WEEK 6 |
HE Russian gentleman was better the next day, and the day after that better still, and on the third day he was well enough to come into the garden. A basket chair was put for him and he sat there, dressed in clothes of Father's which were too big for him. But when Mother had hemmed up the ends of the sleeves and the trousers, the clothes did well enough. His was a kind face now that it was no longer tired and frightened, and he smiled at the children whenever he saw them. They wished very much that he could speak English. Mother wrote several letters to people she thought might know whereabouts in England a Russian gentleman's wife and family might possibly be; not to the people she used to know before she came to live at Three Chimneys—she never wrote to any of them—but strange people—Members of Parliament and Editors of papers, and Secretaries of Societies.
And she did not do much of her story-writing, only corrected proofs as she sat in the sun near the Russian, and talked to him every now and then.
The children wanted very much to show how kindly they felt to this man who had been sent to prison and to Siberia just for writing a beautiful book about poor people. They could smile at him, of course; they could and they did. But if you smile too constantly, the smile is apt to get fixed like the smile of the hyaena. And then it no longer looks friendly, but simply silly. So they tried other ways, and brought him flowers till the place where he sat was surrounded by little fading bunches of clover and roses and Canterbury bells.
And then Phyllis had an idea. She beckoned mysteriously to the others and drew them into the back yard, and there, in a concealed spot, between the pump and the water-butt, she said:
"You remember Perks promising me the very first strawberries out of his own garden?" Perks, you will recollect, was the Porter. "Well, I should think they're ripe now. Let's go down and see."
Mother had been down as she had promised to tell the Station Master the story of the Russian Prisoner. But even the charms of the railway had been unable to tear the children away from the neighbourhood of the interesting stranger. So they had not been to the station for three days.
They went now.
And, to their surprise and distress, were very coldly received by Perks.
There was an uncomfortable silence.
"Oh, dear," said Bobbie, with a sigh, "I do believe you're cross."
"What, me? Not me!" said Perks loftily; "it ain't nothing to me."
"What ain't nothing to you?" said Peter, too anxious and alarmed to change the form of words.
"Nothing ain't nothing. What 'appens either 'ere or elsewhere," said Perks; "if you likes to 'ave your secrets, 'ave 'em and welcome. That's what I say."
The secret-chamber of each heart was rapidly examined during the pause that followed. Three heads were shaken.
"We haven't got any secrets from you," said Bobbie at last.
"Maybe you 'ave, and maybe you 'aven't," said Perks; "it ain't nothing to me. And I wish you all a very good afternoon." He held up the paper between him and them and went on reading.
"Oh, don't!" said Phyllis, in despair; "this is truly dreadful! Whatever it is, do tell us."
"We didn't mean to do it whatever it was."
No answer. The paper was refolded and Perks began on another column.
"Look here," said Peter, suddenly, "it's not fair. Even people who do crimes aren't punished without being told what it's for—as once they were in Russia."
"I don't know nothing about Russia."
"Oh, yes, you do, when Mother came down on purpose to tell you and Mr. Gills all about our Russian."
"Can't you fancy it?" said Perks, indignantly; "don't you see 'im a-asking of me to step into 'is room and take a chair and listen to what 'er Ladyship 'as to say?"
"Do you mean to say you've not heard?"
"Not so much as a breath. I did go so far as to put a question. And he shuts me up like a rat-trap. 'Affairs of State, Perks,' says he. But I did think one o' you would 'a' nipped down to tell me—you're here sharp enough when you want to get anything out of old Perks"—Phyllis flushed purple as she thought of the strawberries—"information about locomotives or signals or the likes," said Perks.
"We didn't know you didn't know."
"We thought Mother had told you."
"We wanted to tell you only we thought it would be stale news."
The three spoke all at once.
Perks said it was all very well, and still held up the paper. Then Phyllis suddenly snatched it away, and threw her arms round his neck.
"Oh, let's kiss and be friends," she said; "we'll say we're sorry first, if you like, but we didn't really know that you didn't know."
"We are so sorry," said the others.
And Perks at last consented to accept their apologies.
Then they got him to come out and sit in the sun on the green Railway bank, where the grass was quite hot to touch, and there, sometimes speaking one at a time, and sometimes all together, they told the Porter the story of the Russian Prisoner.
"Well, I must say," said Perks; but he did not say it—whatever it was.
"Yes, it is pretty awful, isn't it?" said Peter, "and I don't wonder you were curious about who the Russian was."
"I wasn't curious, not so much as interested," said the Porter.
"Well, I do think Mr. Gills might have told you about it. It was horrid of him."
"I don't keep no down on 'im for that, Missie,"
said the Porter;
"But the Japs didn't do cruel, wicked things like that," said Bobbie.
"P'r'aps not," said Perks, cautiously; "still you can't be sure with foreigners. My own belief is they're all tarred with the same brush."
"Then why were you on the side of the Japs?" Peter asked.
"Well, you see, you must take one side or the other. Same as with Liberals and Conservatives. The great thing is to take your side and then stick to it, whatever happens."
A signal sounded.
"There's the 3.14 up," said Perks. "You lie low till she's through, and then we'll go up along to my place, and see if there's any of them strawberries ripe what I told you about."
"If there are any ripe, and you do give them to me," said Phyllis, "you won't mind if I give them to the poor Russian, will you?"
Perks narrowed his eyes and then raised his eyebrows.
"So it was them strawberries you come down for this afternoon, eh?" said he.
This was an awkward moment for Phyllis. To say "yes" would seem rude and
greedy, and unkind to Perks. But she knew if she said "no," she would
not be pleased with herself afterwards.
"Yes," she said, "it was."
"Well done!" said the Porter; "speak the truth and shame
"But we'd have come down the very next day if we'd known you hadn't heard the story," Phyllis added hastily.
"I believe you, Missie," said Perks, and sprang across the line six feet in front of the advancing train.
The girls hated to see him do this, but Peter liked it. It was so exciting.
The Russian gentleman was so delighted with the strawberries that the three racked their brains to find some other surprise for him. But all the racking did not bring out any idea more novel than wild cherries. And this idea occurred to them next morning. They had seen the blossom on the trees in the spring, and they knew where to look for wild cherries now that cherry time was here. The trees grew all up and along the rocky face of the cliff out of which the mouth of the tunnel opened. There were all sorts of trees there, birches and beeches and baby oaks and hazels, and among them the cherry blossom had shone like snow and silver.
The mouth of the tunnel was some way from Three Chimneys, so Mother let them take their lunch with them in a basket. And the basket would do to bring the cherries back in if they found any. She also lent them her silver watch so that they should not be late for tea. Peter's Waterbury had taken it into its head not to go since the day when Peter dropped it into the water-butt. And they started. When they got to the top of the cutting, they leaned over the fence and looked down to where the railway lines lay at the bottom of what, as Phyllis said, was exactly like a mountain gorge.
"If it wasn't for the railway at the bottom, it would be as though the foot of man had never been there, wouldn't it?"
The sides of the cutting were of grey stone, very roughly hewn. Indeed, the top part of the cutting had been a little natural glen that had been cut deeper to bring it down to the level of the tunnel's mouth. Among the rocks, grass and flowers grew, and seeds dropped by birds in the crannies of the stone had taken root and grown into bushes and trees that overhung the cutting. Near the tunnel was a flight of steps leading down to the line—just wooden bars roughly fixed into the earth—a very steep and narrow way, more like a ladder than a stair.
"We'd better get down," said Peter; "I'm sure the cherries would be quite easy to get at from the side of the steps. You remember it was there we picked the cherry blossoms that we put on the rabbit's grave."
So they went along the fence towards the little swing gate that is at the top of these steps. And they were almost at the gate when Bobbie said:
"Hush. Stop! What's that?"
"That" was a very odd noise indeed—a soft noise, but quite plainly to be heard through the sound of the wind in tree branches, and the hum and whir of the telegraph wires. It was a sort of rustling, whispering sound. As they listened it stopped, and then it began again.
And this time it did not stop, but it grew louder and more rustling and rumbling.
"Look"—cried Peter, suddenly—"the tree over there!"
The tree he pointed at was one of those that have rough grey leaves and white flowers. The berries, when they come, are bright scarlet, but if you pick them, they disappoint you by turning black before you get them home. And, as Peter pointed, the tree was moving—not just the way trees ought to move when the wind blows through them, but all in one piece, as though it were a live creature and were walking down the side of the cutting.
"It's moving!" cried Bobbie. "Oh, look! and so are the others. It's like the woods in Macbeth."
"It's magic," said Phyllis, breathlessly. "I always knew this railway was enchanted."
It really did seem a little like magic. For all the trees for about twenty yards of the opposite bank seemed to be slowly walking down towards the railway line, the tree with the grey leaves bringing up the rear like some old shepherd driving a flock of green sheep.
"What is it? Oh, what is it?" said Phyllis; "it's much too magic for me. I don't like it. Let's go home."
But Bobbie and Peter clung fast to the rail and watched breathlessly. And Phyllis made no movement towards going home by herself.
The trees moved on and on. Some stones and loose earth fell down and rattled on the railway metals far below.
"It's all coming down," Peter tried to say, but he found there was hardly any voice to say it with. And, indeed, just as he spoke, the great rock, on the top of which the walking trees were, leaned slowly forward. The trees, ceasing to walk, stood still and shivered. Leaning with the rock, they seemed to hesitate a moment, and then rock and trees and grass and bushes, with a rushing sound, slipped right away from the face of the cutting and fell on the line with a blundering crash that could have been heard half a mile off. A cloud of dust rose up.
"Oh," said Peter, in awestruck tones, "isn't it exactly like when coals come in?—if there wasn't any roof to the cellar and you could see down."
"Look what a great mound it's made!" said Bobbie.
"Yes, it's right across the down line," said Phyllis.
"That'll take some sweeping up," said Bobbie.
"Yes," said Peter, slowly. He was still leaning on the fence.
"Yes," he said again, still more slowly.
Then he stood upright.
"The 11.29 down hasn't gone by yet. We must let them know at the station, or there'll be a most frightful accident."
"Let's run," said Bobbie, and began.
But Peter cried, "Come back!" and looked at Mother's watch. He was very prompt and businesslike, and his face looked whiter than they had ever seen it.
"No time," he said; "it's two miles away, and it's past eleven."
"Couldn't we," suggested Phyllis, breathlessly, "couldn't we climb up a telegraph post and do something to the wires?"
"We don't know how," said Peter.
"They do it in war," said Phyllis; "I know I've heard of it."
"They only cut them, silly," said Peter, "and that doesn't do any good. And we couldn't cut them even if we got up, and we couldn't get up. If we had anything red, we could get down on the line and wave it."
"But the train wouldn't see us till it got round the corner, and then it could see the mound just as well as us," said Phyllis; "better, because it's much bigger than us."
"If we only had something red," Peter repeated, "we could go round the corner and wave to the train."
"We might wave, anyway."
"They'd only think it was just us, as usual. We've waved so often before. Anyway, let's get down."
They got down the steep stairs. Bobbie was pale and shivering. Peter's face looked thinner than usual. Phyllis was red-faced and damp with anxiety.
"Oh, how hot I am!" she said; "and I thought it was going to be cold; I
wish we hadn't put on
Bobbie turned at the bottom of the stairs.
"Oh, yes," she cried; "they're red! Let's take them off."
They did, and with the petticoats rolled up under their arms, ran along the railway, skirting the newly fallen mound of stones and rock and earth, and bent, crushed, twisted trees. They ran at their best pace. Peter led, but the girls were not far behind. They reached the corner that hid the mound from the straight line of railway that ran half a mile without curve or corner.
"Now," said Peter, taking hold of the largest flannel petticoat.
"You're not"—Phyllis faltered—"you're not going to tear them?"
"Shut up," said Peter, with brief sternness.
"Oh, yes," said Bobbie, "tear them into little bits if you like. Don't you see, Phil, if we can't stop the train, there'll be a real live accident, with people killed. Oh, horrible! Here, Peter, you'll never tear it through the band!"
She took the red flannel petticoat from him and tore it off an inch from the band. Then she tore the other in the same way.
"There!" said Peter, tearing in his turn. He divided each petticoat into three pieces. "Now, we've got six flags." He looked at the watch again. "And we've got seven minutes. We must have flagstaffs."
The knives given to boys are, for some odd reason, seldom of the kind of steel that keeps sharp. The young saplings had to be broken off. Two came up by the roots. The leaves were stripped from them.
"We must cut holes in the flags, and run the sticks through the holes," said Peter. And the holes were cut. The knife was sharp enough to cut flannel with. Two of the flags were set up in heaps of loose stones between the sleepers of the down line. Then Phyllis and Roberta took each a flag, and stood ready to wave it as soon as the train came in sight.
"I shall have the other two myself," said Peter, "because it was my idea to wave something red."
"They're our petticoats, though," Phyllis was beginning, but Bobbie
"Oh, what does it matter who waves what, if we can only save the train?"
Perhaps Peter had not rightly calculated the number of minutes it would take the 11.29 to get from the station to the place where they were, or perhaps the train was late. Anyway, it seemed a very long time that they waited.
Phyllis grew impatient. "I expect the watch is wrong, and the train's gone by," said she.
Peter relaxed the heroic attitude he had chosen to show off his two flags. And Bobbie began to feel sick with suspense.
It seemed to her that they had been standing there for hours and hours, holding those silly little red flannel flags that no one would ever notice. The train wouldn't care. It would go rushing by them and tear round the corner and go crashing into that awful mound. And everyone would be killed. Her hands grew very cold and trembled so that she could hardly hold the flag. And then came the distant rumble and hum of the metals, and a puff of white steam showed far away along the stretch of line.
