; others said she was a witch; and they were all half afraid to resist her. It was not long before they withdrew. The city was free; and the French were almost ready to worship the "Maid of Orleans," as they called her. They were eager to follow wherever she led; and with every battle the English were driven a little farther to the northward.
Joan now urged Charles to go to Rheims to be crowned; but he held back. So did his brave old generals. "It is folly," they said, "to try to make our way through a country where the English are still in power. Let us first drive them from Normandy and from Paris. Let the coronation wait until we have possession of our capital." Still Joan begged Charles to go, and at length he yielded. There was much fighting on the way, but the French were victorious, and Joan led her king to Rheims. He was crowned in the cathedral, and she stood near him, the white war banner in her hand.
Then Joan prayed to be allowed to go home; but Charles would not think of giving her up. His people had come to believe that they would win a victory wherever she led; they even fancied that they saw fire flashing around her standard. "I work no miracles," she declared. "Do not kiss my clothes or armour. I am nothing but the instrument that God uses." She continued to lead the army, but at length she was captured and fell into the hands of the English. Those were hard and cruel days, and the English fired cannon and sang the Te Deum in the churches and rejoiced as if they had conquered the whole kingdom of France.
Joan was kept in prison for a year, loaded with irons and chained to a pillar. She was tried for witchcraft and was condemned and sentenced to be burned. Charles, to whom she had given a kingdom, made no effort to save her. A stake was set up in the market-place of Rouen. To this she was bound, and fagots were heaped up around it. "Let me die with the cross in my hands," she pleaded; but no one paid any attention to her request, until at length an English soldier tied two sticks together in the form of a cross and gave it to her. She kissed it and laid it upon her heart. Then a brave and kindly monk ventured to bring her the altar cross from a church near at hand. The flames rose around her. Those who stood near heard her say, "Jesus! Jesus!" and soon her sufferings were ended. Her ashes were thrown into the Seine, but to-day on the spot where she died a noble statue stands in her honour.
WEEK 40 |
To your arms! to your arms! Charlie yet shall be your King.
To your arms! all ye lads that are loyal and true.
To your arms! to your arms! his valour nane can ding,
And he's on to the south wi' a jovial crew.
For master Johnnie Cope, being destitute of hope,
Took horse for his life and left his men;
In their arms he put no trust, for he knew it was just
That the King should enjoy his own again.
To your arms! to your arms! my bonny highland lads.
We winna brook the rule o' a German thing.
To your arms! to your arms! wi' your bonnets and your plaids,
And hey for Charlie and our ain true King.
FTER the battle of Prestonpans, Charles returned to
Edinburgh and remained there for some days gathering men and
money. It was a gay time. There were constant balls and
parties, and Bonnie Prince Charlie was loved more and more
each day. The Bonnie Prince, who "could eat a dry crust,
At last Charles and his army were ready and marched into
England. But although no one resisted him, although he took
several towns without a blow being struck, hardly any of
the English joined him. The
Highlanders grew weary of
marching through strange country, and
It is difficult to guess what might have happened had the Prince gone on. But he did not. He turned again towards Scotland, and began the long, sad march homeward.
The wearied army reached Glasgow at last, having marched six hundred miles through snow and rain and wintry weather in less than two months.
Charles now decided to take Stirling Castle. He met the King's army at Falkirk and defeated them, but after that, instead of trying to take Stirling, as he had intended, he listened to the advice of some of the Highland chiefs and marched northward.
As Charles had defeated two generals, King George now sent his own son, the Duke of Cumberland to command his army. At Culloden, near Inverness, the last Jacobite battle was fought. The royal army was much larger than the Jacobite one, and although the Highlanders fought with all their usual fierce courage, they were utterly defeated. Charles would have been glad to die with his brave followers, but two of his officers seized the bridle of his horse and forced him against his will to leave the field. The battle was turned into a terrible slaughter, for the Duke of Cumberland behaved so cruelly to the beaten rebels that ever after he was called the Butcher.
The Stuart cause was lost, and Bonnie Prince Charlie was a hunted man. The King offered £30,000 to any one who would take him prisoner. But although the money would have made many a poor Highlander richer than he had ever imagined it possible for any one to be, not one of them tried to earn it. Instead, they hid their Prince, fed him, clothed him, and worked for him. At last, after months of hardships and adventures, he escaped to France.
Many people helped Prince Charles, but it was a beautiful lady, called Flora Macdonald, who perhaps helped him most. She served him when he was most miserable and in greatest danger. The whole country round was filled with soldiers searching for him. He scarcely dared to leave his hiding-place, and was almost dying of hunger. No house was safe for him, and he had to hide among the rocks of the seashore, shivering with cold and drenched with rain.
With great difficulty and danger to herself, Flora Macdonald reached the place where the Prince was hiding, bringing with her a dress for him to wear. The Prince put it on, and together they went to the house of a friend, where Flora asked if she and her maid "Betty" might stay that night. This friend was very fond of Flora, and very glad to see her. She was a Jacobite, and when she was told who "Betty" was she made ready her best room for the Prince. A little girl belonging to the house came into the hall while Betty was standing there, and ran away frightened at the great tall woman, but no one suspected who she was.
Disguised as Flora Macdonald's maid, Prince Charlie travelled for many days, escaping dangers in a wonderful way. For the Prince made a very funny-looking woman. He took great strides, and managed his skirts so badly that, in spite of the danger, his friends could not help laughing. "They do call your Highness a Pretender," said one. "All I can say is that you are the worst of your trade the world has ever seen."
They took a sad farewell of each other.
When there was no need for Flora to go further with the
Prince, they took a sad farewell of each other. "I hope,
madam," said he, bending over her hand and kissing it, "we
shall yet meet at
Far over yon hills of the heather so green,
And down by the corrie that sings to the sea,
The bonnie young Flora sat sighing her lane,
The dew on her plaid and the tear in her e'e.
She looked at a boat which the breezes had swung,
Away on the wave like a bird on the main;
And aye as it lessened, she sighed and she sang,
Farewell to the lad I shall ne'er see again;
Farewell to my hero, the gallant and young,
Farewell to the lad I shall ne'er see again.
The target is torn from the arm of the just,
The helmet is cleft on the brow of the brave,
The claymore for ever in darkness must rust,
But red is the sword of the stranger and slave;
The hoof of the horse and the foot of the proud
Have trod o'er the plumes in the bonnet of blue.
Why slept the red bolt in the heart of the cloud
When tyranny revell'd in blood of the true?
Farewell, my young hero, the gallant and good!
The crown of thy fathers is torn from thy brow.
This rebellion is called "The Forty-five" because it took
Prince Charlie reached France safely, but the rest of his
life was sad. He was a broken, ruined man, and he lived a
wanderer in many lands. At last, he died in
In St. Peter's at Rome there is a monument, placed there, it
is said, by King
ITH only half a chance our smaller wild animals—the fox, the mink, the 'coon, the 'possum, the rabbit—would thrive and be happy forever on the very edges of the towns and cities. Instead of a hindrance, houses and farms, roads and railways are a help to the wild animals, affording them food and shelter as their natural conditions never could. So, at least, it seems; for here on Mullein Hill, hardly twenty miles from the heart of Boston, there are more wild animals than I know what to do with—just as if the city of Boston were a big skunk farm or fox farm, from which the countryside all around (particularly my countryside) were being continually restocked.
But then, if I seem to have more foxes than a man of chickens needs to have, it is no wonder, living as I do on a main traveled road in Foxland, a road that begins off in the granite ledges this side of Boston, no one knows where, and, branching, doubling, turning, no one knows how many times, comes down at last along the trout brook to the street in front of my house, where, leaping the brook and crossing the street, it runs beside my foot-path, up the hill, to the mowing-field behind the barn.
When I say that last fall the hunters, standing near the brook where this wild-animal road and the wagon road cross, shot seven foxes, you will be quite ready to believe that this is a much-traveled road, this road of the foxes that cuts across my mowing-field; and also that I am quite likely to see the travelers, now and then, as they pass by.
So I am, especially in the autumn, when game grows scarce; when the keen frosty air sharpens the foxes' appetites, and the dogs, turned loose in the woods, send the creatures far and wide for—chickens!
For chickens? If you have chickens, I hope your chicken-coop does not stand along the side of a fox road, as mine does. For straight across the mowing-field runs this road of the foxes, then in a complete circle right round the chicken yard, and up the bushy ridge into the wood.
How very convenient! Very, indeed! And how thoughtful of me! Very thoughtful! The foxes appreciate my kindness; and they make a point of stopping at the hen-yard every time they pass this way.
It is interesting to know, too, that they pass this way almost every night, and almost every afternoon, and at almost every other odd time, so that the hens, with hundreds of grubby acres to scratch in, have to be fenced within a bare narrow yard, where they can only be seen by the passing foxes.
Even while being driven by the dogs, when naturally they are in something of a hurry, the foxes will manage to get far enough ahead of the hounds to come by this way and saunter leisurely around the coop.
I have a double-barreled gun and four small boys; but terrible as that combination sounds, it fails somehow with the foxes. It is a two-barreled-four-boyed kind of a joke to them. They think that I am fooling when I blaze away with both barrels at them. But I am not. Every cartridge is loaded with BB shot. But that only means Blank-Blank to them, in spite of all I can do. The way they jump when the gun goes off, then stop and look at me, is very irritating.
This last spring I fired twice at a fox, who jumped as if I had hit him (I must have hit him), then turned himself around and looked all over the end of the barn to see where the shots were coming from. They were coming from the back barn window, as he saw when I yelled at him.
It was an April morning, cold and foggy, so cold and foggy and so very early that my chattering teeth, I think, disturbed my aim.
It must have been about four o'clock when one of the small boys tiptoed into my room and whispered, "Father, quick! there's a fox digging under Pigeon Henny's coop behind the barn."
I was up in a second, and into the boys' room. Sure enough, there in the fog of the dim morning I could make out the moving form of a fox. He was digging under the wire runway of the coop.
The old hen was clucking in terror to her chicks. It was she who had awakened the boys.
There was no time to lose. Downstairs I went, down into the basement, where I seized the gun, and, slipping in a couple of shells, slid out of the cellar door and crept stealthily into the barn.
The back window was open. The thick wet fog poured in like dense smoke. I moved swiftly in my bare feet and peered down upon the field. There stood the blur of the coop,—a dark shadow only in the fog,—but where was the fox?
Pushing the muzzle of my double-barreled gun across the window-sill, I waited. And there in the mist stood the fox, reaching in with his paw under the wire that inclosed the coop.
Carefully, deliberately, I swung the gun on the window-sill until the bead drew dead upon the thief; then, fixing myself as firmly as I could with bare feet, I made sure of my mark and fired.
I do not wonder that the fox jumped. I jumped, myself, as both barrels went off together. A gun is a sudden thing at any time of day, but so early in the morning, and when everything was wrapped in silence and ocean fog, the double explosion was extremely startling.
The fox jumped, as naturally he would. When, however, he turned deliberately around and looked all over the end of the barn to see where I was firing from, and stood there, until I shouted at him—I say it was irritating.
But I was glad, on going out later, to find that neither charge of shot had hit the coop. The coop was rather large, larger than the ordinary coop; and taking that into account, and the thick, uncertain condition of the atmosphere, I had not made a bad shot after all. It was something not to have killed the hen.
But the fox had killed eleven of the chicks. One out of the brood of twelve was left. The rascal had dug a hole under the wire; and then, by waiting as they came out, or by frightening them out, had eaten them one by one.
There are guns and guns, and some, I know, that shoot straight. But guns and dogs and a dense population have not yet availed here against the fox.
One might think, however, when the dogs are baying hard on the heels of a fox, that one's chickens would be safe enough for the moment from that particular fox. But there is no pack of hounds hunting in these woods swift enough or keen enough to match the fox. In literature the cunning of the fox is very greatly exaggerated. Yet it is, in fact, more than equal to that of the hound.
A fox, I really believe, enjoys an all-day run before the dogs. And as for house dogs, I have seen a fox, that was evidently out for mischief and utterly tired of himself, come walking along the edge of the knoll here by the house, and, squatting on his haunches, yap down lonesomely at the two farm dogs below.
This very week I heard the hounds far away in the ledges. I listened. They were coming toward me, and apparently on my side of the brook. I had just paused at the corner of the barn when the fox, slipping along the edge of the woods, came loping down to the hen-yard within easy gun-shot of me. He halted for a hungry look at the hens through the wire fence, then trotted slowly off, with the dogs yelping fully five minutes away in the swamp.
How many minutes would it have taken that fox to snatch a hen, had there been a hen on his side of the fence? He could have made chicken-sandwiches of a hen in five minutes, could have eaten them, too, and put the feathers into a bolster—almost! How many of my hens he has made into pie in less than five minutes!
As desserts go, out of doors, he has a right to a pie for fooling the dogs out of those five crowded minutes. For he does it against such uneven odds, and does it so neatly—sometimes so very thrillingly! On three occasions I have seen him do the trick, each time by a little different dodge.
One day, as I was climbing the wooded ridge behind the farm, I heard a single foxhound yelping at intervals in the hollow beyond. Coming cautiously to the top, I saw the hound below me beating slowly along through the bare sprout-land, half a mile away, and having a hard time holding to the trail. Every few minutes he would solemnly throw his big black head into the air, stop stock-still, and yelp a long doleful yelp, as if begging the fox to stop its fooling and try to leave a reasonable trail.
The hound was walking, not running; and round and round he would go, off this way, off that, then back, when, catching the scent again, he would up with his muzzle and howl for all the woods to hear. But I think it was for the fox to hear.
I was watching the curious and solemn performance, and wondering if the fox really did hear and understand, when, not far from me, on the crown of the ridge, something stirred.
Without moving so much as my eyes, I saw the fox, a big beauty, going slowly and cautiously round and round in a small circle among the bushes, then straight off for a few steps, then back in the same tracks; off again in another direction and back again; then in and out, round and round, until, springing lightly away from the top of a big stump near by, the wily creature went gliding swiftly down the slope.
The hound with absolute patience worked his sure way up the hill to the circle and began to go round and round, sniffling and whimpering to himself, as I now could hear; sniffling and whimpering with impatience, but true to every foot-print of the trail. Round and round, in and out, back and forth, he went, but each time in a wider circle, until the real trail was picked up, and he was away with an eager cry.
I once again saw the trick played, so close to me, and so deliberately, with such cool calculating, that it came with something of a revelation to me of how the fox may feel, of what may be the state of mind in the wild animal world.
It was a late October evening, crisp and clear, with a moon almost full. I had come up from the meadow to the edge of the field behind the barn, and stood leaning back upon a short-handled hayfork, looking. It was at everything that I was looking—the moonlight, the gleaming grass, the very stillness, so real and visible it seemed at the falling of this first frost. I was listening too, when, as far away as the stars, it seemed, came the cry of the hounds.
You have heard at night the passing of a train beyond the mountains? the sound of thole-pins round a distant curve in the river? the closing of a barn door somewhere down the valley? Strange it may seem to one who has never listened, but the far-off cry of the hounds is another such friendly and human voice, calling across the vast of the night.
They were coming. How clear their tones, and bell-like! How mellow in the distance, ringing on the rim of the moonlit sky, as round the sides of a swinging silver bell. Their clanging tongues beat all in unison, the sound rising and falling through the rolling woodland, and spreading like a curling wave as the pack broke into the open over the level meadows.
I waited. Rounder, clearer, came the cry. I began to pick out the individual voices as now this one, now that, led the chorus across some mighty measure of The Chase.
Was it a twig that broke? Some brittle oak leaf that cracked in the path behind me? A soft sound of feet! Something breathed, stopped, came on—and in the moonlight before me stood the fox!
The dogs were coming, but I was standing still. And who was I, anyway? A stump? A post? No, he saw instantly that I was more than an ordinary post. How much more?
The dogs were coming!
"Well," said he, as plainly as anything was ever said, "I don't know what you are. But I will find out." And up he came and sniffed at my shoes. "This is odd," he went on, backing carefully off and sitting down on his tail in the edge of a pine-tree shadow. "Odd indeed. Not a stump; not a man, in spite of appearances, for a man could never stand still so long as that."
The dogs were crashing through the underbrush below, their fierce cries quivering through the very trees about me.
The fox got up, trotted back and forth in front of me for the best possible view, muttering, "Too bad! Too bad! What an infernal nuisance a pack of poodles can make of themselves at times! Here is something new in the woods, and smells of the hen-yard, as I live! Those silly dogs!" and trotting back, down the path over which he had just come, he ran directly toward the coming hounds, leaped off into a pile of brush and stones, and vanished as the hounds rushed up in a yelping, panting whirl about me.
Cool? Indeed it was! He probably did not stop, as soon as he was out of sight, and make faces at the whole pack. But that is because they have politer ways in Foxland.
It is no such walking-match as this every time. It is nip and tuck, neck and neck, a dead heat sometimes, when only his superior knowledge of the ground saves the fox a whole skin.
Perhaps there are peculiar conditions, at times, that
are harder for the fox than for the dogs, as when the
undergrowth is all adrip with rain or dew,
and every jump forward is like a plunge overboard. His
red coat is longer than the short, close hair of the
hound, and his big brush of a tail, heavy with water,
must be a dragging weight over the long hard course of
the hunt. If wet fur to him means the same as wet
clothes to us, then the narrow escape I witnessed a
short time ago is easily explained. It happened in this
I was out in the road by the brook when I caught the cry of the pack; and, hurrying up the hill to the "cut," I climbed the gravel bank for a view down the road each way, not knowing along which side of the brook the chase was coming, nor where the fox would cross.
Not since the Flood had there been a wetter morning. The air could not stir without spilling; the leaves hung weighted with the wet; the very cries of the hounds sounded thick and choking, as the pack floundered through the alder swamp that lay at the foot of the hill where I was waiting.
There must be four or five dogs in the pack, I thought; and surely now they are driving down the old runway that crosses the brook at my meadow.
I kept my eye upon the bend in the brook and just beyond the big swamp maple, when there in the open road stood the fox.
He did not stand; he only seemed to, so suddenly and unannounced had he arrived. Not an instant had he to spare. The dogs were smashing through the briars behind him. Leaping into the middle of the road, he flew past me straight up the street, over the ridge, and out of sight.
I turned to see the burst of the pack into the road, when flash! a yellow streak, a rush of feet, a popping of dew-laid dust in the road, and back was the fox, almost into the jaws of the hounds, as he shot into the tangle of wild grapevines around which the panting pack was even then turning!
With a rush that carried them headlong past the grapevines, the dogs struck the warm trail in the road and went up over the hill in a whirlwind of dust and howls.
Over the hill in a whirlwind of dust and howls.
They were gone. The hunt was over for that day. Somewhere beyond the end of the doubled trail the pack broke up and scattered through the woods, hitting a stale lead here and there, but not one of them, so long as I waited, coming back upon the right track to the grapevines, through whose thick door the hard-pressed fox had so narrowly won his way.
Jaffár, the Barmecide, the good Vizier,
The poor man's hope, the friend without a peer,
Jaffár was dead, slain by a doom unjust;
And guilty Hàroun, sullen with mistrust
Of what the good, and e'en the bad, might say,
Ordained that no man living from that day
Should dare to speak his name on pain of death.
All Araby and Persia held their breath;
All but the brave Mondeer: he, proud to show
How far for love a grateful soul could go,
And facing death for very scorn and grief
(For his great heart wanted a great relief),
Stood forth in Bagdad daily, in the square
Where once had stood a happy house, and there
Harangued the tremblers at the scimitar
On all they owed to the divine Jaffár.
"Bring me this man," the caliph cried. The man
Was brought, was gazed upon. The mutes began
To bind his arms. "Welcome, brave cords," cried he;
"From bonds far worse Jaffár delivered me;
From wants, from shames, from loveless household fears;
Made a man's eyes friends with delicious tears;
Restored me, loved me, put me on a par
With his great self. How can I pay Jaffár?"
Hàroun, who felt that on a soul like this
The mightiest vengeance could but fall amiss
Now deigned to smile, as one great lord of fate
Might smile upon another half as great.
He said, "Let worth grow frenzied if it will;
The caliph's judgment shall be master still.
Go: and since gifts so move thee, take this gem,
The richest in the Tartar's diadem,
And hold the giver as thou deemest fit!"
"Gifts!" cried the friend; he took, and holding it
High toward the heavens, as though to meet his star,
Exclaimed, "This, too, I owe to thee, Jaffár!"