"Stand firm," said Peter, "and wave like mad! When it gets to that big furze bush step back, but go on waving! Don't stand on the line, Bobbie!"
The train came rattling along very, very fast.
"They don't see us! They won't see us! It's all no good!" cried Bobbie.
The two little flags on the line swayed as the nearing train shook and loosened the heaps of loose stones that held them up. One of them slowly leaned over and fell on the line. Bobbie jumped forward and caught it up, and waved it; her hands did not tremble now.
It seemed that the train came on as fast as ever. It was very near now.
"Keep off the line, you silly cuckoo!" said Peter, fiercely.
"It's no good," Bobbie said again.
"Stand back!" cried Peter, suddenly, and he dragged Phyllis back by the arm.
But Bobbie cried, "Not yet, not yet!" and waved her two flags right over the line. The front of the engine looked black and enormous. It's voice was loud and harsh.
"Oh, stop, stop, stop!" cried Bobbie. No one heard her. At least Peter and Phyllis didn't, for the oncoming rush of the train covered the sound of her voice with a mountain of sound. But afterwards she used to wonder whether the engine itself had not heard her. It seemed almost as though it had—for it slackened swiftly, slackened and stopped, not twenty yards from the place where Bobbie's two flags waved over the line. She saw the great black engine stop dead, but somehow she could not stop waving the flags. And when the driver and the fireman had got off the engine and Peter and Phyllis had gone to meet them and pour out their excited tale of the awful mound just round the corner, Bobbie still waved the flags but more and more feebly and jerkily.
When the others turned towards her she was lying across the line with her hands flung forward and still gripping the sticks of the little red flannel flags.
The engine-driver picked her up, carried her to the train, and laid her on the cushions of a first-class carriage.
"Gone right off in a faint," he said, "poor little woman. And no wonder. I'll just 'ave a look at this 'ere mound of yours, and then we'll run you back to the station and get her seen to."
It was horrible to see Bobbie lying so white and quiet, with her lips blue, and parted.
"I believe that's what people look like when they're dead," whispered Phyllis.
"Don't!" said Peter, sharply.
They sat by Bobbie on the blue cushions, and the train ran back. Before it reached their station Bobbie had sighed and opened her eyes, and rolled herself over and begun to cry. This cheered the others wonderfully. They had seen her cry before, but they had never seen her faint, nor anyone else, for the matter of that. They had not known what to do when she was fainting, but now she was only crying they could thump her on the back and tell her not to, just as they always did. And presently, when she stopped crying, they were able to laugh at her for being such a coward as to faint.
When the station was reached, the three were the heroes of an agitated meeting on the platform.
The praises they got for their "prompt action," their "common sense," their "ingenuity," were enough to have turned anybody's head. Phyllis enjoyed herself thoroughly. She had never been a real heroine before, and the feeling was delicious. Peter's ears got very red. Yet he, too, enjoyed himself. Only Bobbie wished they all wouldn't. She wanted to get away.
"You'll hear from the Company about this, I expect," said the Station Master.
Bobbie wished she might never hear of it again. She pulled at Peter's jacket.
"Oh, come away, come away! I want to go home," she said.
So they went. And as they went Station Master and Porter and guards and driver and fireman and passengers sent up a cheer.
"Oh, listen," cried Phyllis; "that's for us!"
"Yes," said Peter. "I say, I am glad I thought about something red, and waving it."
"How lucky we did put on our red flannel petticoats!" said Phyllis.
Bobbie said nothing. She was thinking of the horrible mound, and the trustful train rushing towards it.
"And it was us that saved them," said Peter.
"How dreadful if they had all been killed!" said Phyllis; "wouldn't it, Bobbie?"
"We never got any cherries, after all," said Bobbie.
The others thought her rather heartless.
O F all the Teutons who came to live on Roman territory, the most important were the Franks, or free men. They had no wish to wander over the world when they had once found a country that pleased them, and so, since they liked the land about the mouth of the Rhine, they settled there and held on to it, adding more and more wherever a little fighting would win it for them. Each tribe had its chief; but Clovis, one of these chiefs, came at last to rule them all. The country west of the Rhine, then called Gaul, was still partly held by the Romans, but Clovis meant to drive them away and keep the land for the Franks.
Bronze Helmet of a Frankish Warrior
When he was only twenty-one, he led his men against the Roman governor at Soissons and took the place. From here he sent out expeditions to conquer one bit of land after another and to bring back rich booty. The most valuable treasures were usually kept in the churches, and the heathen Franks took great delight in seizing these. Among the church treasures captured at Rheims was a marvellously beautiful vase. Now the bishop of Rheims was on good terms with Clovis, and he sent a messenger to the young chief to beg that, even if the soldiers would not return all the holy vessels of the church, this one at least might be given back. Clovis bade the messenger follow on to Soissons, where the booty would be divided. At Soissons, when all the warriors were assembled, the king pointed to the vase and said, "I ask you, O most valiant warriors, not to refuse to me the vase in addition to my rightful part." Most of the soldiers were wise enough not to object to the wishes of so powerful a chief; but one foolish, envious man swung his battle-axe and crushed the vase, crying, "Thou shalt receive nothing of this unless a just lot gives it to thee." It is no wonder that the whole army were amazed at such audacity. Clovis said nothing, but quietly handed the crushed vase to the bishop's messenger. He did not forget the insult, however, and a year later, when he was reviewing his troops, he declared that this man's weapons were not in fit condition, and with one blow of his axe he struck the soldier dead, saying, "Thus thou didst to the vase at Soissons."
Clovis showed himself so much stronger than the other chiefs of the Franks that at length they all accepted him as their king. Soon after this, he began to think about taking a wife. The story of his wooing is almost like a fairy tale. In the land of Burgundy lived a fair young girl named Clotilda, whose wicked uncle had slain her father, mother, and brothers that he might get the kingdom. Clovis had heard how beautiful and good she was, and he sent an envoy to ask for her hand in marriage. The wicked uncle was afraid to have her marry so powerful a ruler, lest she should avenge the slaughter of her family; but he did not dare to refuse Clovis or to murder the girl after Clovis had asked that she might become his queen. There was nothing to do but to send her to the king of the Franks. Clovis was delighted with her, and they were married with all festivities.
Frankish Costume of the Time of Clovis
Clotilda was a Christian, and she was much grieved that her husband should remain a heathen. She told him many times about her God, but nothing moved him. When their first child was born, Clotilda had the baby baptized. Not long afterwards, the little boy grew ill and died. "That is because he was baptized in the name of your God," declared Clovis bitterly. "If he had been consecrated in the name of my gods, he would be alive still." Nevertheless, when a second son was born, Clotilda had him baptized. He, too, fell ill, and the king said, "He was baptized in the name of Christ, and he will soon die." But the mother prayed to God, and by God's will the boy recovered. Still Clovis would not give up the gods of his fathers. It came to pass, however, that he was engaged in a fierce battle near where Cologne now stands. His enemies were fast getting the better of him, and he was almost in despair, when suddenly he thought of the God of his queen, and he cried, "Jesus Christ, whom Clotilda declares to be the Son of the living God, if Thou wilt grant me victory over these enemies, I will believe in Thee and be baptized in Thy name." Soon the enemy fled, and Clovis did not doubt that his prayer had been answered.
Baptism of Clovis
When he told Clotilda of this, she was delighted. She sent for the bishop and asked him to teach her husband the true religion. After a little, Clovis said to him, "I am glad to listen to you, but my people will not leave their gods." He thought a while and then he declared, "I will go forth and tell them what you have told me." He went out among his people, and, as the legend says, even before he had spoken a word, the people cried out all together, "We are ready to follow the immortal God." Then the bishop ordered the font to be prepared for the baptism of the king. The procession set out from the palace and passed through streets made gorgeous with embroidered hangings. First came the clergy, chanting hymns as they marched, and bearing the Gospels and a golden cross. After them walked the bishop, leading the king by the hand. Behind them came the queen, and after her the people. They passed through the door and into the church. The candles gleamed, the house was hung with tapestries of the purest white and was fragrant with incense; and there the king of the Franks, his sisters, and more than three thousand of his warriors, besides a throng of women and children, were baptized and marked with the sign of the cross.
The times were harsh and rude, and even a king who was looked upon as a Christian ruler never dreamed of hesitating to do many cruel deeds. Clovis wished to enlarge his kingdom, and he could always find some excuse for attacking any tribe living on land next his own. He cared nothing for his word, and to get what he wanted, he was ready to lie or steal or murder.
Clovis died in 511, but before that time all the lands between the lower Rhine and the Pyrenees had been obliged to acknowledge his rule. He made Paris his capital, and went there to live. This was the beginning of France. The descendants of Clovis held the throne for nearly two centuries and a half. They were called Merovingians from Merovæus, the grandfather of Clovis.
Somewhat back from the village street
Stands the old-fashioned country seat.
Across its antique portico
Tall poplar trees their shadows throw;
And from its station in the hall
An ancient timepiece says to all,—
Halfway up the stairs it stands,
And points and beckons with its hands
From its case of massive oak,
Like a monk, who, under his cloak,
Crosses himself, and sighs, alas!
With sorrowful voice to all who pass,—
By day its voice is low and light;
But in the silent dead of night,
Distinct as a passing footstep's fall,
It echoes along the vacant hall,
Along the ceiling, along the floor,
And seems to say at each chamber door,—
Through days of sorrow and of mirth,
Through days of death and days of birth,
Through every swift vicissitude
Of changeful time, unchanged it has stood,
And as if, like God, it all things saw,
It calmly repeats these words of awe,—
In that mansion used to be
His great fires up the chimney roared,
The stranger feasted at his board;
But, like the skeleton at the feast,
That warning timepiece never ceased,—
There groups of merry children played;
There youths and maidens, dreaming, strayed;
O precious hours! O golden prime,
And affluence of love and time!
Even as a miser counts his gold,
These hours the ancient timepiece told,—
From that chamber, clothed in white,
The bride came forth on her wedding night;
There in that silent room below,
The dead lay in its shroud of snow;
And in the hush that followed the prayer
Was heard the old clock on the stair,—
All are scatter'd now and fled:
Some are married, some are dead;
And when I ask, with throbs of pain,
"Ah! when shall they all meet again?"
As in the days long since gone by,
That ancient timepiece makes reply,—
Never here, forever there,
Where all parting, pain, and care,
And death, and time shall disappear,—
Forever there, but never here!
The horologe of Eternity
Sayeth this incessantly,
WEEK 6 |
W HEN Edward IV. died, his eldest son was only thirteen, but the people willingly chose him to be King.
The young Prince of Wales, now
On the way he was met by another uncle, Richard of Gloucester, who was a wicked, hard-hearted man. He sent Lord Rivers and his friends to prison, and himself took charge of the young King.
Edward was very fond of Lord Rivers, and was afraid of his ugly uncle Richard. He cried when Lord Rivers and his friends were taken away from him. That did no good, but the poor little King was only a boy, and he did not know what else to do.
When the Queen heard of what happened, she was so frightened
that she ran away from the palace in which she had been
living, taking her daughters and her other little son, who
was called Richard, with her. She ran to Westminster Abbey
and there took sanctuary, as Hubert de Burgh did, you
remember, many years before, in the days of
The Duke of Gloucester had the young King in his power, but he was not satisfied with that. He wanted to have Prince Richard too. Queen Elizabeth, however, would not give up her little boy, who was only ten years old. And the Duke of Gloucester, bad though he was, was afraid to take him by force, because he was still trying to pretend to be a good, kind uncle to the little boys.
At last the duke sent a bishop to the Queen to try to persuade her to give up her little son. This bishop said everything he could think of to make her do so, but all in vain.
"My little boy has been ill," said the Queen; "he is not well enough yet to leave his mother."
"Ah, lady," said the bishop, "it is not kind to his brother, the King, to keep him here. They should be together so that they could play with each other."
"Oh, surely some other little boy could play with the King," said the Queen. "Little boys, even if they are kings, do not ask that their playmates should be princes. I cannot, I will not, let my little boy go."
"Let him but come to me, and I will guard his life as my own," said the bishop.
At these words the Queen stood for a long time thinking silently. It seemed to her as if she must give up her boy sooner or later. It would be better to give him to this kind bishop, who would perhaps keep him safe, than to his wicked uncle.
So, taking the Prince by the hand, she led him to the bishop. "I know you are faithful and true," she said. "You are strong and powerful too, and oh, for the trust his father put in you, I now charge you, guard my boy."
Then kneeling beside her little son, and putting her arms round him, she held him close to her heart. "Farewell, my own sweet son," she said. "God give you good keeping. Let me kiss you yet once before you go, for God knows when we shall kiss together again." Then she kissed him and blessed him, and kissed him again and again, and at last, crying bitterly, put him into the arms of the bishop and turned her face from him. But, weeping as bitterly, little Richard clung to her and would not go, until the bishop, taking him strongly in his arms, carried him away.
The bishop led the Prince straight to his uncle, who was very glad to see him. His ugly face shone with joy as he took his nephew in his arms and kissed him. "Now, welcome, my lord," he said, "with all my heart you are right welcome."
King Edward, too, was very glad to see his brother, for they had been parted for a long time. The duke led them through the streets with great pomp, and put them into the Tower.
Now that the Duke of Gloucester had both the princes in his power he began to show his wickedness. He sent to the prison in which Lord Rivers and his friends were imprisoned and ordered their heads to be cut off, because he knew that they were the Queen's friends.
Then he called a council to arrange, he said, about the coronation. Only a very few lords were asked to this council. When they were all gathered together he came into the room seemingly very much disturbed.
"What should be done to people who try to murder me?" he asked.
At first every one was so astonished that no one spoke. Then Lord Hastings, who was a brave man, and true to the King, and the Queen, his mother, said, "If any one has tried he deserves to be punished, whoever he is."