WEEK 40 |
THUNDERBOLT overthrows, breaks, and rends bodies that do
not permit electricity to circulate freely. It shatters
rocks and throws the fragments great distances; it unroofs
our dwellings; it splits the trunks of trees and divides the
wood into little shreds; it overthrows walls, or even
wrenches them from their foundations. In penetrating the
ground, it melts the sand on its way and makes irregular
glass tubes. It reddens, melts, and vaporizes metallic
substances that give free passage to the electric current,
such as metal chains, the iron wire of bells, the gilding of
frames. Its preference, in short, is for objects made of
metal. There are instances of persons left uninjured while
the lightning consumed the various metallic objects worn or
carried by them, such as
"A feeble electric spark, like those I taught you how to get from paper, makes but the slightest perceptible impression on us. At the very most, we feel a little prick at the point of communication. But with the help of powerful apparatus at the disposal of science, the electric shock becomes painful and can be dangerous, or even mortal. When one is struck by a rather strong spark, one feels, particularly in the joints, a sudden shock that makes one tremble and feel weak in the knees. With a still stronger spark, the whole body is seized with a sudden shaking so violent that the joints seem to be severed and one is knocked down by the stroke. Science possesses appliances powerful enough to kill an ox with the electric shock.
"The thunderbolt, a spark incomparably stronger than that of our electric machines, gives to men and animals an extremely violent shock; it throws them down, injures them, and even kills them instantly. Sometimes a person thus struck bears traces, more or less deep, of burning; sometimes not the slightest wound is to be seen. Death is not, therefore, as a rule, due to any wounds inflicted by the thunderbolt, but to the sudden and violent shock given to the body. Sometimes death is only apparent: the electric shock simply suspends the primary vital functions, circulation and respiration. This state, which would end in death if prolonged, we can combat by giving the person struck the same care bestowed upon the drowned; that is to say, by seeking to revive by friction the respiratory movement of the breast. At other times the electric shock more or less paralyzes some part of the body, or perhaps only produces a passing disorder which wears off of itself."
Not long after young Hamilton's return to New York, news came that the king and his council had closed the port of Boston. British soldiers had marched into the city with bayonets fixed. They would not allow an American vessel in the harbor, not even a fishing smack.
The trade of the merchants was ruined. More than half the people were without work, and hundreds would starve if food were not sent overland from the other towns on the coast.
There was great excitement in New York over this news from Boston. On a hot afternoon in July a crowd of people met on the green to talk about it.
Many spoke; but a slender boy, who sat listening, thought they had left out some very important arguments. He stepped to the front. His face was pale. He was so small that he looked like a child; yet his voice rang out clear and strong, and he spoke with so much elegance that people were amazed. "Who is he?" they asked. It was Alexander Hamilton, only seventeen years old. "Ah, the wee lad," said one; "he is bigger than he looks!"
The excitement about the taxes continued until all the colonies agreed to meet in a convention at Philadelphia. This convention was called the Continental Congress. The delegates decided to resist the taxes to the bitter end.
Then the people were divided into two parties. Those who were willing to obey the king's unjust demands were called Tories, and those who refused to obey them were called Whigs.
And Whigs and Tories were talking from morning till night. Some New York merchants met together at the coffee-house to consider their condition.
They said that all they had was on the sea. Prosperity depended on trade, and the Continental Congress at Philadelphia must not hurt trade with England by opposing the king's laws too much. They said that everybody must be cautious.
Now, Alexander Hamilton was at this meeting. He felt that to keep up trade at the expense of liberty would destroy trade in the end, and he decided to tell the merchants what he thought.
He mounted a chair. Smiles were seen about the room. Someone said: "What brings that child here? The poor boy will disgrace himself." But the two years in the counting-house had taught the little West Indian more about British trade than most of the merchants knew. He made one of the very best speeches of the evening. He urged sympathy with Congress, and so pleased the rich men that they shook hands with him. They said he would be a great man some day.
Now, Dr. Cooper, the president of Columbia College, was a Tory, and wrote a letter in a newspaper against the Continental Congress.
Alexander Hamilton replied to Dr. Cooper with much wit. He signed his letter, "A Sincere Friend to America." The letter was well written. Everybody wanted to read it. The demand for the newspaper was so great that the printer could not publish it fast enough. "Who is this 'Sincere Friend to America'?" men asked on the streets.
Some said it was Governor Livingston. Others said that only John Jay, the eloquent lawyer, could have written such a fine letter. Dr. Cooper said it must be John Jay, and he was so angry about it that he would not speak to him on the streets.
And all the time young Hamilton was laughing to himself about their bad guessing!
Some collegians had seen the letter before it was published, and told, at last, who the "Sincere Friend to America" was. Then people admired the "Little West Indian" more than ever. They said he would some day be an honor to New York, and they called him the "Vindicator of Congress."
This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,
The simple news that nature told,
With tender magesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!
WEEK 40 |
O NE summer afternoon, ever and ever and ever so long ago, along a crooked street in the old town of Aachen a boy was walking slowly. He held in his hands a half unrolled scroll of parchment covered with queer squares and circles and quantities of stars, and at these he was peering with an intent curiosity. Indeed, he was so absorbed in trying to make out the figures on the parchment that he forgot to notice where he was going; and presently tripping over a large stone projecting from the narrow ill-paved street, down he tumbled, sprawling plump into the midst of a family of little pigs that had been following their mother just ahead of him.
Instantly there was a tremendous squealing as the frightened little beasts scurried off in all directions, and mingling with their squeals rose a chorus of merry shouts of laughter from a group of boys coming from the opposite direction.
"Ho! Ho! Rainolf!" they cried. "What were you trying to do? Catch a little pig for the palace cooks?"
Meantime Rainolf, having scrambled to his feet, began ruefully to brush the dust from his tunic of white linen and his legs wrapped in strips of the same material cross-gartered with knitted bands of blue wool. One of the boys good-naturedly picked up his round blue cap, while another handed him the roll of parchment which had been the cause of his trouble. As the boy caught a glimpse of the tracings on the scroll, "Rainolf," he said, "I'll wager you have been to see Master Leobard the astrologer!"
"Yes," replied Rainolf, "he was a friend
of my father, and mother said for me to go to
see him when I came to Aachen. I hunted
Here the boys gathered around Rainolf again as he unrolled his parchment, and they all looked it over trying to puzzle out its meaning. Now, a horoscope was a chart showing the position of the stars in the sky at the hour of a baby's birth; and from these the astrologer who made it, and who was supposed to know much about the stars and a good deal of magic besides, declared he could foretell the child's future. People who could afford it in those days liked to have these horoscopes made for their children; but if one did not happen to have it done when a baby it answered just as well later on to furnish the astrologer with the right dates. This was the way Master Leobard had made the one for Rainolf, who had been born twelve years before, in a castle some distance from Aachen whither he had lately been sent by his widowed mother so that he might be educated in the court of the great King Charlemagne who ruled the land.
As now the boys looked at the parchment, "Well," said one of them, "it's no use for us to try to make it out. What did Master Leobard say? Is your fortune good?"
"Yes, Aymon," answered Rainolf, "I think it's fairly good,—though he did say I would get some hard knocks now and then."
"So," laughed one of the boys, "I suppose you tumbled down just now because your stars said you had to!"
Rainolf smiled as he added, "At any rate, if I do get some knocks, he said I would be a good fighter and always conquer my enemies." And he drew himself up proudly.
"You are a good fighter now," said Aymon, his close friend, as he looked admiringly at Rainolf's straight figure and fearless face with its blue eyes and frame of flaxen hair.
"But," went on Rainolf, "he said there was something else I would like much better than fighting and that I would make a success of it, and that I would see something of the world." Just here the horoscope was cut short, as "Look out!" cried one of the boys, and they all hastened to flatten themselves against the wall of an old brown house in front of which they happened to be standing. For a cart was coming down the street, which was so narrow that anybody walking there had to get out of the way or else squeeze up against some of the brown-beamed wooden houses or dark little shops on either side.
Meantime the cart came trundling by. It was heavy and rudely built, its two wheels made from solid blocks of wood which had been hewn with an ax till they were tolerably round. The cart was drawn by a big white ox wearing a clumsy wooden collar; and his patient eyes scarcely blinked nor did he turn his head as the heavy wheels bumped and creaked over the uneven stones of the street. Beside the cart walked a bare-headed peasant with red hair and beard and wearing a tunic of coarse gray homespun, his legs wrapped in bands of linen criss-crossed around them and on his feet shoes of heavy leather.
"Good-day," said Rainolf as the man passed. But the peasant only turned his head and stared.
"Where are you going?" pursued another boy undaunted by his silence.
At this, "To the King's palace," muttered the peasant as he prodded the ox with a long goad he held in his hand.
The ox started, the cart gave a jerk, and "Squawk! Squawk!" came from a couple of geese within as with feet tied together they helplessly flopped against some bags of meal piled in front of them.
"Oh," said Aymon, standing on tiptoe trying to look into the cart, "never mind, Rainolf, that you didn't catch those little pigs! All these things are going to the palace kitchen!"
"Yes," put in another boy, pointing down the crooked street, "and there come a lot more!"
Sure enough, there were more ox-carts, and in between them even some flocks of sheep and a number of cattle. All these provisions the peasant folk had raised on the lands of the King near Aachen, and they were bringing them in, as they did once in so often, for the use of the large household at the palace. By and by, when these supplies were all eaten, the King and all the palace people would probably move off for a while to some other part of the kingdom where he had more farms to fill the royal larder.
As now the last cart went creaking along the street, "Where are you boys going?" asked Rainolf of the others, who, like himself, were all pages from the palace.
"Oh," said Aymon, "nowhere in particular. The King's chamberlain sent us to old Grimwald, the armorer, to see if he had finished some new boar-spears for the big hunt next week. The palace armorer has more than he can do, so Grimwald is helping him. But the spears were not done."
Meantime they all loitered along the street, now and then looking in the shops on either side. These were small and dark, more like little cubby holes than our idea of shops. There was no glass in their narrow windows, only heavy wooden shutters to be closed and barred at night. The shop-keepers sat on benches inside, most of them hard at work making their wares. There was the shoe-dealer sewing up shoes of thick leather cut in one piece soles and all, or, if one preferred, he had sandals of rawhide with leather thongs to tie them on. There was the cloth-seller, whose wife had spun and woven the woollen stuffs and the rolls of linen and narrow colored bands in which the Frankish men wrapped and cross-gartered their legs; for no one had thought of trousers or stockings. Then there was the silk-dealer, whose wares had come from the town of Lyons, and goldsmiths beating out trinkets of gold and silver for the noble ladies.
Past these was a many-gabled inn; for as Aachen was the King's capital, numbers of people came there on different errands. Across from the inn was a grassy square and a low brown house where on market days one might buy cheeses and chunks of meat and coarsely ground meal and a few kinds of vegetables and for sweetmeats cakes made of meal and honey, for nobody had heard of sugar.
Near the market-house a juggler was standing on his head, but only a few beggars and children were watching him; and as the boys went along they merely glanced at him with a scornful "Pooh! Does he suppose we can't stand on our heads, too?" For jugglers were plenty and this one not so clever as most.
Beyond the square was the shop of Grimwald, the armorer, whose swords and helmets and spears were the best in Aachen. Grimwald was busy making a suit of armor by sewing hundreds of small iron rings on a tunic of leather, and beside him an apprentice was sharpening the boar-spears as he turned a great grindstone. Standing close to this was an elfish figure in a bright yellow tunic, a little man, not more than four feet high, with a peaked face and strange deep eyes, now shrewd and keen, now twinkling and kindly.
"Ho!" cried one of the boys, looking into the shop, "there is the King's jester!" "Malagis," he called to the dwarf, "what are you doing in there?"
At this Malagis came out, limping a little because of one crooked foot; though it was astonishing how he could caper when he wanted to. "Oh," he said, "I was just standing by the grindstone a minute getting my wits sharpened. It would be good for all of you, too," he added, sweeping the group with a carved ivory staff he held, "only it would take so frightfully long!"
"One thing," said Aymon laughing, "you don't need to sharpen your tongue, Malagis!"
Here the dwarf prodded him with his staff, just as the peasants prodded their oxen, and began capering along beside the boys.
Soon they passed the row of shops and came to dwelling houses, some with upper stories and peaked roofs, some low and rambling. On nearly all heavy shutters stood open showing within sometimes richly dressed ladies and their maids spinning and weaving or embroidering, and sometimes women in homespun bending over pots and pans in which things were cooking at big fireplaces while puffs of smoke curled out through the windows till you would have been quite sure all those houses were afire! But the boys knew better and paid no attention, for nobody had chimneys, and smoke was expected to get out as best it could.
Presently, "I'll tell you what let's do!" cried Rainolf. "Let's go back to the palace swimming-pool and see if there is a chance for a swim!"
"All right!" echoed the rest, and off they scampered past the last straggling houses till they came to the edge of Aachen, and looming ahead rose the great palace of the mighty King Charlemagne. After the plain wooden houses of the old town, it would have made you blink to see how very large and fine was this palace with its stone walls and tall towers and its many porticoes and doorways and cornices all of beautifully carved marble. In the midst of it was a wide courtyard with grass and flowers and numbers of marble statues.
Not far from the palace, in a pleasant meadow-land, was a large pool lined with blocks of stone and divided into two parts, in one of which was warm and in the other cold water; for it was fed from springs nearby, and some of these always ran warm. Indeed, the chief reason why King Charlemagne had built one of his finest palaces here was that he might bathe often in these warm medicinal springs. He had had the swimming-pool made large enough, however, for others of his household to enjoy it as well; though the boys would not have presumed to go in if the King himself were there. But when they came up only a few soldiers and other humbler folk were swimming about, so all they had to do was throw off their tunics and jump in, and soon they were splashing around like a school of porpoises.
Presently Malagis, who had not hurried, came along by the pool and seeing Rainolf's parchment, which had fallen from his tunic and was about to tumble into the water, picked it up and placed a stone on it for safety, muttering as he did so, "There! One of those silly boys has been getting his horoscope! They're always in such a hurry to know their fortunes all at once,—as if they wouldn't find out soon enough anyhow! I could have told him myself, if I was a mind to, much better than old Master Leobard!" And Malagis poked the parchment contemptuously with his foot; for he was reputed something of a magician himself.
A Merchant, who was about to set out on a journey, went to the house of a Friend, taking with him two hundred tons of iron.
"I beg of you," he said to his Friend, "that you will kindly keep this iron for me. I am about to set out on a long journey, and it may be that ill luck will befall me. If so, then I can return home and sell this iron for a large price."
The Friend took the iron, and even as the Merchant feared, it came to pass. Misfortune overtook him on the way, and he was obliged to return home. Straightway he went to the house of his Friend and demanded the iron. In the meantime the Friend had sold the iron to pay his own debts, for he believed that the Merchant would never return home. However, he put on a bold face and replied:—
"Truly, Friend, I have sad news for you. I locked the iron in a room, thinking that it was as safe there as is my own gold. But, unknown to me, there was a rat-hole in the wall, and the rats have stolen into the room and eaten all of the iron."
The Merchant, pretending that he believed this untruth, answered promptly:
"That is, indeed, sad news for me, for the iron was all that I had left. Still, I know of old that rats delight in chewing upon iron bars. I have lost much iron in this same way before, so I shall know how to bear my present ill luck."
This answer was very pleasing to the Friend, who now was sure that the Merchant believed that the rats had eaten his iron. To avoid any further suspicion, he invited the Merchant to dine with him on the morrow. The Merchant accepted and went his way. As he was passing through the city, he met one of his Friend's sons, whom he quietly took home and locked up in a room.
The next day he went to his Friend's to dine. His friend came to the door with tears streaming down his face. "You must pardon me my distress," he said to the Merchant, "but yesterday one of my children disappeared, and nothing has been heard of him since. The town-crier has been through the streets, but no trace of the child is to be found."
"I am, indeed, sorry to hear this news," replied the Merchant, "for last evening I saw a sparrow hawk flying over the city with a child in its claws. The child certainly looked very much like one of your children."
"You senseless fellow," retorted the friend, "why do you mock me in my trouble! How could a sparrow hawk carry off a child weighing fifty pounds?"
"Ah," replied the Merchant, "you must not be surprised that a sparrow hawk should carry off a child of fifty pounds in our city where rats eat up two hundred tons of iron. My friend, give me back my iron, and I will gladly restore your boy."
The warm sun is failing, the bleak wind is wailing,
The bare boughs are sighing, the pale flowers are dying,
And the year
On the earth her deathbed, in a shroud of leaves dead,
Come, Months, away,
From November to May,
In your saddest array—
Follow the bier,
Of the dead, cold year,
And like dim shadows watch by her sepulcher.
The chill worm is falling, the night worm is crawling,
The rivers are swelling, the thunder is knelling
For the year;
The blithe swallows are flown, and the lizards each gone
To his dwelling.
Come, Months, come away;
Put on white, black, and gray;
Let your light sisters play;
Ye, follow the bier
Of the dead cold year,
And make her grave green with tear on tear.
WEEK 40 |
"Heard ye the thunder of battle
Low in the South and afar?
Saw ye the flash of the death-cloud
Crimson on Trafalgar?
Such another day, never
England will look on again,
Where the battle fought was the hottest
And the hero of heroes was slain."
W HILE the thunder of battle roared above, they laid Nelson tenderly on a bed, in the dimly lit cabin below; men lay around, dead and dying.
"You can do nothing for me," he said to the surgeon who bent anxiously over him; "I have but a short time to live."
He was right: the wound was mortal. Nothing could save the precious life, now ebbing away only too fast.
"Pray for me, doctor," whispered Nelson, as the agony of pain threatened to unman him.
Still the battle raged on above. At every cheer that told of victory, a smile passed over the face of the dying man. At last the news came down, that the enemy was all but defeated, and hope was expressed that Nelson would yet live, to bear the grand tidings home to England.
"It is all over: it is all over," was his sorrowful reply.
He longed to see Captain Hardy, who was busy on deck.
"Will no one bring Hardy to me?" he repeated. "He must be killed."
"Oh Victory, Victory," he murmured once as the ship shook to the roar of her guns, "how you distract my poor brain."
At last Hardy snatched a few moments to visit his dying friend. Nelson grasped his hand.
"Well, Hardy, how goes the battle? How goes the day with us?" he cried.
"Very well, my lord," was the reply; "we have got twelve or fourteen of the enemy's ships in our possession."
"I am a dead man, Hardy," he said presently. "I am going fast; it will soon be all over with me."
Hardy bent over his dying friend, then grasped him by the hand, and hurried back to his post on the deck with a bursting heart.
"One would like to live a little longer," Nelson said to the doctor when Hardy had gone.
"My lord," was the heart-broken answer, "unhappily for our country, nothing can be done for you." And he turned away to hide his falling tears.
Another agonised hour passed away. It was four o'clock, when Hardy returned again to the cabin, where Nelson still lay. Grasping his hand, he now announced that the victory was almost complete. Some fifteen ships had been taken.
"That is well," said Nelson; "but I had bargained for twenty."
Then as he planned out the end of the battle, arose a picture of a rising gale, and the battered British fleet perhaps drifting ashore with its prizes.
"Anchor, Hardy, anchor," he said eagerly.
"I suppose, my lord, Admiral Collingwood will now take upon himself the direction of affairs," said Hardy.
"Not while I live, Hardy, I hope," cried Nelson, struggling to raise himself in bed. "No; do you anchor, Hardy."
"Shall we make the signal, sir?"
"Yes; for if I live I'll anchor," was the firm reply.
These were his last commands.
"Kiss me, Hardy," he whispered presently.
Reverently the captain knelt and kissed his cheek.
"Now I am satisfied," murmured Nelson. "Thank God, I have done my duty."
Hardy had risen. He now stood looking silently at the dying Admiral. Suddenly he knelt down and kissed him again.
"Who is that?" asked Nelson.
"It is Hardy," answered his friend.
"God bless you, Hardy," murmured the dying man.
And Hardy then left him—for ever.
About half-past four—three hours after his wound—Nelson died. Before sunset all firing had ceased. The battle of Trafalgar was over.
The news of the two events was received in England with mingled joy and sorrow. "God gave us the victory—but Nelson died," said the people.
Nearly a hundred years have passed away since the famous victory of Trafalgar, when Lord Nelson, Admiral of the
British Fleet, was killed. But England's fleet is still her all-in-all; her realm is still the realm of the
encircling sea; and the famous signal, "England expects every man to do his duty," rings in her ears
When Werner Stauffacher knocked at his friend's door, Walter Fürst came out to greet him. "Ah, dear friend," he said, "it is good to see your face in these evil days. Many times have I longed to talk with you of late."