"The Queen has tried with her sorcery," cried the duke, "and others have helped her." And pulling up his sleeve, he showed his arm which was all puckered and withered.
In those days it was believed that people had power to hurt their enemies by saying wicked words and rhymes, and wishing evil to them. It was thought that people could even kill others who were quite far away, and who they could not even see nor touch. This was called sorcery. Of course, it was a very foolish belief, and every one knew that the Duke of Gloucester's arm had always been withered up, but when he said that the Queen had done it by sorcery, no one dared to contradict him.
There was silence in the hall till Lord Hastings said, "If
the Queen has done
"You answer me with ifs and ands," cried the duke, "you are a traitor. A traitor, I say," and with that he struck with his hand upon the table.
Immediately soldiers rushed into the room.
"Seize him," he said, pointing to Lord Hastings, "cut off his head."
"My lord," said Hastings, "I am no traitor."
"You are a traitor!" yelled the duke, "and, by Heaven, I will not dine till I see your head cut from your body. Obey your orders," he added, turning to the soldiers.
Lord Hastings was hurried away, and, without being allowed to defend himself, without a trial of any kind, he was made to lay his neck upon a rough plank of wood which happened to be at hand, and his head was at once cut off. So another of the King's friends was dead.
The Duke of Gloucester next made a clergyman, called Shaw,
preach to the people and tell them that the little princes were
not really the sons of King
"Our true King," said this wicked clergyman, "is Richard, Duke of Gloucester." Then he waited, expecting every one to cry out, "King Richard! King Richard!" But there was not a sound. The people stood as if they had been turned into stone. Pale and trembling they went away to their homes, wondering what would happen next. The clergyman, too, went home. He was so ashamed to have preached such a wicked sermon that he never again showed himself to the people, and died soon after.
The Duke of Gloucester was very angry and disappointed when he heard of the bad success of his wicked plans, but he did not give them up. He again gathered a lot of people together, and this time his friend, the Duke of Buckingham, talked to them. The Duke of Buckingham said much the same things as the clergyman had said. When the people heard these wicked lies for the second time, they began to whisper among themselves, till it seemed as if a swarm of buzzing bees filled the hall. But not a single person shouted, "King Richard!"
Then some of the duke's servants and friends came into the hall, and they shouted, "King Richard! King Richard! Long live King Richard!" but the cries sounded very feeble, for they came from only a few.
The Duke of Buckingham, however, pretended that all the people had shouted for King Richard. He thanked them, and he and his friends went to the Duke of Gloucester and told him that the people had chosen him as their King, and were cheering and shouting for King Richard.
Richard then pretended to be very unwilling to take the crown, and only consented to do so after a great deal of persuasion. This was all a part of his wickedness and cunning.
Richard was crowned with much splendour and grandeur. And poor little King Edward, who had never been crowned at all, and who had only been called King for a few weeks, was kept shut up in the Tower of London.
I WAS crunching along through the January dusk toward home. The cold was bitter. A half-starved partridge had just risen from the road and fluttered off among the naked bushes—a bit of life vanishing into the winter night of the woods. I knew the very hemlock in which he would roost; but what were the thick, snow-bent boughs of his hemlock, and what were all his winter feathers in such a night as this?—this night of cutting winds and frozen snow!
The road dipped from the woods down into a wide, open meadow, where the winds were free. The cold was driving, numbing here, with a power for death that the thermometer could not mark. I backed against the gale and sidewise hastened forward toward the double line of elms that arched the road in front of the house. Already I could hear them creak and rattle like things of glass. It was not the sound of life. Nothing was alive; for what could live in this long darkness and fearful cold?
The question was hardly thought, when an answer was whirled past me into the nearest of the naked elms. A chickadee! He caught for an instant on a dead stub of a limb that stuck out over the road, scrambled along to its broken tip, and whisked into a hole that ran straight down the centre of the old stub, down, for I don't know how far.
I stopped. The limb lay out upon the wind, with only an eddy of the gale sucking at the little round hole in the broken end, while somewhere far down in its hollow heart, huddling himself into a downy, dozy ball for the night, had crept the chickadee. I knew by the very way he struck the limb and by the way he turned in at the hole that he had been there before. He knew whither, across the sweeping meadows, he was being blown. He had even helped the winds as they whirled him, for, having tarried along the roads until late, he was in a great hurry to get home. But he was safe for the night now, in the very bed, it may be, where he was hatched last summer, and where at this moment, who knows, were crowded half a dozen other chickadees, the rest of that last summer's brood, unharmed still, and still sharing the old home hollow, where they were as snug and warm this fierce, wild night as ever they were in the soft May days when they nestled here together.
The cold drove me on; but the sight of the chickadee had warmed me, and all my shivering world of night and death. And so he ever does. For the winter has yet to be that drives him seeking shelter to the sunny south. I never knew it colder than in January and February of 1904. During both of those months I drove morning and evening through a long mile of empty, snow-buried woods. For days at a time I would not see even a crow, but morning and evening at a certain dip in the road two chickadees would fly from bush to bush across the hollow and cheer me on my way.
They came out to the road, really to pick up whatever scanty crumbs of food were to be found in my wake. They came also to hear me, and to see me go past—to escape for a moment, I think, from the silence, the desertion, and the death of the woods. They helped me to escape, too.
Four other chickadees, all winter long, ate with us at the house, sharing, so far as the double windows would allow, the cheer of our dining-room. We served them their meals on the lilac bush outside the window, tying their suet on so that they could see us and we could see them during meal-time. Perhaps it was mere suet, and nothing else at all, that they got; but constantly, when our "pie was opened, the birds began to sing"—a dainty dish indeed, a dish of live, happy chickadees that fed our souls.
There are states in the far Northwest where the porcupine is protected by law, as a last food resource for men who are lost and starving in the forests. Porcupine is so slow that a dying man can catch him and make a meal on him. Perhaps the porcupine was not designed by nature for any such purpose, and would not approve of it at all. Perhaps Chickadee was not left behind by Summer to feed my lost and starving hope through the cheerless months of winter. But that is the use I make of him. He is Summer's pledge to me. He tells me that this winter world is a living world and not a dreary world of death. The woods are hollow, the winds are chill, the earth is cold and stiff, but there flits Chickadee, and—I cannot lose faith, nor feel that this procession of bleak white days is all a funeral! If Chickadee can live, then so can I.
He is the only bird in my out-of-doors that I can find without fail three hundred and sixty-five days in the year. From December to the end of March he comes daily to my lilac bush for suet; from April to early July he is busy with domestic cares in the gray birches down the hillside; from August to December he and his family come hunting quietly and sociably as a little flock among the trees and bushes of the farm; and from then on he is back again for his winter meals at "The Lilac."
Is it any wonder that he was the first bird I ever felt personally acquainted with? That early acquaintance, however, was not brought about by his great abundance, nor by his very bad, bold manners, as might be with the English sparrow. I got acquainted with him first, because he wanted to get acquainted with me, he is such a cheerful, confiding, sociable little bird! He drops down and peeps under your hat-brim to see what manner of boy you are, and if you are really fit to be abroad in this beautiful world, so altogether good both summer and winter—for chickadees.
He is not quite so sociable in summer as in winter, but if you were no bigger than a chickadee (two and one half inches without your tail!) and had eight babies nearly as big as yourself to hunt grubs for, besides a wife to pet and feed, do you think you could be very sociable? In the winter, however, he is always at liberty to stop and talk to you, a sweet little way he has that makes him the easiest bird in the world to get acquainted with.
Last winter while I was tying up a piece of suet that had fallen into the snow, a hungry and impatient chickadee lighted on the brim of my felt hat. The brim bent under him, and he came fluttering down against my nose, which I thought for an instant he was going to take for suet! He didn't snip it off, however, as a certain blackbird did a certain maiden's nose, but lighted instead on my shoulder. Then, seeing the lump of suet in my hand, he flew up and perched upon my fingers and held on, picking at the suet all the time I was tying it fast in the bush.
He is a friendly little soul, who loves your neighborhood, as, indeed, most birds do; who has no fear of you, because he cannot think that you could fear him and so would want to hurt him.
Nature made him an insect-eater; but he has a mission to perform besides eating pestiferous insects, and their eggs and grubs. This destruction of insects he does that the balance of things may be maintained out of doors, lest the insects destroy us. He has quite another work to do, which is not a matter of grubs, and which in no wise is a matter of fine feathers or sweet voice, but simply a matter of sweet nature, vigor, and concentrated cheerfulness.
Chickadee is a sermon. I hear him on a joyous May
Will you lend me your wings, Chickadee, your invisible wings on which you ride the winds of life so evenly?
The abundant summer, the lean and wolfish winter, find Chickadee cheerful and gentle. He is busier at some seasons than at others, with fewer chances for friendship. He almost disappears in the early summer. But this is because of family cares; and because the bigger, louder birds have come back, and the big leaves have come out and hidden him. A little searching, and you will discover him, in one of your old decayed fence-posts, maybe, or else deep in the swamp, foraging for a family of from six to eight, that fairly bulge and boil over from the door of their home.
Here about Mullein Hill, this is sure to be a gray-birch home. Other trees will do—on a pinch. I have found Chickadee nesting in live white oaks, maples, upturned roots, and tumbling fence-posts. These were shifts, only, mere houses, not real homes. The only good homelike trees are old gray birches, dead these many years and gone to punk—mere shells of tough circular bark walls. Halfway down the hill is a small grove of these birches that we call the Seminary (because, as a poet friend says, "they look like seminary girls in white frocks"). Here the chickadees love to build.
Why has Chickadee this very decided preference? Is it a case of protective coloration — the little gray and black bird choosing to nest in this little gray and black tree because bird and tree so exactly match one another in size and color? Or is there a strain of poetry in Chickadee's soul, something fine, that leads him into this exquisite harmony—into this little gray house for his little gray self?
Explain it as you may, it is a fact that the little bird shows this marked preference, makes this deliberate choice; and in the choice is protection and poetry, too. Doubtless he follows the guidance of a sure and watchful instinct. But who shall deny to him a share of the higher, finer things of the imagination?
His life is like his home—gentle and sweet and idyllic. There is no happier spot in the summer woods than that about the birch of the chickadees; and none whose happiness you will be so little liable to disturb.
Before the woods were in leaf last spring I found a pair of chickadees building in a birch along the edge of the swamp. They had just begun, having dug out only an inch of the cavity. It was very interesting to discover them doing the excavating themselves, for usually they refit some abandoned chamber or adapt to their needs some ready-made hole.
The birch was a long, limbless cylinder of bark, broken off about fourteen feet up, and utterly rotten, the mere skin of a tree stuffed with dust. I could push my finger into it at any point. It was so weak that every time the birds lighted upon the top the whole stub wobbled and reeled. Surely they were building their house upon the sand! Any creature without wings would have known that. The birds, however, because they have wings, seem to have lost the sense of such insecurity, often placing their nests as if they expected the nests themselves to take wings and fly to safety when the rains descend and the winds come.
This shaking stub of the chickadees was standing directly beneath a great overshadowing pine, where, if no partridge bumped into it, if two squirrels did not scamper up it together, if the crows nesting overhead in the pine did not discover it, if no strong wind bore down upon it from the meadow side, it might totter out the nesting-season. But it didn't. The birds were leaving too much to luck. I knew it, and perhaps I should have pushed their card house down, then and there, and saved the greater ruin later. Perhaps so, but who was I to interfere in their labor?
Both birds were at the work when I discovered them, and so busily at it that my coming up did not delay them for a single billful. It was not hard digging, but it was very slow, for Chickadee is neither carpenter nor mason. He has difficulty killing a hard-backed beetle. So, whenever you find him occupying a clean-walled cavity, with a neat, freshly chipped doorway, you may be sure that some woodpecker built the house, and not this short-billed, soft-tailed little tit. Chickadee lacks both the bill chisel and the tail brace. Perhaps the explanation of his fondness for birch trees lies here—because the birch trees die young and soon decay!
The birds were going down through the broken-off top, and not by a hole through the leathery rind of the sides, for the bark was too tough for their beaks. They would drop into the top of the stub, pick up a wad of decayed wood and fly off to a dead limb of the pine. Here, with a jerk and a snap of their bills, they would scatter the punk in a shower so thin and far that I could neither hear it fall nor find a trace of it upon the dead leaves of the ground. This nest would never be betrayed by the workmen's chips, as are the woodpeckers' nest-holes.
Between the pair there averaged three beakfuls of excavating every two minutes, one of the birds regularly shoveling twice to the other's once. They looked so exactly alike that I could not tell which bird was pushing the enterprise; but I had my suspicions. It was Mrs. Chickadee!
Mr. Chickadee was doing only part of his duty, and only half-heartedly at that! Hers was the real interest, the real anxiety. To be a Mr. Chickadee and show off! That's the thing!
I sat a long time watching the work. It went on in perfect silence, not a chirp, not the sound of a fluttering wing. The swamp along whose margin the birds were building had not a joyous atmosphere. Damp, dim-shadowed, and secret, it seemed to have laid its spell upon the birds. Their very color of gray and black was as if mixed out of the dusky colors of the swamp; their noiseless coming and going was like the slipping to and fro of small shadows. They were a part of the swamp—of its life, of its color, of its silence. They were children of the swamp, sharing its very spirit, and that sharing was their defense, the best protection that they could have had.
It didn't save their nest, however. They felt and obeyed the spirit of the Swamp in their own conduct, but the Swamp did not tell them where to build. Birds and animals have wonderful instinct, or family wisdom, but not much personal, individual wisdom.
It was about three weeks later when I stopped again under the pine and found the birch stub in pieces upon the ground. Some strong wind had come, or some robber had been after the eggs, and had brought the whole house tumbling down.