"I, too, have longed to talk and ask advice," said Stauffacher, as he went indoors.
Soon they were seated together, talking earnestly. Werner told how, day by day, he had been saddened by tales of cruelty and injustice, and how, at last, after Gessler's visit, his wife, Gertrude, had persuaded him that the time had come when something must be done. And so he had set out from home and had gone among the people, trying to find out how they felt, and what they would be willing to do. "Everywhere," he said, "I find hatred of the Governors, hatred of the Austrians. We should be doing right to set ourselves against the tyrants. The people are ready to follow us, they need but leaders. Let us bind ourselves secretly together, then when we are strong enough we will rise and drive the Austrians out of the land."
"Mistress Gertrude is a wise woman," said Walter, "she is quite right. We cannot sit still and be crushed to death by tyrants. If we must die, it is better, as she says, to die fighting. I will do what I can among the people of Uri, and you, Werner, go among the people of Schwytz, and find out who will fight with us."
"That will I," replied Werner, "and Henri of Melchthal, I am sure, will help us in Unterwalden. He is a great man——"
"Alas, have you not heard?" said Walter.
"He is not dead?"
"He is not dead, but he is blind and poor. Landenberg, the Governor, has taken all his money and put out his eyes."
"Walter, Walter," cried Stauffacher, "how can you sit still and calmly tell me this?"
"I sit still because I must," said Walter, "because there seems no help, because Austria is powerful and we are weak. But, oh! I do not sit calmly, Werner. My blood boils when I think of it. The good old man, the good old man!"
There was silence between them for a few minutes. Then Walter spoke again and told Werner all that had happened to Henri of Melchthal. "Arnold," he added, "is hiding here. He often goes secretly to Unterwalden to see his father and his friends, but he is now in the house."
"Then he will join us," cried Stauffacher. "He is young, but for his father's sake he will join us, and he has many friends and relatives in Unterwalden. They will join us too. Call him in, Walter."
So Arnold was called in, and when he heard what Werner and Walter had to say, he was very glad. "You want to fight the tyrants," he cried, "oh, who would help you more gladly than I? I will do all in my power. I will work night and day. If only we can drive them from the land, I shall die happy."
Then calling upon God and His Saints to help them, these three men, Walter Fürst from Uri, Werner Stauffacher from Schwytz, and Arnold of Melchthal from Unterwalden, swore a solemn oath together. They swore to protect each other; never to betray each other; to be true even to death. They swore, too, to be true to the Empire, for the fight they meant to fight was against Austria only, not against the Empire. They had no wish to rob the Emperor of his just right over them. Their one desire was to be free from Austrian tyranny.
The three agreed that each should go back to his own land, and there secretly speak to the people and persuade them to join in fighting for their old freedom.
"We must meet again," said Stauffacher, "but it will not be safe for us to meet in any house."
"That is true," said Walter Fürst, "but I know of a little meadow called the Rütli. It lies just above the lake here. It is shut in by trees on every side. There we could safely meet by night."
"I know it," said Arnold, "it is the very place."
"I shall find it," said Stauffacher.
"Cross the lake in your boat," said Arnold, "and we will meet you on the shore and show you the way."
"Then let us fix a night on which to meet again," said Stauffacher.
"This is Wednesday," said Fürst, "in three weeks' time at midnight; will that do?"
"Yes," replied Stauffacher, "that is the Wednesday before Martinmas. That will do. In three weeks we have time to find out who will help us."
"Farewell till then."
Stauffacher and Arnold went quietly out into the dark night, and Walter Fürst stood long at the door looking after them.
What would the end be? he asked himself. What if they should fail?
Nay, only look what I have found!
A sparrow's nest upon the ground;
A sparrow's nest as you may see,
Blown out of yonder old elm-tree.
And what a medley thing it is!
I never saw a nest like this,
So neatly wove with decent care,
Of silvery moss and shining hair.
But put together, odds and ends,
Picked up from enemies and friends;
See, bits of thread and bits of rag,
Just like a little rubbish bag!
See, hair of dog and fur of cat,
And rav'lings of a worsted mat,
And shreds of silk, and many a feather
Compacted cunningly together.
Well, here has hoarding been and living
And a little good contriving,
Before a home of peace and ease
Was fashioned out of things like these!
Think, had these odds and ends been brought
To some wise man renowned for thought,
Some man, of men the very gem,
Pray, what could he have done with them?
If we had said: "Here, sir, we bring
You many a worthless little thing,
Just bits and scraps, so very small
That they have scarcely size at all;
And out of these you must contrive
A dwelling large enough for five;
Neat, warm, and snug; with comfort stored;
Where five small things may lodge and board."
How would the man of learning vast
Have been astonished and aghast,
And vow that such a thing had been
Ne'er heard of, thought of, much less seen!
Ah! man of learning, you are wrong;
Instinct is, more than wisdom, strong;
And he who made the sparrow, taught
This skill beyond your reach of thought.
And here in this uncostly nest,
These little creatures have been blest;
Nor have kings known in palaces
Half their contentedness in this—
Poor simple dwelling as it is!
WEEK 40 |
T HERE was a man who had fine houses, both in town and country, a deal of silver and gold plate, embroidered furniture, and coaches gilded all over with gold. But this man was so unlucky as to have a blue beard, which made him so frightfully ugly that all the women and girls ran away from him.
One of his neighbours, a lady of quality, had two daughters who were perfect beauties. He desired of her one of them in marriage, leaving to her choice which of the two she would bestow on him. They would neither of them have him, and sent him backwards and forwards from one another, not being able to bear the thoughts of marrying a man who had a blue beard, and what besides gave them disgust and aversion was his having already been married to several wives, and nobody ever knew what became of them.
Blue Beard, to engage their affection, took them, with the lady their mother and three or four ladies of their acquaintance, with other young people of the neighbourhood, to one of his country seats, where they stayed a whole week.
There was nothing then to be seen but parties of pleasure, hunting, fishing, dancing, mirth, and feasting. Nobody went to bed, but all passed the night in rallying and joking with each other. In short, everything succeeded so well that the youngest daughter began to think the master of the house not to have a beard so very blue, and that he was a mighty civil gentleman.
As soon as they returned home, the marriage was concluded. About a month afterwards, Blue Beard told his wife that he was obliged to take a country journey for six weeks at least, about affairs of very great consequence, desiring her to divert herself in his absence, to send for her friends and acquaintances, to carry them into the country, if she pleased, and to make good cheer wherever she was.
"Here," said he, "are the keys of the two great wardrobes, wherein I have my best furniture; these are of my silver and gold plate, which is not every day in use; these open my strong boxes, which hold my money, both gold and silver; these my caskets of jewels; and this is the master-key to all my apartments. But for this little one here, it is the key of the closet at the end of the great gallery on the ground floor. Open them all; go into all and every one of them, except that little closet, which I forbid you, and forbid it in such a manner that, if you happen to open it, there's nothing but what you may expect from my just anger and resentment."
She promised to observe, very exactly, whatever he had ordered; when he, after having embraced her, got into his coach and proceeded on his journey.
Her neighbours and good friends did not stay to be sent for by the new married lady, so great was their impatience to see all the rich furniture of her house, not daring to come while her husband was there, because of his blue beard, which frightened them. They ran through all the rooms, closets, and wardrobes, which were all so fine and rich that they seemed to surpass one another.
After that they went up into the two great rooms, where were the best and richest furniture; they could not sufficiently admire the number and beauty of the tapestry, beds, couches, cabinets, stands, tables, and looking-glasses, in which you might see yourself from head to foot; some of them were framed with glass, others with silver, plain and gilded, the finest and most magnificent ever were seen.
They ceased not to extol and envy the happiness of their friend, who in the meantime in no way diverted herself in looking upon all these rich things, because of the impatience she had to go and open the closet on the ground floor. She was so much pressed by her curiosity that, without considering that it was very uncivil to leave her company, she went down a little back staircase, and with such excessive haste that she had twice or thrice like to have broken her neck.
Being come to the closet-door, she made a stop for some time, thinking upon her husband's orders, and considering what unhappiness might attend her if she was disobedient; but the temptation was so strong she could not overcome it. She then took the little key, and opened it, trembling, but could not at first see anything plainly, because the windows were shut. After some moments she began to perceive that the floor was all covered over with clotted blood, on which lay the bodies of several dead women, ranged against the walls. (These were all the wives whom Blue Beard had married and murdered, one after another.) She thought she should have died for fear, and the key, which she pulled out of the lock, fell out of her hand.
After having somewhat recovered her surprise, she took up the key, locked the door, and went upstairs into her chamber to recover herself; but she could not, so much was she frightened. Having observed that the key of the closet was stained with blood, she tried two or three times to wipe it off, but the blood would not come out; in vain did she wash it, and even rub it with soap and sand; the blood still remained, for the key was magical and she could never make it quite clean; when the blood was gone off from one side, it came again on the other.
Blue Beard returned from his journey the same evening, and said he had received letters upon the road, informing him that the affair he went about was ended to his advantage. His wife did all she could to convince him she was extremely glad of his speedy return.
Next morning he asked her for the keys, which she gave him, but with such a trembling hand that he easily guessed what had happened.
"What!" said he, "is not the key of my closet among the rest?"
"I must certainly," said she, "have left it above upon the table."
"Fail not," said Blue Beard, "to bring it me presently."
After several goings backwards and forwards she was forced to bring him the key. Blue Beard, having very attentively considered it, said to his wife,
"How comes this blood upon the key?"
"I do not know," cried the poor woman, paler than death.
"You do not know!" replied Blue Beard. "I very well know. You were resolved to go into the closet, were you not? Mighty well, madam; you shall go in, and take your place among the ladies you saw there."
Upon this she threw herself at her husband's feet, and begged his pardon with all the signs of true repentance, vowing that she would never more be disobedient. She would have melted a rock, so beautiful and sorrowful was she; but Blue Beard had a heart harder than any rock!
"You must die, madam," said he, "and that presently."
"Since I must die," answered she (looking upon him with her eyes all bathed in tears), "give me some little time to say my prayers."
"I give you," replied Blue Beard, "half a quarter of an hour, but not one moment more."
When she was alone she called out to her sister, and said to her:
"Sister Anne" (for that was her name), "go up, I beg you, upon the top of the tower, and look if my brothers are not coming; they promised me that they would come to-day, and if you see them, give them a sign to make haste."
Her sister Anne went up upon the top of the tower, and the poor afflicted wife cried out from time to time:
"Anne, sister Anne, do you see anyone coming?"
And sister Anne said:
"I see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and the grass, which looks green."
In the meanwhile Blue Beard, holding a great sabre in his hand, cried out as loud as he could bawl to his wife:
"Come down instantly, or I shall come up to you."
"One moment longer, if you please," said his wife; and then she cried out very softly, "Anne, sister Anne, dost thou see anybody coming?"
And sister Anne answered:
"I see nothing but the sun, which makes a dust, and the grass, which is green."
"Come down quickly," cried Blue Beard, "or I will come up to you."
"I am coming," answered his wife; and then she cried, "Anne, sister Anne, dost thou not see anyone coming?"
"I see," replied sister Anne, "a great dust, which comes on this side here."
"Are they my brothers?"
"Alas! no, my dear sister, I see a flock of sheep."
"Will you not come down?" cried Blue Beard.
"One moment longer," said his wife, and then she cried out: "Anne, sister Anne, dost thou see nobody coming?"
"I see," said she, "two horsemen, but they are yet a great way off."
"God be praised," replied the poor wife joyfully; "they are my brothers; I will make them a sign, as well as I can, for them to make haste."
Then Blue Beard bawled out so loud that he made the whole house tremble. The distressed wife came down, and threw herself at his feet, all in tears, with her hair about her shoulders.
"This signifies nothing," says Blue Beard; "you must die"; then, taking hold of her hair with one hand, and lifting up the sword with the other, he was going to take off her head. The poor lady, turning about to him, and looking at him with dying eyes, desired him to afford her one little moment to recollect herself.
"No, no," said he, "recommend thyself to God," and was just ready to strike . . .
At this very instant there was such a loud knocking at the gate that Blue Beard made a sudden stop. The gate was opened, and presently entered two horsemen, who, drawing their swords, ran directly to Blue Beard. He knew them to be his wife's brothers, one a dragoon, the other a musketeer; so that he ran away immediately to save himself; but the two brothers pursued so close that they overtook him before he could get to the steps of the porch, when they ran their swords through his body and left him dead. The poor wife was almost as dead as her husband, and had not strength enough to rise and welcome her brothers.
Blue Beard had no heirs, and so his wife became mistress of all his estate. She made use of one part of it to marry her sister Anne to a young gentleman who had loved her a long while; another part to buy captains' commissions for her brothers, and the rest to marry herself to a very worthy gentleman, who made her forget the ill time she had passed with Blue Beard.
"P OOR hornets!" said Theodore; "no honey sacs, no pollen baskets on their legs, no wax cells, I suppose, as they do not make wax,—they do not seem to be half as well fitted out as the bees."
"They haven't as many tools," said Uncle Will, "but they have many good ideas,—that about making paper, for instance. How would you like to cut open that big nest we found last year?"
"Oh, goody! Just the thing!" and Theodore began to whack his uncle and jump up and down. "It is beginning to rain, so we can't go out of doors. I'll run up to the garret, Uncle Will o' the Wasps, and get it"; and he was off like a shot.
Soon he came skipping back carrying a large gray wasp's nest, as large as a water pail.
"Here it is," he cried.
"And here is the sword to storm the enemy's castle," said Uncle Will, flourishing the carving knife he had brought from the kitchen.
"Are there any wasps inside?" asked Theodore apprehensively.
"Just look in and see for yourself"; and Uncle Will held up the nest to show the hole at the bottom.
Theodore squinted his eye and looked into the hole.
"Nobody at home," he announced. "Or anyway they haven't lighted the lamps, it is pitch dark inside. I can't see a thing."
"Very well then, we will enter the ogre's den;" and Uncle Will cut the nest carefully open with his big knife. That is, he cut away half the outside covering without injuring the paper combs inside. There they hung, one below the other, most of the caps off and the cells empty.
"A last year's nest," said Uncle Will; "you see it is quite deserted."
"Wouldn't the wasps use it again this year?" asked Theodore.
Uncle Will shook his head. "No, I don't think so. You see, each queen wasps has to start the family all by herself, and it is easier to begin with a single room than to clean out a musty old castle with hundreds of rooms, and nobody to help her."
"It is like a Chinese tower seven stories high," said Theodore, looking at the the flat tiers of cells one above the other.
"Yes, only this is a more wonderful tower than the Chinese build, for it hangs down from the sky instead of being built up from the ground," said Uncle Will, laughing.
"It is hung like a chandelier from the roof, said Theodore, "with a nice space for the hornets to walk about between it and the walls. What thick walls!"
"Yes, and all made of thin sheets of paper," said Uncle
Will, loosening a sheet with the point of his
"But you can't take the sheets off whole," said Theodore. "See how they are all fastened together everywhere!"
"Yes, the hornets did not make their paper to be used by
anybody but themselves; that is evident. Do you know, I once
saw a red hornet's nest? Not bright red, of course, but
reddish. And once I found a
'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.
'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
WEEK 40 |
K ING EDWARD of England, the last of the Saxon kings, sat in his chamber deep in thought and troubled beyond all measure. It was but a short while ago that he had been living in exile at the Norman Court, with little hope of returning to his native land, and now kind fortune had not only called him home but set him there as King upon the throne. One would have thought he had been granted more than his heart's desire and should have been content, but there were troubled lines on the King's forehead as he sat and thought of those days of exile.
Amidst all the gaiety and wild revels of the Norman Court, the exiled prince had seemed to live in a world apart from the pleasure-loving courtiers, with whom he had but little in common. He was a strange, dreamy boy, and even his appearance had something dreamlike about it. His soft shining hair was almost milky white in its fairness, and the rose pink of his cheeks made that curious whiteness seem truly dazzling by contrast. He had delicate hands, with long, thin, transparent fingers, and these hands, it was whispered, held a magic in their touch and could stroke away pain and charm away sickness. While others talked of warlike deeds and boasted of wild adventures, he dreamed his dreams of the saints of old and the good fight which they had fought. Of all those saints the one he loved the best was brave, headstrong Saint Peter, so weak at first, so firm and faithful at last. And next he loved the kind Saint John with his great loving heart and gentle kindly ways. These two dream friends were far more real to him than any of the gay companions among whom he lived, and it is little wonder that the boy prince with such friends kept himself pure and unspotted from the world and earned the title of "Confessor."
The only thing outside his dream life in which Prince Edward delighted was in the chase. After long hours spent in church he would gallop off for days into the forest, hunting and hawking, no longer a dreamy youth with downcast eyes, but a keen alert sportsman whose eyes shone with daring and excitement.
It was while hunting one day that his horse stumbled on the edge of a dangerous cliff, and, with a swift appeal to his unseen friend, the Prince called upon Saint Peter to save him.
"Saint Peter," he cried, "save me, and I vow that I will make a pilgrimage to thy shrine in Rome to mark my gratitude."
The stumbling horse recovered its foothold and Edward rode safely home. Going straight to church, he knelt there giving thanks for his safety, and while he was still on his knees there came a messenger from England bidding him return and rule over the people as their rightful King.
This good fortune made him more anxious than ever to keep the vow he had made that day. The saint had been his friend and helper in the time of exile, and now, when fortune smiled upon him, he longed to show his gratitude the more.
But Edward had soon to learn that a king belongs to his people and not to himself.
As soon as it was known that the new king desired to make a pilgrimage to Rome, the people were dismayed and horrified.
"We cannot allow it," they cried. "A king can only leave his kingdom with the consent of the Commons, and that consent we will not give."
The wise councillors and advisers also shook their heads.
"The risks are too great," they said. "There are perils by road and sea, by mountain pass and river, dangers from robbers and armed foes. Who would venture among those Romans who are such villains, caring only for the red gold and the white silver?"
So it was that the King was sorely troubled that day as he sat and thought of all these things. He had sent messengers to Rome to beg that he might be pardoned for breaking his vow, and now he was awaiting their return, wondering what answer the Pope would send.
Ere long the answer came, and the Pope's message cheered Edward's heart. Instead of making a pilgrimage to Rome to do honour to Saint Peter, the King was to show his gratitude by building or restoring some monastery belonging to Saint Peter, which should be for ever after under the special protection of the Kings of England.
It was a happy way out of the difficulty, and the King began at once to consider where the abbey should be built. He was deep in thought one day, sitting with his head resting on his hand, his dreamy eyes already seeing visions of a wonderful minster pointing its spires heavenward, when a servant entered and told him that a holy man, a hermit, begged to be allowed speech with the King.
"Bring him hither at once," said Edward; "it is not fit that a holy man should be kept waiting."
It was very trying to be interrupted when his whole heart was filled with thoughts of the great plan, but he put them aside and turned to give a kindly greeting to the old man, who had perhaps come to ask a boon of his King. He little guessed that this very interruption was to bring him the help which he sought.
Very slowly and with trembling steps the old hermit came into the royal presence. King's palaces were strange abodes to one who lived in the caves and rocks of the earth. The green boughs of the trees were the only canopy which the old man knew; the daisied grass was his carpet, and for companions he had the squirrels and the birds, with whom he shared his meal of fruit and roots. But God had sent His servant with a message and he was here to deliver it to the King. The strange city, the bewildering noise, and the wonderful palace were things which had nought to do with him. His one desire was to tell his tale. The King listened with earnest attention, for the message was a strange one.
"Three nights ago," said the hermit, "as I knelt at prayer, behold there appeared to me in a vision an old man, bright and beautiful like to a clerk, whom I knew to be Saint Peter. He bade me tell thee that thou wouldst even now be released from thy vow, and commanded instead to build an abbey. The place where thou shouldst build the abbey, said he, should be on the Isle of Thorns, two leagues from the city. There a little chapel of Saint Peter already stands, and there the great abbey shall be built, which shall be indeed the Gate of Heaven and the Ladder of Prayer. As soon as the vision was ended I wrote all the words down upon this parchment, sealed it with wax, and now have brought it to your Majesty."
So the spot was chosen on which the fair abbey should be built, and King Edward gave his whole heart and attention to the great work.