But this is not the fate of all such birch-bark houses. Now and again they escape; yet when they do it is always a matter for wonder.
I was following an old disused wood-road once when I frightened a robin from her nest. Her mate joined her, and together they raised a great hubbub. Immediately a chewink, a pair of vireos, and two black and white warblers joined the robins in their din. Then a chickadee appeared. He had a worm in his beak. His anxiety seemed so real that I began to watch him, when, looking down among the stones for a place to step, what should I see but his mate emerging from the end of a tiny birch stump at my very feet! She had heard the racket and had come out to see what it was all about. At sight of her, Mr. Chickadee hastened with his worm, brushing my face, almost, as he darted to her side. She took the worm sweetly, for she knew he had intended it for her. But how do I know it was intended for her, and not for the young? There were no young in the nest; only eggs. Even after the young came (there were eight of them!), when life, from daylight to dark, was one ceaseless, hurried hunt for worms, I saw him over and over again fly to Mrs. Chickadee's side caressingly and tempt her to eat.
The house of this pair did not fall. How could it when it stood precisely two and a half feet from the ground? But that it wasn't looted is due to the amazing boldness of its situation. It stood alone, close to the road, so close that the hub of a low wheel in passing might have knocked it down. Perhaps a hundred persons had brushed it in going by. How many dogs and cats had overlooked it no one can say; nor how many skunks and snakes and squirrels. The accident that discovered it to me had happened apparently to no one else, so here it stood still safe, but only by the grace of Luck!
Cutting a tiny window in the bark just above the eggs, I looked in upon the little children every day. I watched them hatch, grow, and fill the cavity and hang over at the top. I was there the day they forced my window open; I was there the day when there was no more room at the top, and when, at the call of their parents, one child after another of this large, sweet bird family found his wings and flew away through the friendly woods.
Will there really be a morning?
Is there such a thing as day?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?
Has it feet like water lilies?
Has it feathers like a bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I have never heard?
Oh, some scholar! Oh, some sailor!
Oh, some wise man from the skies!
Please to tell a little pilgrim
Where the place called morning lies!
WEEK 6 |
HERE are ant-hills everywhere, large or small," observed
Jules. "Even in the garden I could have counted a dozen.
From some the ants are so numerous they blacken the road
when they come out. It must take a great many
"Numerous though they be," his uncle assured him, "they will
never lack cows, as
"There was once a king of India who was much bored. To
entertain him, a dervish invented the game of chess. You do
not know this game. Well, on a board something like a
checkerboard two adversaries range, in battle array, one
white, the other
black, pieces of different values: pawns,
knights, bishops, castles, queen and king. The action
begins. The pawns, simple
Chess-board with Pieces
"This clever game, image of war, pleased the bored king very much, and he asked the dervish what reward he desired for his invention.
" 'Light of the faithful,' answered the inventor, 'a poor
dervish is easily satisfied. You shall give me one grain of
wheat for the first square of the chessboard, two for the
second, four for the third, eight for the fourth, and you
will double thus the number of grains, to the last square,
which is the
" 'This man is a fool,' said the king to himself; 'he might have had great riches and he asks me for a few handfuls of wheat.' Then, turning to his minister:—'Count out ten purses of a thousand sequins for this man, and have a sack of wheat given him. He will have a hundred times the amount of grain he asks of me.'
" 'Commander of the faithful,' answered the dervish, 'keep the purses of sequins, useless to my blue pigeons, and give me the wheat as I wish.'
" 'Very well. Instead of one sack, you shall have a hundred.'
" 'It is not enough, Sun of Justice.'
" 'You shall have a thousand.'
" 'Not enough, Terror of the unfaithful. The squares of my chessboard would not have their proper amount.'
"In the meantime the courtiers whispered among themselves,
astonished at the singular pretensions of the dervish, who,
in the contents of a thousand sacks, would not find his
grain of wheat doubled
"And behold, under the pen of the calculators, the figure grew larger and larger. The work finished, the head one rose.
" 'Sublime Commander,' said he, 'arithmetic has decided. To satisfy the dervish's demand, there is not enough wheat in your granaries. There is not enough in the town, in the kingdom, or in the whole world. For the quantity of grain demanded, the whole earth, sea and continents together, would be covered with a continuous bed to the depth of a finger.'
"The king angrily bit his mustache and, unable to count out to him his grains of wheat, named the inventor of chess prime vizier. That is what the wily dervish wanted."
"Like the king, I should have fallen into the dervish's
snare," said Jules. "I should have thought that doubling a
"Henceforth," returned Uncle Paul, "you will know that a
number, even very small, when multiplied a number of times
by the same figure, is like a
"Your dervish was very crafty," remarked Emile. "He modestly contented himself with one grain of wheat for his blue pigeons, on condition that they doubled the number on each square. Apparently, he asked next to nothing; in reality, he asked more than the king possessed. What is a dervish, Uncle?"
"In the religions of the East they call by that name those who renounce the world to give themselves up to prayer and contemplation."
"You say the king made him prime vizier. Is that a high office?"
"Prime vizier means prime minister. The dervish then became the greatest dignitary of the State, after the king."
"I am no longer surprised that he refused the ten purses of a thousand sequins. He was waiting for something better. The ten purses, however, would make a good sum?"
"A sequin is a gold piece worth about twelve francs. At that rate, the king offered the dervish a sum of one hundred and twenty thousand francs, besides the sacks of wheat."
"And the dervish preferred the grain
"In comparison what was offered him was nothing."
"And the plant-lice?" asked Jules.
"The story of the dervish is bringing us to that directly," his uncle assured him.
FOR the first half of the sixteenth century Spain practically ruled the seas. Her ships came and went across the Atlantic, and her trade was the greatest of any European nation's.
About the middle of this same century Elizabeth became queen of England; and during her reign, England, too, grew to be a great maritime power. Spain soon came to look upon England as a rival, and these two nations kept close watch of each other's every move.
In 1562 three English vessels sailed down the western
coast of Africa. They were headed for Guinea, to carry
out what seemed to be a fine scheme on the part of
Hawkins's plan was to go to Guinea, load his ship with
negroes, carry them to the
At that time it was not considered wrong to deal in
slaves, and John Hawkins's successful trip brought him
great honor in England. But
Nothing daunted, however, John Hawkins soon repeated his voyage; and this time his profits were even greater than on the first trip. If the authorities of any port refused to trade with him, he merely landed one hundred men in armor and frightened the Spaniards into doing as he wished. His fame was greater than ever in England, and on his return Queen Elizabeth knighted him.
Now Sir John Hawkins had a young cousin in England
It was very natural, however, that, hearing of John
Hawkins's wonderful success, young Drake should not be
content with a mere channel coaster. So he sold his
vessel; and when his famous cousin started on a third
First of all they went to Africa where they loaded
their ships with negroes, and then the expedition
sailed as before for the
Finally the time to think of starting for home arrived.
But at least two of the ships had stood the voyage so
badly that they had to be repaired before they could be
trusted on the open sea. For this purpose the little
fleet boldly entered the Spanish port of San Juan
Here, riding peacefully at anchor, they were surprised by the approach of a Spanish fleet. The English ships certainly had the advantage, as they lay snugly in the port, and the Spanish vessels could not enter without the risk of being sunk by the English guns.
The commanders of the two fleets held a conference, and Hawkins agreed to let the Spanish ships enter the port on condition that the English should be allowed to repair their vessels before putting out to sea. All this was readily agreed to, and the Spaniards sailed into the port.
You would think that by this time Hawkins would have known the crafty Spanish nature too well to take such a risk. Before many days had passed, the Spaniards had turned on the English, and a fierce fight had taken place. When it was over only two ships of Hawkins's fleet were left. And these two—one under the command of Hawkins, and the other in charge of young Francis Drake—had a weary time getting back to England.
FRANCIS DRAKE'S experience at San Juan
But far from being disheartened, Drake was soon ready to sail again for the Spanish ports in America. He had two objects in mind when he started from England: on his own account, he meant to seize treasures enough from the Spaniards to repay himself for his losses at their hands; and he hoped to aid his Queen at home by crippling her rival's American colonies.
Judging by the results, Drake must have felt well satisfied. He made three such voyages on which he raided Spanish ships, took Spanish prisoners, and made himself a veritable terror to the Spanish settlements in the West Indies and along the Gulf of Mexico.
On his third voyage, Drake and his men landed on the Isthmus of Panama. Afoot they started inland to waylay a cargo of treasures which they knew was being brought across the Isthmus. In some way the Spaniards were warned and eluded Drake. Yet great results were to come from his effort to meet them.
Working their way through the dark, dense forests where no sunlight ever came, Drake and his men finally reached a mountain peak. And climbing a great tree Drake looked out over the forests and saw, stretching north, south, and west, the shining blue waves of the Pacific Ocean. He seems to have been as deeply stirred by the sight as Balboa was sixty years before.
From his seat high up in the tree, Drake thanked God that he had been permitted to be the first Englishman to see this mighty ocean, and prayed that he might "sail once in an English ship on that sea."
This was on February 11, 1573. On the 9th of August, Drake and his men reached the shores of Plymouth, England.
Then for a while Drake stayed at home. But he could not forget his wish to take an English ship into the Pacific Ocean. Moreover, he wanted some of the wealth of Peru and Mexico; and he did not believe it wrong to take from the Spaniards what they had seized from the natives.
Years before, in fact during the very time Cortez was busy conquering Mexico, an adventurous navigator, a Portugese sailing under the Spanish flag, had made a wonderful voyage. This bold sailor was Ferdinand Magellan. Down the eastern coast of South America he had slowly made his way until he had reached the straits which now bear his name. Then, passing through the straits, he had entered the Pacific, had crossed that great ocean, and had discovered the Philippine Islands. Here Magellan was killed by the natives; but his sailors, going on, had reached Spain in 1522, having sailed entirely around the globe.
Francis Drake now planned to reach Peru by following
Magellan's course and sailing around South America. In
November, 1577, he embarked from Plymouth with five
ships and one hundred and
To attack the Spanish ports of Peru with one ship
certainly seemed foolhardy. But Drake perhaps realized
that these ports had no real defense. You see the
Spaniards themselves carried their cargoes across the
Isthmus of Panama, because a southern route was
considered very dangerous and very long. And without
doubt it never entered a Spanish mind that any foe
would come that way, or that defense was needed. So,
sailing bravely up the
coast of Chili,
It seemed almost as if the Spanish gold, silver, and
jewels must have been just waiting to be seized. Into
port after port the
At last, with plunder valued at millions of dollars, Drake was satisfied. Now he turned his attention to searching for some new passage by water from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Carefully examining the shores, he sailed north along the coast of California as far as the bay of San Francisco.
Here he gave up his search and resolved to go home by
way of the Pacific. According to custom, however,
before starting he took possession for Queen Elizabeth
of the land he had been exploring, and called it
After crossing the Pacific Ocean Drake rounded the Cape of Good Hope and sailed once more into the Plymouth port, in September, 1580.
Queen Elizabeth hesitated at first about recognizing
this bold subject who had plundered so many Spanish
settlements. She was afraid of angering still further
the Spanish king. But she decided in Drake's favor, and
consented to pay him a visit on the
Elizabeth also gave orders that the
Drake had already risked and accomplished more than most men do in a lifetime, but his services were still to be demanded in other ways. At one time he was appointed Mayor of Plymouth, and later he served on a royal commission to inquire into the state of the Navy. Associated with him on this commission was Sir Walter Raleigh, of whom you shall hear more. And to the friendship of this knight Drake came to owe much.
In 1585 war was declared between England and Spain. Once more Drake crossed the Atlantic and wrought dreadful havoc among the Spanish colonies in America; and, when he got back to England, a still more dangerous undertaking was asked of him.
Philip II of Spain was collecting a great battle fleet, or armada, for the invasion of England. Queen Elizabeth sent Drake with thirty ships to destroy the enemy's storehouses and powder magazines. He entered the harbor of Cadiz early one morning and before many hours had burned upward of ten thousand tons of shipping, a feat which he afterwards called "singeing the beard of the King of Spain." It took Philip a whole year to repair the damages that Drake had done, and this gave England time to prepare for war.
When the Spanish Armada came in 1588 to invade England, Drake was appointed vice admiral under Lord Howard and served under him in the fighting that resulted in the destruction of the Armada.
Several years later, Sir Francis Drake and Sir John
Hawkins were again trying to crush the power of Spain
in America. But the old success was not with them. They
were repulsed by the Spaniards, sickness broke out, and
Sir John Hawkins died off the coast of
This death, the sickness of his men, and the apparent failure of his voyage were all keenly felt by Drake. For some time he struggled to succeed in spite of the great odds against him. But at last he, too, fell ill and in a few days died. His men buried him at sea, and thus ended the life of one of England's bravest and boldest navigators.
The Brain—is wider than the Sky—
For—put them side by side—
The one the other will contain
With ease—and You—beside—
The Brain is deeper than the sea—
For—hold them—Blue to Blue—
The one the other will absorb—
The Brain is just the weight of God—
For—Heft them—Pound for Pound—
And they will differ—if they do—
As Syllable from Sound—
WEEK 6 |
HE gates of the Monastery stood wide open, the world lay beyond, and all was ready for departure. Baron Conrad and his men-at-arms sat foot in stirrup, the milk-white horse that had been brought for Otto stood waiting for him beside his father's great charger.
"Farewell, Otto," said the good old Abbot, as he stooped and kissed the boy's cheek.
"Farewell," answered Otto, in his simple, quiet way, and it brought a pang to the old man's heart that the child should seem to grieve so little at the leave-taking.
"Farewell, Otto," said the brethren that stood about, "farewell, farewell."