The little Isle of Thorns of which the hermit spoke had taken its name from the wild forest and thickets with which it was overgrown. It was also called the "Terrible Place" in the days when it was the refuge for the wild animals which came down from the hills around. In those days it was said that a heathen temple had been built on the island, and that later, in the time of King Sebert, it had been turned into a Christian chapel and dedicated to Saint Peter.
Now there was a curious old legend about the dedication of that little chapel in the midst of the wild thicket of thorns, and perhaps it helped the dreamy King to decide to build his abbey there.
The legend tells that in the days of King Sebert, when the monastery was finished, it was arranged that on a certain day Mellitus, the first Bishop of London, should consecrate the chapel. It so happened that, the night before the consecration, a fisherman named Edric was casting his nets into the Thames from the Isle of Thorns when, on the opposite shore, he saw an old man, who hailed him and asked that he might be rowed across to the little island. The old man was dressed in a curious foreign robe and seemed to be a stranger, but he had a beautiful kindly face, and Edric willingly did his bidding. Across the dark stream they rowed, and when the old man landed on the island, Edric stood watching to see where he would go.
The stranger walked straight to the chapel door, and as he entered, lo! the whole chapel was flooded with a blaze of light, so that it stood out fair and shining without darkness or shadow. Then a host of angels, swinging their golden censers, began to descend from above and to ascend, linking earth with heaven, and the sweet blue breath of the incense trailed in thin clouds around the brightness of the heavenly torches. Slowly and solemnly the service of consecration was performed, while the awe-struck fisherman, forgetting his nets and his fishing, gazed in wonder at the heavenly vision.
Presently the lights faded, the angels vanished, and the little chapel was left in darkness once more. Then the old man came out of the chapel and greeted the wondering fisherman.
"How many fish hast thou taken?" asked the stranger.
Edric stammered out that he had caught no fish, and the old man smiled kindly upon him, seeing his confusion.
Early next day came the Bishop Mellitus to consecrate the chapel, as he had arranged, and the first to meet him was the fisherman Edric, who stood waiting there with a salmon in his hand. He told his tale, and presented his salmon from Saint Peter, and then showed the Bishop where the holy water had been sprinkled, and all the signs of the heavenly consecration.
The Bishop bowed his head in reverence as he listened, and prepared to return home.
"My services are not needed," he said: "the chapel hath indeed been consecrated in a better and more saintly fashion than a hundred such as I could have consecrated it."
In the days of King Edward the Isle of Thorns was no longer the Terrible Place, for the forest had been cleared and Saint Peter's chapel stood in the midst of flowery meadows; but still the fishermen cast their nets in the river and caught many a silver salmon, and once a year Saint Peter's fish was carried to the monastery in payment of the tithe which Edric had promised.
There were two other legends told of the little chapel which seem to have made King Edward love the place with a special love.
One story tells how a poor cripple Irishman named Michael sat one day by the side of the path which led to the chapel, watching for the King to pass. The kindly King at once noticed the lame man, and stopped to talk to him. Michael with piteous earnestness told his tale, and begged for help. There seemed no cure for his lameness, although he had made six pilgrimages to Rome, but at last Saint Peter had promised that he would be cured if only the King would carry him up to the chapel upon his own royal shoulders.
The courtiers mocked, and turned their backs on the ragged beggar, but King Edward, with kind compassionate words, bent down and lifted the cripple, and carried him up to the chapel, where he laid him before the altar. Immediately strength returned to the poor crippled limbs: the man stood upright, then knelt and thanked God and his King, and blessed the little chapel of Saint Peter.
The other legend tells of a wonderful vision sent to bless the eyes of the Confessor in the same chapel, as he knelt before the altar. Perhaps it was because his heart was pure and innocent and his faith so strong that his earthly eyes were opened to see the Christ-Child Himself standing there "pure and bright like a spirit," while a glory shone around.
It was small wonder, then, that the King was glad to choose this spot on which to build a great abbey to the glory of God and Saint Peter. The work was begun at once, and the King came to live in the palace of Westminster that he might be near at hand and watch the building. A tenth part of all the wealth of the kingdom was spent upon the abbey, and it took fifteen years to build; but the King grudged neither time nor money in carrying out this, his heart's desire. Indeed the King had but little idea of the value of money, and was sometimes rather a trial to his steward Hugolin, who had charge of the chest where the royal gold was kept. Sometimes Hugolin lost all patience with his royal master, and shook his head over his dreamy ways.
Why, there had been one day when Edward had actually encouraged a thief to steal his gold! The money-chest had been left open in the King's room, and a scullion from the kitchen had come creeping in thinking the King was asleep. Edward had watched the thief help himself three times to the gold, and then had warned him to make haste and get away before Hugolin should return.
"He will not leave you even a halfpenny," cried the King, "so be quick."
The words only added to the scullion's terror, as he gazed upon the white-haired King who was watching him so intently. He fled from the room, glad to take the King's advice and to escape before the steward's return.
"Your Majesty has allowed yourself to be robbed," said Hugolin reproachfully, when he saw the empty chest and heard the King's story.
"The thief hath more need of it than we," said his master; "enough treasure hath King Edward."
The King's treasure was indeed spent lavishly upon the building of the great abbey, and soon it began to rise from its foundations like a flower, growing in beauty and stateliness year by year, while the dreamy King watched over it, and added every beauty that his fancy could devise. Rough grey stone was cut and sculptured into exquisite shapes and designs; the daylight, as it streamed through the rich stained glass of the windows, was turned as if by magic into shafts of purest colour—purple, crimson, and blue. Fair as a dream the abbey stood finished at last, built by a dweller in dreamland, but solid and firm as a rock upon its foundations, and as firmly to be fixed in the hearts of the English people, while they ever weave around it their dreams of all that is great and good—the honour and glory of England.
The King's life was drawing to a close just as the great abbey was completed, and Edward knew that this was so. All his life he had relied greatly on warnings and visions, and now strange tales were told of how the end had been foretold.
It was said that as the King was on his way to the dedication of a chapel to Saint John, he was met by a beggar who asked alms of him.
"I pray thee help me, for the love of Saint John," cried the beggar.
Now the King could not refuse such a request, for he loved Saint John greatly. But he had no money with him and Hugolin was not at hand, so he drew off from his finger a large ring, royal and beautiful, and gave it with a kindly smile to the poor beggar.
Not very long afterwards, the legend tells us, two English pilgrims far away in Syria lost their way, and wandered about in darkness and amidst great dangers, not knowing which road led to safety. They were almost in despair, when suddenly a light shone across their path, and in the light they saw an old man with bowed white head and a face of wonderful beauty.
"Whence do ye come?" asked the old man, "and what is the name of your country and your King?"
"We are pilgrims from England," replied the wanderers, "and our King is the saintly Edward, whom men call the Confessor."
Then the old man smiled joyously, and led them on their way until they came to an inn.
"Know ye who I am?" he asked. "I am Saint John, the friend of Edward your King. This ring which he gave for love of me, ye shall bear back to him, and tell him that in six months we shall meet together in Paradise."
So the pilgrims took the ring and carried it safely over land and sea until they reached the King's palace, when they gave it back into the royal hand and delivered the message from Saint John.
It was midwinter when the abbey was ready for consecration. The river ran dark and silent as on that long-ago night when the fisherman rowed Saint Peter across to the little chapel and the angels came to sing the service. Now all that earthly hands could do was done, and the greatest in the land were gathered there to be present at the consecration of Saint Peter's abbey. Only the King was absent. He who had dreamed the fair dream and wrought it out in solid stone and fairest ornament, was lying sick unto death while the seal was set upon his work.
For a few days he lingered on, and then from the land of dreams he passed to the great Reality, and the old chronicles add the comforting words: "Saint Peter, his friend, opened the gate of Paradise, and Saint John, his own dear one, led him before the Divine Majesty."
They laid the King to rest in the centre of his beautiful abbey, and, ever since, our land has held no greater honour for her heroes than to let them sleep by the resting-place of the saintly King.
All honour to those who, through the might of sword or pen, by courage or learning, have won a place within Saint Peter's abbey of Westminster! But for the simple of the earth it is good to remember, that he who was first laid there won his place not by great deeds of courage or gifts of wondrous learning, but by the simple faith that was in him, the kindly thought for those who were poor and needed his help, the loving-kindness which even a child may win, though he miss a hero's grave in the King's abbey.
A ND now let us speak about Prince Giglio, the nephew of the reigning monarch of Paflagonia. It has already been stated, in the second chapter, that as long as he had a smart coat to wear, a good horse to ride, and money in his pocket, or rather to take out of his pocket, for he was very good-natured, my young Prince did not care for the loss of his crown and sceptre, being a thoughtless youth, not much inclined to politics or any kind of learning. So his tutor had a sinecure.
Giglio would not learn classics or mathematics, and the Lord Chancellor of Paflagonia, SQUARETOSO, pulled a very long face because the Prince could not be got to study the Paflagonian laws and constitution; but on the other hand, the King's gamekeepers and huntsmen found the Prince an apt pupil; the dancing-master pronounced that he was a most elegant and assiduous scholar; the First Lord of the Billiard Table gave the most flattering reports of the Prince's skill; so did the Groom of the Tennis Court; and as for the Captain of the Guard and Fencing Master, the valiant and veteran COUNT KUTASOFF HEDZOFF, he avowed that since he ran the General of Crim Tartary, the dreadful Grumbuskin, through the body, he never had encountered so expert a swordsman as Prince Giglio.
I hope you do not imagine that there was any impropriety in the Prince and Princess walking together in the palace garden, and because Giglio kissed Angelica's hand in a polite manner.
In the first place they are cousins; next, the Queen is walking in the garden too (you cannot see her for she happens to be behind that tree), and her Majesty always wished that Angelica and Giglio should marry: so did Giglio: so did Angelica sometimes, for she thought her cousin very handsome, brave, and good-natured; but then you know she was so clever and knew so many things, and poor Giglio knew nothing, and had no conversation. When they looked at the stars, what did Giglio know of the heavenly bodies? Once, when on a sweet night in a balcony where they were standing, Angelica said: "There is the Bear." "Where?" says Giglio; "don't be afraid, Angelica! if a dozen bears come, I will kill them rather than they shall hurt you." "Oh, you silly creature!" says she, "you are very good, but you are not very wise." When they looked at the flowers, Giglio was utterly unacquainted with botany, and had never heard of Linnæus. When the butterflies passed, Giglio knew nothing about them, being as ignorant of entomology as I am of algebra. So you see, Angelica, though she liked Giglio pretty well, despised him on account of his ignorance. I think she probably valued her own learning rather too much; but to think too well of one's self is the fault of people of all ages and both sexes. Finally, when nobody else was there, Angelica liked her cousin well enough.