Then poor brother John came forward and took the boy's hand, and looked up into his face as he sat upon his horse. "We will meet again," said he, with his strange, vacant smile, "but maybe it will be in Paradise, and there perhaps they will let us lie in the father's belfry, and look down upon the angels in the court- yard below."
"Aye," answered Otto, with an answering smile.
"Forward," cried the Baron, in a deep voice, and with a clash of hoofs and jingle of armor they were gone, and the great wooden gates were shut to behind them.
Down the steep winding pathway they rode, and out into the great wide world beyond, upon which Otto and brother John had gazed so often from the wooden belfry of the White Cross on the hill.
"Hast been taught to ride a horse by the priests up yonder on Michaelsburg?" asked the Baron, when they had reached the level road.
"Nay," said Otto; "we had no horse to ride, but only to bring in the harvest or the grapes from the further vineyards to the vintage."
Poor Brother John came forward and took the boy's hand.
"Prut," said the Baron, "methought the abbot would have had enough of the blood of old days in his veins to have taught thee what is fitting for a knight to know; art not afeared?"
"Nay," said Otto, with a smile, "I am not afeared."
"There at least thou showest thyself a Vuelph," said the grim Baron. But perhaps Otto's thought of fear and Baron Conrad's thought of fear were two very different matters.
The afternoon had passed by the time they had reached the end of their journey. Up the steep, stony path they rode to the drawbridge and the great gaping gateway of Drachenhausen, where wall and tower and battlement looked darker and more forbidding than ever in the gray twilight of the coming night. Little Otto looked up with great, wondering, awe-struck eyes at this grim new home of his.
The next moment they clattered over the drawbridge that spanned the narrow black gulph between the roadway and the wall, and the next were past the echoing arch of the great gateway and in the gray gloaming of the paved court-yard within.
Otto looked around upon the many faces gathered there to catch the first sight of the little baron; hard, rugged faces, seamed and weather-beaten; very different from those of the gentle brethren among whom he had lived, and it seemed strange to him that there was none there whom he should know.
As he climbed the steep, stony steps to the door of the Baron's house, old Ursela came running down to meet him. She flung her withered arms around him and hugged him close to her. "My little child," she cried, and then fell to sobbing as though her heart would break.
"Here is someone knoweth me," thought the little boy.
His new home was all very strange and wonderful to Otto; the armors, the trophies, the flags, the long galleries with their ranges of rooms, the great hall below with its vaulted roof and its great fireplace of grotesquely carved stone, and all the strange people with their lives and thoughts so different from what he had been used to know.
And it was a wonderful thing to explore all the strange places in the dark old castle; places where it seemed to Otto no one could have ever been before.
Once he wandered down a long, dark passageway below the hall, pushed open a narrow, iron-bound oaken door, and found himself all at once in a strange new land; the gray light, coming in through a range of tall, narrow windows, fell upon a row of silent, motionless figures carven in stone, knights and ladies in strange armor and dress; each lying upon his or her stony couch with clasped hands, and gazing with fixed, motionless, stony eyeballs up into the gloomy, vaulted arch above them. There lay, in a cold, silent row, all of the Vuelphs who had died since the ancient castle had been built.
It was the chapel into which Otto had made his way, now long since fallen out of use excepting as a burial place of the race.
At another time he clambered up into the loft under the high peaked roof, where lay numberless forgotten things covered with the dim dust of years. There a flock of pigeons had made their roost, and flapped noisily out into the sunlight when he pushed open the door from below. Here he hunted among the mouldering things of the past until, oh, joy of joys! in an ancient oaken chest he found a great lot of worm-eaten books, that had belonged to some old chaplain of the castle in days gone by. They were not precious and beautiful volumes, such as the Father Abbot had showed him, but all the same they had their quaint painted pictures of the blessed saints and angels.
Again, at another time, going into the court-yard, Otto had found the door of Melchior's tower standing invitingly open, for old Hilda, Schwartz Carl's wife, had come down below upon some business or other.
Then upon the shaky wooden steps Otto ran without waiting for a second thought, for he had often gazed at those curious buildings hanging so far up in the air, and had wondered what they were like. Round and round and up and up Otto climbed, until his head spun. At last he reached a landing-stage, and gazing over the edge and down, beheld the stone pavement far, far below, lit by a faint glimmer of light that entered through the arched doorway. Otto clutched tight hold of the wooden rail, he had no thought that he had climbed so far.
Upon the other side of the landing was a window that pierced the thick stone walls of the tower; out of the window he looked, and then drew suddenly back again with a gasp, for it was through the outer wall he peered, and down, down below in the dizzy depths he saw the hard gray rocks, where the black swine, looking no larger than ants in the distance, fed upon the refuse thrown out over the walls of the castle. There lay the moving tree-tops like a billowy green sea, and the coarse thatched roofs of the peasant cottages, round which crawled the little children like tiny human specks.
Then Otto turned and crept down the stairs, frightened at the height to which he had climbed.
At the doorway he met Mother Hilda. "Bless us," she cried, starting back and crossing herself, and then, seeing who it was, ducked him a courtesy with as pleasant a smile as her forbidding face, with its little deep-set eyes, was able to put upon itself.
Old Ursela seemed nearer to the boy than anyone else about the castle, excepting it was his father, and it was a newfound delight to Otto to sit beside her and listen to her quaint stories, so different from the monkish tales that he had heard and read at the monastery.
But one day it was a tale of a different sort that she told him, and one that opened his eyes to what he had never dreamed of before.
Otto lay close to her feet upon a bear skin.
The mellow sunlight fell through the window upon old Ursela, as she sat in the warmth with her distaff in her hands, while Otto lay close to her feet upon a bear skin, silently thinking over the strange story of a brave knight and a fiery dragon that she had just told him. Suddenly Ursela broke the silence.
"Little one," said she, "thou art wondrously like thy own dear mother; didst ever hear how she died?"
"Nay," said Otto, "but tell me, Ursela, how it was."
" 'Tis strange," said the old woman, "that no one should have told thee in all this time." And then, in her own fashion she related to him the story of how his father had set forth upon that expedition in spite of all that Otto's mother had said, beseeching him to abide at home; how he had been foully wounded, and how the poor lady had died from her fright and grief.
Otto listened with eyes that grew wider and wider, though not all with wonder; he no longer lay upon the bear skin, but sat up with his hands clasped. For a moment or two after the old woman had ended her story, he sat staring silently at her. Then he cried out, in a sharp voice, "And is this truth that you tell me, Ursela? and did my father seek to rob the towns people of their goods?"
Old Ursela laughed. "Aye," said she, "that he did and many times. Ah! me, those days are all gone now." And she fetched a deep sigh. "Then we lived in plenty and had both silks and linens and velvets besides in the store closets, and were able to buy good wines and live in plenty upon the best. Now we dress in frieze and live upon what we can get and sometimes that is little enough, with nothing better than sour beer to drink. But there is one comfort in it all, and that is that our good Baron paid back the score he owed the Trutz-Drachen people not only for that, but for all that they had done from the very first."
Thereupon she went on to tell Otto how Baron Conrad had fulfilled the pledge of revenge that he had made Abbot Otto, how he had watched day after day until one time he had caught the Trutz-Drachen folk, with Baron Frederick at their head, in a narrow defile back of the Kaiserburg; of the fierce fight that was there fought; of how the Roderburgs at last fled, leaving Baron Frederick behind them wounded; of how he had kneeled before the Baron Conrad, asking for mercy, and of how Baron Conrad had answered, "Aye, thou shalt have such mercy as thou deservest," and had therewith raised his great two-handed sword and laid his kneeling enemy dead at one blow.
Poor little Otto had never dreamed that such cruelty and wickedness could be. He listened to the old woman's story with gaping horror, and when the last came and she told him, with a smack of her lips, how his father had killed his enemy with his own hand, he gave a gasping cry and sprang to his feet. Just then the door at the other end of the chamber was noisily opened, and Baron Conrad himself strode into the room. Otto turned his head, and seeing who it was, gave another cry, loud and quavering, and ran to his father and caught him by the hand.
"Oh, father!" he cried, "oh, father! Is it true that thou hast killed a man with thy own hand?"
"Aye," said the Baron, grimly, "it is true enough, and I think me I have killed many more than one. But what of that, Otto? Thou must get out of those foolish notions that the old monks have taught thee. Here in the world it is different from what it is at St. Michaelsburg; here a man must either slay or be slain."
But poor little Otto, with his face hidden in his father's robe, cried as though his heart would break. "Oh, father!" he said, again and again, "it cannot be—it cannot be that thou who art so kind to me should have killed a man with thine own hands." Then: "I wish that I were back in the monastery again; I am afraid out here in the great wide world; perhaps somebody may kill me, for I am only a weak little boy and could not save my own life if they chose to take it from me."
Baron Conrad looked down upon Otto all this while, drawing his bushy eyebrows together. Once he reached out his hand as though to stroke the boy's hair, but drew it back again.
Turning angrily upon the old woman, "Ursela," said he, "thou must tell the child no more such stories as these; he knowest not at all of such things as yet. Keep thy tongue busy with the old woman's tales that he loves to hear thee tell, and leave it with me to teach him what becometh a true knight and a Vuelph."
That night the father and son sat together beside the roaring fire in the great hall. "Tell me, Otto," said the Baron, "dost thou hate me for having done what Ursela told thee today that I did?"
Otto looked for a while into his father's face. "I know not," said he at last, in his quaint, quiet voice, "but methinks that I do not hate thee for it."
The Baron drew his bushy brows together until his eyes twinkled out of the depths beneath them, then of a sudden he broke into a great loud laugh, smiting his horny palm with a smack upon his thigh.
O NCE upon a time many quails lived together in a forest. The wisest of them all was their leader.
A man lived near the forest and earned his living by catching quails and selling them. Day after day he listened to the note of the leader calling the quails. By and by this man, the fowler, was able to call the quails together. Hearing the note the quails thought it was their leader who called.
When they were crowded together, the fowler threw his net over them and off he went into the town, where he soon sold all the quails that he had caught.
The wise leader saw the plan of the fowler for catching the quails. He called the birds to him and said, "This fowler is carrying away so many of us, we must put a stop to it. I have thought of a plan; it is this: The next time the fowler throws a net over you, each of you must put your head through one of the little holes in the net. Then all of you together must fly away to the nearest thorn-bush. You can leave the net on the thorn-bush and be free yourselves."
The quails said that was a very good plan and they would try it the next time the fowler threw the net over them.
The very next day the fowler came and called them together. Then he threw the net over them. The quails lifted the net and flew away with it to the nearest thorn-bush where they left it. They flew back to their leader to tell him how well his plan had worked.
The fowler was busy until evening getting his net off the thorns and he went home empty-handed. The next day the same thing happened, and the next. His wife was angry because he did not bring home any money, but the fowler said, "The fact is those quails are working together now. The moment my net is over them, off they fly with it, leaving it on a thorn-bush. As soon as the quails begin to quarrel I shall be able to catch them."
The quails lifted the net and flew away with it.
Not long after this, one of the quails in alighting on their feeding ground, trod by accident on another's head. "Who trod on my head?" angrily cried the second. "I did; but I didn't mean to. Don't be angry," said the first quail, but the second quail was angry and said mean things.
Soon all the quails had taken sides in this quarrel. When the fowler came that day he flung his net over them, and this time instead of flying off with it, one side said, "Now, you lift the net," and the other side said, "Lift it yourself."
"You try to make us lift it all," said the quails on one side. "No, we don't!" said the others, "you begin and we will help," but neither side began.
So the quails quarreled, and while they were quarreling the fowler caught them all in his net. He took them to town and sold them for a good price.
The fowler caught them all in his net.
Time, you old gipsy man,
Will you not stay,
Put up your caravan
Just for one day?
All things I'll give you
Will you be my guest,
Bells for your jennet
Of silver the best,
Goldsmiths shall beat you
A great golden ring,
Peacocks shall bow to you,
Little boys sing,
Oh, and sweet girls will
Festoon you with may.
Time, you old gipsy,
Why hasten away?
Last week in Babylon,
Last night in Rome,
Morning, and in the crush
Under Paul's dome;
Under Paul's dial
You tighten your rein—
Only a moment,
And off once again;
Off to some city
Now blind in the womb,
Off to another
Ere that's in the tomb.
Time, you old gipsy man,
Will you not stay,
Put up your caravan
Just for one day?
WEEK 6 |
"Jack of Marlborough,
Who beat the Frenchman thorough and thorough."
—Old English Rhyme.
T HOUGH the seventeenth century ended in peace, yet dark storm-clouds were hovering over Europe. Louis XIV. still reigned in France, William III. in England; but it was towards distant Spain that the eyes of kings and people were now strained.
There on the throne of his forefathers sat a miserable and sickly king, whose death must end the long line of princes who had for two hundred years occupied the Spanish throne. The great question now engaging Europe was: Who should succeed him? Spain had fallen from her high estate, but so vast still was the extent of her empire that under vigorous rule her old power might yet return. In 1700 the poor king died, leaving his kingdom to Philip, the young grandson of Louis XIV. of France, the younger brother of that little Louis loved and taught by Fénelon years before. Nothing could have been more pleasing to the ambition of Louis XIV. Gladly enough he despatched his grandson, a boy of seventeen, to the Court of Madrid, though the boy-king of Spain was in bitter tears at leaving his home in Paris for a long winter journey to his new kingdom.
"Remember there are no longer any Pyrenean mountains," were Louis' parting words to Philip.
Louis had promised faithfully never to unite the thrones of France and Spain, and it was with some uneasiness now that Europe watched him directing young Philip with a high hand.
No one felt more uneasy than William III. of England. His whole life had been a struggle to keep the ever-growing power of France within bounds. He distrusted Louis, and it was with reluctance that he acknowledged Philip as King of Spain. Now Louis went a step farther.
James, the exiled King of England, lay dying in France, when Louis entered his room and promised him to help his son Charles to regain the English throne when William should die. In a moment all England was in a blaze. The English people had never loved their Dutch king, but he had made them free, he had been the champion of the Protestant religion. Should the King of France dictate to them who was to be their king? A thousand times No. Rather would they fight. In the midst of these storms William was thrown one day from his horse and broke his collar-bone. In the wretched state of his health he had no strength to rally.
"There was a time when I should have been glad to have been delivered out of my difficulties," whispered the dying king to his lifelong Dutch friend; "but I see another scene, and could wish to live a little longer."
This was denied him. It was in the year 1702 that William died, leaving his sister-in-law Anne to be Queen of England. Angrily the King of France received the news of her accession, and two months later war was declared by England against France and Spain.
The command of the troops was given by Anne to her old friend the Duke of Marlborough. This was the man who was now to carry on the work of his old master in baffling the ambitions of France—the man who was to decide the fate of Europe.
Already glimpses of him have appeared from time to time. He was one of those who deserted his king to fight under the banner of William of Orange. He had helped Anne to escape before her father, James II., reached London. He had later been caught plotting with the very king whom he had deserted, and thrown into prison by William. Pardoned and restored to favour, he became tutor to Anne's little boy, heir to the throne; for Mary had died of smallpox while still young, leaving no child to succeed her and William.
Marlborough was ambitious and scheming, but he was a marvellous soldier. He did not take up his command till the age of fifty-two, an age when the work of many men is nearly done; but he had unbroken good fortune. Voltaire said that he never besieged a fortress that he did not take, or fight a battle that he did not win.
"Our Duke was as calm at the mouth of a cannon as at the door of a drawing-room," said one who served under him. "He was cold, calm, resolute as fate."
"Yet those of the army who knew him best and had suffered most from him admired him most of all; and as he rode along the lines to battle, or galloped up in the nick of time to a battalion reeling from before the enemy's charge or shot, the fainting men and officers got new courage as they saw the splendid calm of his face, and felt that his will made them irresistible."
Such was the Duke of Marlborough, the "greatest general of his age."
ES, Loki went through Asgard silent and with head bent, and the Dwellers in Asgard said one unto the other, "This will teach Loki to work no more mischief." They did not know that what Loki had done had sown the seeds of mischief and that these seeds were to sprout up and bring sorrow to the beautiful Vana Freya, to Freya whom the Giant wanted to carry off with the Sun and the Moon as payment for his building the wall around Asgard.
Freya had looked upon the wonders that Loki had brought into Asgard―the golden threads that were Sif's hair, and Frey's boar that shed light from its bristles as it flew. The gleam of these golden things dazzled her, and made her dream in the day time and the night time of the wonders that she herself might possess. And often she thought, "What wonderful things the Three Giant Women would give me if I could bring myself to go to them on their mountain-top."
Long ere this, when the wall around their City was not yet built, and when the Gods had set up only the court with their twelve seats and the Hall that was for Odin and the Hall that was for the Goddesses, there had come into Asgard Three Giant Women.
They came after the Gods had set up a forge and had begun to work metal for their buildings. The metal they worked was pure gold. With gold they built Gladsheim, the Hall of Odin, and with gold they made all their dishes and household ware. Then was the Age of Gold, and the Gods did not grudge gold to anyone. Happy were the Gods then, and no shadow nor foreboding lay on Asgard.
But after the Three Giant Women came the Gods began to value gold and to hoard it. They played with it no more. And the happy innocence of their first days departed from them.
At last the Three were banished from Asgard. The Gods turned their thoughts from the hoarding of gold, and they built up their City, and they made themselves strong.
And now Freya, the lovely Vanir bride, thought upon the Giant Women and on the wonderful things of gold they had flashed through their hands. But not to Odur, her husband, did she speak her thoughts; for Odur, more than any of the other dwellers in Asgard, was wont to think on the days of happy innocence, before gold came to be hoarded and valued. Odur would not have Freya go near the mountaintop where the Three had their high seat.
But Freya did not cease to think upon them and upon the things of gold they had. "Why should Odur know I went to them?" she said to herself. "No one will tell him. And what difference will it make if I go to them and gain some lovely thing for myself? I shall not love Odur the less because I go my own way for once."
Then one day she left their palace, leaving Odur, her husband, playing with their little child Hnossa. She left the palace and went down to the Earth. There she stayed for a while, tending the flowers that were her charge. After a while she asked the Elves to tell her where the mountain was on which the Three Giant Women stayed.
The Elves were frightened and would not tell her, although she was queen over them. She left them and stole down into the caves of the Dwarfs. It was they who showed her the way to the seat of the Giant Women, but before they showed her the way, they made her feel shame and misery.
"We will show you the way if you stay with us here," said one of the Dwarfs.
"For how long would you have me stay?" said Freya.
"Until the cocks in Svartheim crow," said the Dwarfs, closing round her. "We want to know what the company of one of the Vanir is like."
"I will stay," Freya said.
Then one of the Dwarfs reached up and put his arms round her neck and kissed her with his ugly mouth. Freya tried to break away from them, but the Dwarfs held her. "You cannot go away from us now until the cocks of Svartheim crow," they said.
Then one and then another of the Dwarfs pressed up to her and kissed her. They made her sit down beside them on the heaps of skins they had. When she wept they screamed at her and beat her. One, when she would not kiss him on the mouth, bit her hands. So Freya stayed with the Dwarfs until the cocks of Svartheim crew.
They showed her the mountain on the top of which the Three banished from Asgard had their abode. The Giant Women sat overlooking the World of Men. "What would you have from us, wife of Odur?" one who was called Gulveig said to her.
"Alas! Now that I have found you I know that I should ask you for naught," Freya said.
"Speak, Vana," said the second of the Giant Women.
The third said nothing, but she held up in her hands a necklace of gold most curiously fashioned. "How bright it is!" Freya said. "There is a shadow where you sit, women, but the necklace you hold makes brightness now. Oh, how I should joy to wear it!"
"It is the necklace Brisingamen," said the one who was called Gulveig.
"It is yours to wear, wife of Odur," said the one who was holding it.
Freya took the shining necklace and clasped it round her throat. She could not bring herself to thank the Giant Women, for she saw that there was evil in their eyes. She made reverence to them, however, and she went from the mountain on which they sat overlooking the World of Men.
In a while she looked down and saw Brisingamen and her misery went from her. It was the most beautiful thing ever made by hands. None of the Asyniur and none of the Vanir possessed a thing so beautiful. It made her more and more lovely, and Odur, she thought, would forgive her when he saw how beautiful and how happy Brisingamen made her.
She rose up from amongst the flowers and took her leave of the slight Elves and she made her way into Asgard. All who greeted her looked long and with wonder upon the necklace she wore. And into the eyes of the Goddesses there came a look of longing when they saw Brisingamen.
But Freya hardly stopped to speak to anyone. As swiftly as she could she made her way to her own palace. She would show herself to Odur and win his forgiveness. She entered her shining palace and called to him. No answer came. Her child, the little Hnossa, was on the floor, playing. Her mother took her in her arms, but the child, when she looked on Brisingamen, turned away crying.
Freya left Hnossa down and searched again for Odur. He was not in any part of their palace. She went into the houses of all who dwelt in Asgard, asking for tidings of him. None knew where he had gone to. At last Freya went back to their palace and waited and waited for Odur to return. But Odur did not come.
One came to her. It was a Goddess, Odin's wife, the queenly Frigga. "You are waiting for Odur, your husband," Frigga said. "Ah, let me tell you Odur will not come to you here. He went, when for the sake of a shining thing you did what would make him unhappy. Odur has gone from Asgard and no one knows where to search for him."
"I will seek him outside of Asgard," Freya said. She wept no more, but she took the little child Hnossa and put her in Frigga's arms. Then she mounted her car that was drawn by two cats, and journeyed down from Asgard to Midgard, the Earth, to search for Odur her husband.
EAR in and year out, and all over the Earth, Freya went searching and calling for the lost Odur. She went as far as the bounds of the Earth, where she could look over to Jötunheim, where dwelt the Giant who would have carried her off with the Sun and the Moon as payment for building the wall around Asgard. But in no place, from the end of the Rainbow Bifröst, that stretched from Asgard to the Earth, to the boundary of Jötunheim, did she find a trace of her husband Odur.
At last she turned her car towards Bifröst, the Rainbow Bridge that stretched from Midgard, the Earth, to Asgard, the Dwelling of the Gods. Heimdall, the Watcher for the Gods, guarded the Rainbow Bridge. To him Freya went with a half hope fluttering in her heart.
"O Heimdall," she cried, "O Heimdall, Watcher for the Gods, speak and tell me if you know where Odur is."
"Odur is in every place where the searcher has not come; Odur is in every place that the searcher has left; those who seek him will never find Odur," said Heimdall, Watcher for the Gods.
Then Freya stood on Bifröst and wept. Frigga, the queenly Goddess, heard the sound of her weeping, and came out of Asgard to comfort her.
"Ah, what comfort can you give me, Frigga?" cried Freya. "What comfort can you give me when Odur will never be found by one who searches for him?"
"Behold how your daughter, the child Hnossa, has grown," said Frigga. Freya looked up and saw a beautiful maiden standing on Bifröst, the Rainbow Bridge. She was young, more youthful than any of the Vanir or the Asyniur, and her face and form were so lovely that all hearts became melted when they looked upon her.
And Freya was comforted in her loss. She followed Frigga across Bifröst, the Rainbow Bridge, and came once again into the City of the Gods. In her own palace in Asgard Freya dwelt with Hnossa, her child.
Still she wore round her neck Brisingamen, the necklace that lost her Odur. But now she wore it, not for its splendor, but as a sign of the wrong she had done. She weeps, and her tears become golden drops as they fall on the earth. And by poets who know her story she is called The Beautiful Lady in Tears.
The Minstrel-boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death you'll find him;
His father's sword he has girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him.—
"Land of song!" said the warrior-bard,
"Though all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!"
The Minstrel fell!—but the foeman's chain
Could not bring his proud soul under;
The harp he loved ne'er spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder;
And said, "No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and bravery!
Thy songs were made for the brave and free,
They shall never sound in slavery!"
WEEK 6 |
N OT always was the Kangaroo as now we do behold him, but a Different Animal with four short legs. He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on an outcrop in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Little God Nqa.
He went to Nqa at six before breakfast, saying, "Make me different from all other animals by five this afternoon."
Up jumped Nqa from his seat on the sandflat and shouted, "Go away!"
He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on a rock-ledge in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Middle God Nquing.
He went to Nquing at eight after breakfast, saying, "Make me different from all other animals; make me, also, wonderfully popular by five this afternoon."
Up jumped Nquing from his burrow in the spinifex and shouted, "Go away!"
He was grey and he was woolly, and his pride was inordinate: he danced on a sandbank in the middle of Australia, and he went to the Big God Nqong.
He went to Nqong at ten before dinner-time, saying, "Make me different from all other animals; make me popular and wonderfully run after by five this afternoon."
Up jumped Nqong from his bath in the salt-pan and shouted, "Yes, I will!"
Nqong called Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, dusty in the sunshine, and showed him Kangaroo. Nqong said, "Dingo! Wake up, Dingo! Do you see that gentleman dancing on an ashpit? He wants to be popular and very truly run after. Dingo, make him SO!"
Up jumped Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—and said, "What, that cat-rabbit?"
Off ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a coal-scuttle,—ran after Kangaroo.
Off went the proud Kangaroo on his four little legs like a bunny.
This, O Beloved of mine, ends the first part of the tale!
He ran through the desert; he ran through the mountains; he ran through the salt-pans; he ran through the reed-beds; he ran through the blue gums; he ran through the spinifex; he ran till his front legs ached.
He had to!
Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—always hungry, grinning like a rat-trap, never getting nearer, never getting farther,—ran after Kangaroo.
He had to!
Still ran Kangaroo—Old Man Kangaroo. He ran through the ti-trees; he ran through the mulga; he ran through the long grass; he ran through the short grass; he ran through the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer; he ran till his hind legs ached.
He had to!
Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—hungrier and hungrier, grinning like a horse-collar, never getting nearer, never getting farther; and they came to the Wollgong River.
Now, there wasn't any bridge, and there wasn't any ferry-boat, and Kangaroo didn't know how to get over; so he stood on his legs and hopped.
He had to!
He hopped through the Flinders; he hopped through the Cinders; he hopped through the deserts in the middle of Australia. He hopped like a Kangaroo.
First he hopped one yard; then he hopped three yards; then he hopped five yards; his legs growing stronger; his legs growing longer. He hadn't any time for rest or refreshment, and he wanted them very much.
Still ran Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo—very much bewildered, very much hungry, and wondering what in the world or out of it made Old Man Kangaroo hop.
For he hopped like a cricket; like a pea in a saucepan; or a new rubber ball on a nursery floor.
He had to!
He tucked up his front legs; he hopped on his hind legs; he stuck out his tail for a balance-weight behind him; and he hopped through the Darling Downs.
He had to!
Still ran Dingo—Tired-Dog Dingo—hungrier and hungrier, very much bewildered, and wondering when in the world or out of it would Old Man Kangaroo stop.
Then came Nqong from his bath in the salt-pans, and said, "It's five o'clock."
Down sat Dingo—Poor Dog Dingo—always hungry, dusky in the sunshine; hung out his tongue and howled.
Down sat Kangaroo—Old Man Kangaroo—stuck out his tail like a milking-stool behind him, and said, "Thank goodness that's finished!"
Then said Nqong, who is always a gentleman, "Why aren't you grateful to Yellow-Dog Dingo? Why don't you thank him for all he has done for you?"