King Valoroso was very delicate in health, and withal so fond of good dinners (which were prepared for him by his French cook, Marmitonio), that it was supposed he could not live long.
Now the idea of any thing happening to the King struck the artful Prime-Minister and the designing old lady-in-waiting with terror. For, thought Glumboso and the Countess, "when Prince Giglio marries his cousin and comes to the throne, what a pretty position we shall be in, whom he dislikes, and who have always been unkind to him. We shall lose our places in a trice; Gruffanuff will have to give up all the jewels, laces, snuff-boxes, rings, and watches which belonged to the Queen, Giglio's mother; and Glumboso will be forced to refund two hundred and seventeen thousand millions nine hundred and eighty-seven thousand four hundred and thirty-nine pounds, thirteen shillings, and sixpence halfpenny, money left to Prince Giglio by his poor dead father." So the Lady of Honor and the Prime Minister hated Giglio because they had done him a wrong; and these unprincipled people invented a hundred cruel stories about poor Giglio, in order to influence the King, Queen, and Princess against him: how he was so ignorant that he could not spell the commonest words, and actually wrote Valoroso Valloroso, and spelt Angelica with two l's; how he drank a great deal too much wine at dinner, and was always idling in the stables with the grooms; how he owed ever so much money at the pastry-cook's and the haberdasher's; how he used to go to sleep at church; how he was fond of playing cards with the pages. So did the Queen like playing cards; so did the King go to sleep at church, and eat and drink too much; and if Giglio owed a trifle for tarts, who owed him two hundred and seventeen thousand millions nine hundred and eighty-seven thousand four hundred and thirty-nine pounds, thirteen shillings, and sixpence halfpenny, I should like to know? Detractors and tale-bearers (in my humble opinion) had better look at home. All this backbiting and slandering had effect upon Princess Angelica, who began to look coldly on her cousin, then to laugh at him and scorn him for being so stupid, then to sneer at him for having vulgar associates; and at court balls, dinners, and so forth, to treat him so unkindly that poor Giglio became quite ill, took to his bed, and sent for the doctor.
His Majesty King Valoroso, as we have seen, had his own reasons for disliking his nephew; and as for those innocent readers who ask why? I beg (with the permission of their dear parents) to refer them to Shakspeare's pages, where they will read why King John disliked Prince Arthur. With the Queen, his royal but weak-minded aunt, when Giglio was out of sight he was out of mind. While she had her whist and her evening parties, she cared for little else.
I dare say two villains, who shall be nameless, wished Doctor Pildrafto, the Court Physician, had killed Giglio right out, but he only bled and physicked him so severely that the Prince was kept to his room for several months and grew as thin as a post.
Whilst he was lying sick in this way, there came to the Court of Paflagonia a famous painter, whose name was Tomaso Lorenzo, and who was Painter in Ordinary to the King of Crim Tartary, Paflagonia's neighbor. Tomaso Lorenzo painted all the Court, who were delighted with his work; for even Countess Gruffanuff looked young and Glumboso good-humored in his pictures. "He flatters very much," some people said. "Nay!" says Princess Angelica, "I am above flattery, and I think he did not make my picture handsome enough. I can't bear to hear a man of genius unjustly cried down, and I hope my dear papa will make Lorenzo a knight of his Order of the Cucumber."
The Princess Angelica, although the courtiers vowed Her Royal Highness could draw so beautifully that the idea of her taking lessons was absurd, yet chose to have Lorenzo for a teacher, and it was wonderful, as long as she painted in his studio, what beautiful pictures she made! Some of the performances were engraved for the Book of Beauty; others were sold for enormous sums at Charity Bazaars. She wrote the signatures under the drawings, no doubt, but I think I know who did the pictures—this artful painter, who had come with other designs on Angelica than merely to teach her to draw.
One day, Lorenzo showed the Princess a portrait of a young man in armor, with fair hair and the loveliest blue eyes, and an expression at once melancholy and interesting.
"Dear Signor Lorenzo, who is this?" asked the Princess. "I never saw any one so handsome," says Countess Gruffanuff (the old humbug).
"That," said the painter, "that, madam, is the portrait of my august young master, His Royal Highness Bulbo, Crown Prince of Crim Tartary, Duke of Acroceraunia, Marquis of Poluphloisboio, and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Pumpkin. That is the Order of the Pumpkin glittering on his manly breast, and received by his Royal Highness from his august father, his Majesty King PADELLA I., for his gallantry at the battle of Rimbombamento, when he slew with his own princely hand the King of Ograria and two hundred and eleven giants of the two hundred and eighteen who formed the King's body-guard. The remainder were destroyed by the brave Crim Tartar army after an obstinate combat, in which the Crim Tartars suffered severely."
What a Prince! thought Angelica: so brave—so calm-looking—so young—what a hero!
"He is as accomplished as he is brave," continued the Court Painter. "He knows all languages perfectly, sings deliciously, plays every instrument, composes operas which have been acted a thousand nights running at the Imperial Theatre of Crim Tartary, and danced in a ballet there before the King and Queen, in which he looked so beautiful, that his cousin, the lovely daughter of the King of Circassia, died for love of him."
"Why did he not marry the poor Princess?" asked Angelica, with a sigh.
"Because they were first cousins, Madam,
and the clergy forbid these unions," said the Painter.
"And, besides, the young Prince had given his royal
"And to whom?" asked Her Royal Highness.
"I am not at liberty to mention the Princess' name," answered the Painter.
"But you may tell me the first letter of it," gasped out the Princess.
"That your Royal Highness is at liberty to guess," says Lorenzo.
"Does it begin with a Z?" asked Angelica.
The Painter said it wasn't a Z; then she tried a Y; then an X; then a W, and went so backwards through almost the whole alphabet.
When she came to D, and it wasn't D, she grew very much excited; when she came to C, and it wasn't C, she was still more nervous; when she came to B, and it wasn't B, "O dearest Gruffanuff," she said, "lend me your smelling bottle!" and, hiding her head in the Countess' shoulder, she faintly whispered: "Ah, Signor, can it be A?"
"It was A; and though I may not, by my Royal Masters' orders, tell your Royal Highness the Princess' name, whom he fondly, madly, devotedly, rapturously loves, I may show you her portrait," says this slyboots: and leading the Princess up to a gilt frame he drew a curtain which was before it.
O goodness, the frame contained a LOOKING-GLASS! and Angelica saw her own face!
Last night at black midnight I woke with a cry,
The windows were shaking, there was thunder on high,
The floor was a-tremble, the door was a-jar,
White fires, crimson fires, shone from afar.
I rushed to the door yard. The city was gone.
My home was a hut without orchard or lawn.
It was mud-smear and logs near a whispering stream,
Nothing else built by man could I see in my dream. . . .
Then . . .
Ghost-kings came headlong, row upon row,
Gods of the Indians, torches aglow.
They mounted the bear and the elk and the deer,
And eagles gigantic, aged and sere,
They rode long-horn cattle, they cried "A-la-la."
They lifted the knife, the bow, and the spear,
They lifted ghost-torches from dead fires below,
The midnight made grand with the cry "A-la-la."
The midnight made grand with a red-god charge,
A red-god show,
A red-god show,
"A-la-la, a-la-la, a-la-la, a-la-la."
With bodies like bronze, and terrible eyes
Came the rank and the file, with catamount cries,
Gibbering, yipping, with hollow-skull clacks,
Riding white bronchos with skeleton backs,
Scalp-hunters, beaded and spangled and bad,
Naked and lustful and foaming and mad,
Flashing primeval demoniac scorn,
Blood-thirst and pomp amid darkness reborn,
Power and glory that sleep in the grass
While the winds and the snows and the great rains pass.
They crossed the gray river, thousands abreast,
They rode in infinite lines to the west,
Tide upon tide of strange fury and foam,
Spirits and wraiths, the blue was their home,
The sky was their goal where the star-flags are furled,
And on past those far golden splendors they whirled.
They burned to dim meteors, lost in the deep.
And I turned in dazed wonder, thinking of sleep.
And the wind crept by
Alone, unkempt, unsatisfied,
The wind cried and cried—
Muttered of massacres long past,
Buffaloes in shambles vast . . .
An owl said: "Hark, what is a-wing?"
I heard a cricket carolling,
I heard a cricket carolling,
I heard a cricket carolling.
Then . . .
Snuffing the lightning that crashed from on high
Rose royal old buffaloes, row upon row.
The lords of the prairie came galloping by.
And I cried in my heart "A-la-la, a-la-la,
A red-god show,
A red-god show,
A-la-la, a-la-la, a-la-la, a-la-la."
Buffaloes, buffaloes, thousands abreast,
A scourge and amazement, they swept to the west.
With black bobbing noses, with red rolling tongues,
Coughing forth steam from their leather-wrapped lungs,
Cows with their calves, bulls big and vain,
Goring the laggards, shaking the mane,
Stamping flint feet, flashing moon eyes,
Pompous and owlish, shaggy and wise.
Like sea-cliffs and caves resounded their ranks
With shoulders like waves, and undulant flanks.
Tide upon tide of strange fury and foam,
Spirits and wraiths, the blue was their home,
The sky was their goal where the star-flags are furled,
And on past those far golden splendors they whirled.
They burned to dim meteors, lost in the deep,
And I turned in dazed wonder, thinking of sleep.
I heard a cricket's cymbals play,
A scarecrow lightly flapped his rags,
And a pan that hung by his shoulder rang,
Rattled and thumped in a listless way,
And now the wind in the chimney sang,
The wind in the chimney,
The wind in the chimney,
The wind in the chimney,
Seemed to say:—
"Dream, boy, dream,
If you anywise can.
To dream is the work
Of beast or man.
Life is the west-going dream-storm's breath,
Life is a dream, the sigh of the skies,
The breath of the stars, that nod on their pillows
With their golden hair mussed over their eyes."
The locust played on his musical wing,
Sang to his mate of love's delight.
I heard the whippoorwill's soft fret.
I heard a cricket carolling,
I heard a cricket carolling,
I heard a cricket say: "Good-night, good-night,
Good-night, good-night, . . . good-night."