Then said Kangaroo—Tired Old Kangaroo—He's chased me out of the homes of my childhood; he's chased me out of my regular meal-times; he's altered my shape so I'll never get it back; and he's played Old Scratch with my legs."
Then said Nqong, "Perhaps I'm mistaken, but didn't you ask me to make you different from all other animals, as well as to make you very truly sought after? And now it is five o'clock."
"Yes," said Kangaroo. "I wish that I hadn't. I thought you would do it by charms and incantations, but this is a practical joke."
"Joke!" said Nqong from his bath in the blue gums. "Say that again and I'll whistle up Dingo and run your hind legs off."
"No," said the Kangaroo. "I must apologise. Legs are legs, and you needn't alter 'em so far as I am concerned. I only meant to explain to Your Lordliness that I've had nothing to eat since morning, and I'm very empty indeed."
"Yes," said Dingo—Yellow-Dog Dingo,—"I am just in the same situation. I've made him different from all other animals; but what may I have for my tea?"
Then said Nqong from his bath in the salt-pan, "Come and ask me about it tomorrow, because I'm going to wash."
So they were left in the middle of Australia, Old Man Kangaroo and Yellow-Dog Dingo, and each said, "That's your fault."
THIS is the mouth-filling song
Of the race that was run by a Boomer,
Run in a single burst—only event of its
Started by big God Nqong from Warrigaborrigarooma,
Old Man Kangaroo first: Yellow-Dog Dingo behind.
Kangaroo bounded away,
His back-legs working like
Bounded from morning till dark,
Twenty-five feet to a bound.
Yellow-Dog Dingo lay
Like a yellow cloud in the
Much too busy to bark.
My! but they covered the ground!
Nobody knows where they went,
Or followed the track that they flew in,
For that Continent
Hadn't been given a name.
They ran thirty degrees,
From Torres Straits to the Leeuwin
(Look at the Atlas, please),
And they ran back as they came.
S'posing you could trot
From Adelaide to the Pacific,
For an afternoon's run
Half what these gentlemen did
You would feel rather hot,
But your legs would develop
Yes, my importunate son,
You'd be a Marvellous Kid!
W E cannot help destroying some beetles when there are so many that they eat our crops. But it is pleasant to know that there are others which do us so much good that we need not wage war upon them.
The Tiger-beetles (1, Plate, p. 36), for example, are very hungry creatures; but, as they feed on other insects, they destroy the weevil and cockchafer grubs, wireworms and caterpillars, and so save our plants. Their name is given to them because they are so fierce and cunning. They are not very large—our common tiger-beetle is not more than three-quarters of an inch in length—but their long slender legs are very strong, and they can fly very fast.
There are always plenty running about in the hot sun across dry, dusty fields or commons in summer. Their wing-cases are a beautiful shining green colour shot with copper, and dotted with five yellow spots. They run very gracefully, and so fast that you will find it difficult to catch one. Just as you think you have it, it will suddenly open its wing-cases, spread its delicate transparent wings, and be off almost before you can see it go.
But if you can catch it, you will see that it has large eyes standing out on each side of its head and two sharp jagged jaws for tearing its prey, while the lower ones are covered with stiff bristles which help to hold it.
And now you must look for its grub, which is a very curious creature. The best way to find it is to go to some soft part of a sandy field where you have seen the Tiger-beetles running about. Then look at any small holes in the sand, and try to find one which leads to a tunnel in the ground. The grub of the Tiger-beetle sits at the mouth of this tunnel to catch insects as they pass. It will disappear as soon as you come near, but if you put a blade of grass into the hole and shake it, the grub will grasp the blade, and you can pull it out.
Then you can see the tools it uses. It is a long soft white grub with a horny head, and jaws like sickles, and, besides its six brown spiny feet, it has two soft humps on its back with little hooks on them. As soon as this grub is hatched in the ground, it scoops a tunnel in the soft sand with its spiny legs, and pulls itself up to the top, holding on by its legs and the hooks on its back. Its head just fills the hole, and as it is a poor weakly creature and cannot move fast, it keeps quiet till some insect passes, and then darts its head out and pulls its victim down. If you have the patience to find some of these tunnels, and sit still and watch, you may see the grub catch its prey.
The Rove or Cocktail-beetles (2, p. 36), which we found in the first lesson, are very useful in eating insects, though they are not beautiful. But the Ground-beetles, which have only small wings under their wing cases, and seldom fly, are the best hunters. You may sometimes see a good-sized beetle with long legs running along through the grass. Its body is very dark, shaded with red and violet. This is the Violet Ground-beetle, and it is hunting for grubs and wireworms.
There are some very curious beetles not difficult to find which will interest you. These are the Sexton, or Burying-beetles. When you see a dead mouse or bird lying in some part of the field or garden, pick it up quietly. If it has been there a few days it will already have a bad smell, and you are almost sure to find underneath it two or more beetles with thick bodies and strong legs. They are generally black with red feelers, and two light red bands on their abdomen. These are Sexton-beetles (3, p. 36), which have scented the dead body and flown, often for some distance, to bury it.
They scrape away the soft ground underneath, till the body sinks down, and then they drag the earth over it. Why do you think they do this? Because the mother beetle wants to lay her eggs there that the grubs may feed on the flesh. She does this as soon as the animal is buried, and in a few days the grubs are hatched. They are narrow, and each has six legs and a number of spines along its back. With these it wriggles through the flesh, and eats away till it buries itself in the ground and turns into a beetle.
A great many beetles are useful to us by eating dead and living animals. Among these are the little black shining Mimic-beetles, which draw up their legs and pretend to be dead when they are touched, and the Glow-worms, which shine so brightly in the lanes in the summer nights.
A good gardener who sees a glow-worm in a hedge will always pick it up gently, and put it in his garden when he has the chance. For the young of the glow-worm is a soft grub (3, p. 40), which works its way into the shells of small snails and feeds upon them.
If you find a dry snail-shell with a white grub in it, it will most likely be the grub of the glow-worm. You may know it by a tuft of white threads on its tail, which it uses to brush off the slime of the snail from its back.
When they are full-grown you will find the mother glow-worm (1) very easily at night, because she gives out such a bright light. She has no wings, and you might take her for a slug if you did not notice her six little legs. The male glow-worm (2) has two spots of light near his tail. But he is not so bright as the female. He has long soft wing-cases and broad wings, with which he often flies into a lighted room when the window is left open.
The last useful beetle we can mention is the little Ladybird. She feeds all her life long on the plant bugs and aphides which destroy our plants. Wherever there are plant-lice, there the ladybird lays a bunch of yellow eggs and, when they are hatched, the long dark grubs clamber up the plant stalks and poke the lice into their mouths with their front feet. After a time each one glues its tail to a leaf and hangs till it becomes a ladybird, and then it flies away to feed on plant-lice on some other bush and to lay more eggs.
Bring in a Tiger-beetle, and try to find its grub. Search for Sexton-beetles under dead animals. Bring in a Mimic-beetle. Find a male and female glow-worm. Look for the grub of the Ladybird.
As a friend to the children commend me the Yak.
You will find it exactly the thing:
It will carry and fetch, you can ride on its back,
Or lead it about with a string.
The Tartar who dwells on the plains of Tibet
(A desolate region of snow)
Has for centuries made it a nursery pet.
And surely the Tartar should know!
Then tell your papa where the Yak can be got,
And if he is awfully rich
He will buy you the creature—or else he will not.
(I cannot be positive which.)
WEEK 6 |
Matthew iii: 1 to 17;
Mark i: 1 to 11,
Luke iii: 1 to 22.
E come now to a time when Jesus, the son of Mary, was a young man about thirty years of age. John, the son of the priest Zacharias, was six months older, but these two young men had never met, for one was in the north at Nazareth, and the other was living in the desert on the south of Judea.
Suddenly the news went through all the land of Israel that a prophet had risen up and was giving to the people the work of the Lord. It was more than four hundred years since God had sent a prophet to his people; and when it was known that again a man was speaking what God had told him, and not what he had learned by studying the old writings, a thrill went through the hearts of all the people. From all parts of the land, out of cities and villages, people poured forth to the wild region beside the river Jordan, where the new prophet was preaching the word of the Lord.
This prophet was John, the son of Zacharias. He lived in the wilderness, where he was alone with God and listened to God's voice. In his looks and dress John was not like other men. His garment was made of rough cloth woven from camel's hair; around his waist was a girdle of skin; and the food which he ate was dried locusts and the wild honey from the trees. And this was his message, "Turn from sin to doing right, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and the King is soon to come." The people came to hear his words, and when they asked him, "What shall we do?" John said to them, "He that has two coats, let him give to him that has none; and he that has food, more than he needs, let him give to him that is hungry."
John the Baptist in the wilderness.
The men who gathered the taxes, and were called publicans, asked of John, "Master, what shall we do?" And John answered them, "Do not cheat the people nor rob them, nor take more money than the law tells you to take from them."
And when the soldiers came to him, he said to them, "Do not harm any one, nor bring false charges against any; and be content with the wages that are paid to you."
There came to John some people who were called Pharisees. These men made a great show of being good, and of worshipping often and of keeping the law of Moses. But in their hearts they were evil, and their goodness was not real. John said to these men when he saw them, "O ye brood of vipers! Who has told you to escape from the wrath of God that is soon to come? Turn from your sins to God, and do right. And do not say to yourselves, 'Abraham is our father,' for God is able out of these stones to raise up children to Abraham."
When men who heard the words of John wished to give themselves up to serve God and to do his will, John baptized them in the river Jordan, as a sign that their sins were washed away. And because of this he was called "John the Baptist." Some of the people began to ask, "Is not this man the Christ whom God promised long ago to send to rule over the people?"
John heard this, and he said, "I baptize you with water, but there is one coming after me who is greater than I. He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is so high above me that I am not worthy even to stoop down and untie the strings of his shoes. This mighty one who is coming shall sift out the wheat from the chaff among the people. The wheat he will gather into his garner, but the chaff he will burn up with fire that no man can put out."
Nearly all the people in the land came to hear John in the wilderness, and were baptized by him. Among the last who came was Jesus, the young carpenter from Nazareth. When John saw Jesus something within told John that here was one greater and holier than himself. He said to Jesus, "I have need to be baptized by thee, and comest thou to me?"
Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for it is fitting that I should do all things that are right."
Then John baptized Jesus, as he had baptized others. And as Jesus came up out of the water, and was praying, John saw above the head of Jesus the heavens opening, and the Holy Spirit coming down like a dove and lighting upon him. And John heard from heaven a voice saying:
"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
And then John knew and told to others that this was the Son of God, the Christ whom God had promised to send to the people.
T HE others were to be kept in as a punishment for the misfortunes of the day before. Of course Martha thought it was naughtiness, and not misfortune—so you must not blame her. She only thought she was doing her duty. You know, grown-up people often say they do not like to punish you, and that they only do it for your own good, and that it hurts them as much as it hurts you—and this is really very often the truth.
Martha certainly hated having to punish the children quite as much as they hated to be punished. For one thing, she knew what a noise there would be in the house all day. And she had other reasons.
"I declare," she said to the cook, "it seems almost a shame keeping of them indoors this lovely day; but they are that audacious, they'll be walking in with their heads knocked off some of these days, if I don't put my foot down. You make them a cake for tea to-morrow, dear. And we'll have Baby along of us soon as we've got a bit forrard with our work. Then they can have a good romp with him, out of the way. Now, Eliza, come, get on with them beds. Here's ten o'clock nearly, and no rabbits caught!"
People say that in Kent when they mean "and no work done."
So all the others were kept in, but Robert, as I have said, was allowed to go out for half an hour to get something they all wanted. And that, of course, was the day's wish.
He had no difficulty in finding the Sand-fairy, for the day was already so hot that it had actually, for the first time, come out of its own accord, and was sitting in a sort of pool of soft sand, stretching itself, and trimming its whiskers, and turning its snail's eyes round and round.
"Ha!" it said when its left eye saw Robert; "I've been looking for you. Where are the rest of you? Not smashed themselves up with those wings, I hope?"
"No," said Robert; "but the wings got us into a row, just like all the wishes always do. So the others are kept indoors, and I was only let out for half an hour—to get the wish. So please let me wish as quickly as I can."
"Wish away," said the Psammead, twisting itself round in the sand. But Robert couldn't wish away. He forgot all the things he had been thinking about, and nothing would come into his head but little things for himself, like candy, a foreign stamp album, or a knife with three blades and a corkscrew. He sat down to think better of things the others would not have cared for—such as a football, or a pair of leg-guards, or to be able to lick Simpkins Minor thoroughly when he went back to school.
"Well," said the Psammead at last, "you'd better hurry up with that wish of yours. Time flies."
"I know it does," said Robert. "I can't think what to wish for. I wish you could give one of the others their wish without their having to come here to ask for it. Oh, don't!"
But it was too late. The Psammead had blown itself out to about three times its proper size, and now it collapsed like a pricked bubble, and with a deep sigh leaned back against the edge of the sand-pool, quite faint with the effort.
"There!" it said in a weak voice; "it was tremendously hard—but I did it. Run along home, or they're sure to wish for something silly before you get there."
They were—quite sure; Robert felt this, and as he ran home his mind was deeply occupied with the sort of wishes he might find they had wished in his absence. They might wish for rabbits, or white mice, or chocolate, or a fine day to-morrow, or even—and that was most likely—someone might have said, "I do wish to goodness Robert would hurry up." Well, he was hurrying up, and so they would have had their wish, and the day would be wasted. Then he tried to think what they could wish for—something that would be amusing indoors. That had been his own difficulty from the beginning. So few things are amusing indoors when the sun is shining outside and you mayn't go out, however much you want to do so.
Robert was running as fast as he could, but when he turned the corner that ought to have brought him within sight of the architect's nightmare—the ornamental iron-work on the top of the house—he opened his eyes so wide that he had to drop into a walk; for you cannot run with your eyes wide open. Then suddenly he stopped short, for there was no house to be seen. The front garden railings were gone too, and where the house had stood—Robert rubbed his eyes and looked again. Yes, the others had wished,—there was no doubt about it,—and they must have wished that they lived in a castle; for there the castle stood, black and stately, and very tall and broad, with battlements and lancet windows, and eight great towers; and, where the garden and the orchard had been, there were white things dotted like mushrooms. Robert walked slowly on, and as he got nearer he saw that these were tents, and men in armor were walking about among the tents—crowds and crowds of them.
There the castle stood, black and stately.
"Oh!" said Robert fervently. "They have! They've wished for a castle, and it's being besieged! It's just like that Sand-fairy! I wish we'd never seen the beastly thing!"
At the little window above the great gateway, across the moat that now lay where the garden had been but half an hour ago, someone was waving something pale dust-colored. Robert thought it was one of Cyril's handkerchiefs. They had never been white since the day when he had upset the bottle of "Combined Toning and Fixing Solution" into the drawer where they were. Robert waved back, and immediately felt that he had been unwise. For this signal had been seen by the besieging force, and two men in steel-caps were coming towards him. They had high brown boots on their long legs, and they came towards him with such great strides that Robert remembered the shortness of his own legs and did not run away. He knew it would be useless to himself, and he feared it might be irritating to the foe. So he stood still—and the two men seemed quite pleased with him.
"By my halidom," said one, "a brave varlet this!"
Robert felt pleased at being called brave, and somehow it made him feel brave. He passed over the "varlet." It was the way people talked in historical romances for the young, he knew, and it was evidently not meant for rudeness. He only hoped he would be able to understand what they said to him. He had not been always able quite to follow the conversations in the historical romances for the young.
"His garb is strange," said the other. "Some outlandish treachery, belike."
"Say, lad, what brings thee hither?"
Robert knew this meant, "Now then, youngster, what are you up to here,
"If you please, I want to go home."
"Go, then!" said the man in the longest boots; "none hindereth, and nought lets us to follow. Zooks!" he added in a cautious undertone, "I misdoubt me but he beareth tidings to the besieged."
"Where dwellest thou, young knave?" inquired the man with the largest steel-cap.
"Over there," said Robert; and directly he had said it he knew he ought to have said "Yonder!"
"Ha—sayest so?" rejoined the longest boots. "Come hither, boy. This is matter for our leader."
And to the leader Robert was dragged forthwith—by the reluctant ear.
Robert was dragged forthwith—by the reluctant ear.
The leader was the most glorious creature Robert had ever seen. He was exactly like the pictures Robert had so often admired in the historical romances. He had armor, and a helmet, and a horse, and a crest, and feathers, and a shield and a lance and a sword. His armor and his weapons were all, I am almost sure, of quite different periods. The shield was thirteenth century, while the sword was of the pattern used in the Peninsular War. The cuirass was of the time of Charles I., and the helmet dated from the Second Crusade. The arms on the shield were very grand—three red running lions on a blue ground. The tents were of the latest brand approved of by our modern War Office, and the whole appearance of camp, army, and leader might have been a shock to some. But Robert was dumb with admiration, and it all seemed to him perfectly correct, because he knew no more of heraldry or archæology than the gifted artists who usually drew the pictures for the historical romances. The scene was indeed "exactly like a picture." He admired it all so much that he felt braver than ever.
"Come hither, lad," said the glorious leader, when the men in Cromwellian steel-caps had said a few low eager words. And he took off his helmet, because he could not see properly with it on. He had a kind face, and long fair hair. "Have no fear; thou shalt take no scathe," he said.
Robert was glad of that. He wondered what "scathe" was, and if it was nastier than the medicine which he had to take sometimes.
"Unfold thy tale without alarm," said the leader kindly. "Whence comest thou, and what is thine intent?"
"My what?" said Robert.
"What seekest thou to accomplish? What is thine errand, that thou wanderest here alone among these rough men-at-arms? Poor child, thy mother's heart aches for thee e'en now, I'll warrant me."
"I don't think so," said Robert; "you see, she doesn't know I'm out."
The leader wiped away a manly tear, exactly as a leader in a historical
romance would have done, and
He wiped away a manly tear.
"Fear not to speak the truth, my child; thou hast nought to fear from Wulfric de Talbot."
Robert had a wild feeling that this glorious leader of the besieging
party—being himself part of a wish—would be able to understand better
than Martha, or the gipsies, or the
policeman in Rochester, or the
clergyman of yesterday, the true tale of the wishes and the Psammead.
The only difficulty was that he knew he could never remember enough
"quothas" and "beshrew me's," and things like that, to make his talk
sound like the talk of a boy in a historical romance. However, he began
boldly enough, with a sentence straight out of Ralph de Courcy; or, The
Boy Crusader. He
"Grammercy for thy courtesy, fair sir knight. The fact is, it's like this—and I hope you're not in a hurry, because the story's rather a breather. Father and mother are away, and when we went down playing in the sand-pits we found a Psammead."
"I cry thee mercy! A Sammyadd?" said the knight.
"Yes, a sort of—of fairy, or enchanter—yes, that's it, an enchanter; and he said we could have a wish every day, and we wished first to be beautiful."
"Thy wish was scarce granted," muttered one of the men-at-arms, looking at Robert, who went on as if he had not heard, though he thought the remark very rude indeed.
"And then we wished for money—treasure, you know; but we couldn't spend
it. And yesterday we wished for wings, and we got them, and we had a
ripping time to begin
"Thy speech is strange and uncouth," said Sir Wulfric de Talbot. "Repeat thy words—what hadst thou?"
"A ripping—I mean a jolly—no—we were contented with our lot—that's what I mean; only, after we got into an awful fix."
"What is a fix? A fray, mayhap?"
"No—not a fray. A—a—a tight place."
"A dungeon? Alas for thy youthful fettered limbs!" said the knight, with polite sympathy.
"It wasn't a dungeon. We just—just encountered undeserved misfortunes," Robert explained, "and to-day we are punished by not being allowed to go out. That's where I live,"—he pointed to the castle. "The others are in there, and they're not allowed to go out. It's all the Psammead's—I mean the enchanter's fault. I wish we'd never seen him."
"He is an enchanter of might?"
"Oh yes—of might and main. Rather!"
"And thou deemest that it is the spells of the enchanter whom thou hast angered that have lent strength to the besieging party," said the gallant leader; "but know thou that Wulfric de Talbot needs no enchanter's aid to lead his followers to victory."
"No, I'm sure you don't," said Robert, with hasty courtesy; "of course not—you wouldn't, you know. But, all the same, it's partly his fault, but we're most to blame. You couldn't have done anything if it hadn't been for us."
"How now, bold boy?" asked Sir Wulfric haughtily. "Thy speech is dark, and eke scarce courteous. Unravel me this riddle!"
"Oh," said Robert desperately, "of course you don't know it, but you're not real at all. You're only here because the others must have been idiots enough to wish for a castle—and when the sun sets you'll just vanish away, and it'll be all right."
The captain and the men-at-arms exchanged glances at first pitying, and then sterner, as the longest-booted man said, "Beware, my noble lord; the urchin doth but feign madness to escape from our clutches. Shall we not bind him?"
"I'm no more mad than you are," said Robert angrily, "perhaps not so much—Only, I was an idiot to think you'd understand anything. Let me go—I haven't done anything to you."
"Whither?" asked the knight, who seemed to have believed all the enchanter story till it came to his own share in it. "Whither wouldst thou wend?"
"Home, of course." Robert pointed to the castle.
"To carry news of succor? Nay!"
"All right, then," said Robert, struck by a sudden idea; "then let me go somewhere else." His mind sought eagerly among the memories of the historical romance.
"Sir Wulfric de Talbot," he said slowly, "should think foul scorn to—to keep a chap—I mean one who has done him no hurt—when he wants to cut off quietly—I mean to depart without violence."
"This to my face! Beshrew thee for a knave!" replied Sir Wulfric. But the appeal seemed to have gone home. "Yet thou sayest sooth," he added thoughtfully. "Go where thou wilt," he added nobly, "thou art free. Wulfric de Talbot warreth not with babes, and Jakin here shall bear thee company."
"All right," said Robert wildly. "Jakin will enjoy himself, I think. Come on, Jakin. Sir Wulfric, I salute thee."
He saluted after the modern military manner, and set off running to the sand-pit, Jakin's long boots keeping up easily.
He found the Fairy. He dug it up, he woke it up, he implored it to give him one more wish.
"I've done two to-day already," it grumbled, "and one was as stiff a bit of work as ever I did."
"Oh, do, do, do, do, do!" said Robert, while Jakin looked on with an expression of open-mouthed horror at the strange beast that talked, and gazed with its snail's eyes at him.
"Oh, do, do, do!" said Robert.
"Well, what is it?" snapped the Psammead, with cross sleepiness.
"I wish I was with the others," said Robert. And the Psammead began to swell. Robert never thought of wishing the castle and the siege away. Of course he knew they had all come out of a wish, but swords and daggers and pikes and lances seemed much too real to be wished away. Robert lost consciousness for an instant. When he opened his eyes the others were crowding round him.
"We never heard you come in," they said. "How awfully jolly of you to wish it to give us our wish!"
"Of course we understood that was what you'd done."
"But you ought to have told us. Suppose we'd wished something silly."
"Silly?" said Robert, very crossly indeed. "How much sillier could you have been, I'd like to know? You nearly settled me— I can tell you."
Then he told his story, and the others admitted that it certainly had been rough on him. But they praised his courage and cleverness so much that he presently got back his lost temper, and felt braver than ever, and consented to be captain of the besieged force.
"We haven't done anything yet," said Anthea comfortably; "we waited for you. We're going to shoot at them through these little loopholes with the bow and arrows uncle gave you, and you shall have first shot."
"I don't think I would," said Robert cautiously; "you don't know what they're like near to. They've got real bows and arrows—an awful length—and swords and pikes and daggers, and all sorts of sharp things. They're all quite, quite real. It's not just a—a picture, or a vision or anything; they can hurt us—or kill us even, I shouldn't wonder. I can feel my ear all sore yet. Look here—have you explored the castle? Because I think we'd better let them alone as long as they let us alone. I heard that Jakin man say they weren't going to attack till just before sundown. We can be getting ready for the attack. Are there any soldiers in the castle to defend it?"
"We don't know," said Cyril. "You see, directly I'd wished we were in a besieged castle, everything seemed to go upside down, and when it came straight we looked out of the window, and saw the camp and things and you—and of course we kept on looking at everything. Isn't this room jolly? It's as real as real!"
It was. It was square, with stone walls four feet thick, and great beams for ceiling. A low door at the corner led to a flight of steps, up and down. The children went down; they found themselves in a great arched gate-house—the enormous doors were shut and barred. There was a window in a little room at the bottom of the round turret up which the stair wound, rather larger than the other windows, and looking through it they saw that the drawbridge was up and the portcullis down; the moat looked very wide and deep. Opposite the great door that led to the moat was another great door, with a little door in it. The children went through this, and found themselves in a big courtyard, with the great grey walls of the castle rising dark and heavy on all four sides.
Near the middle of the courtyard stood Martha, moving her right hand backwards and forwards in the air. The cook was stooping down and moving her hands, also in a very curious way. But the oddest and at the same time most terrible thing was the Lamb, who was sitting on nothing, about three feet from the ground, laughing happily.
The children ran towards him. Just as Anthea was reaching out her arms to take him, Martha said crossly, "Let him alone—do, miss, when he is good."
"But what's he doing?" said Anthea.
"Doing? Why, a-setting in his high chair as good as gold, a precious, watching me doing of the ironing. Get along with you, do—my iron's cold again."
She went towards the cook, and seemed to poke an invisible fire with an unseen poker—the cook seemed to be putting an unseen dish into an invisible oven.
"Run along with you, do," she said; "I'm behindhand as it is. You won't get no dinner if you come a-hindering of me like this. Come, off you goes, or I'll pin a dishcloth to some of your tails."
"You're sure the Lamb's all right?" asked Jane anxiously.
"Right as ninepence, if you don't come unsettling of him. I thought you'd like to be rid of him for to-day; but take him, if you want him, for gracious' sake."
"No, no," they said, and hastened away. They would have to defend the castle presently, and the Lamb was safer even suspended in mid air in an invisible kitchen than in the guard-room of the besieged castle. They went through the first doorway they came to, and sat down helplessly on a wooden bench that ran along the room inside.
"How awful!" said Anthea and Jane together; and Jane added, "I feel as if I was in a lunatic asylum."
"What does it mean?" Anthea said. "It's creepy; I don't like it. I wish we'd wished for something plain—a rocking-horse, or a donkey, or something."
"It's no use wishing now," said Robert bitterly; and Cyril
"Do be quiet; I want to think."
He buried his face in his hands, and the others looked about them. They were in a long room with an arched roof. There were wooden tables along it, and one across at the end of the room, on a sort of raised platform. The room was very dim and dark. The floor was strewn with dry things like sticks, and they did not smell nice.
Cyril sat up suddenly and
"Look here—it's all right. I think it's like this. You know, we wished
that the servants shouldn't notice any difference when we got wishes.
And nothing happens to the Lamb unless we specially wish it to. So of
course they don't notice the castle or anything. But then the castle is
on the same place where our house was—is, I mean—and the servants have
to go on being in the house, or else they would notice. But you can't
have a castle mixed up with our house—and so we can't see the house,
because we see the castle; and they can't see the castle, because they
go on seeing the house; and
"Oh, don't," said Jane; "you make my head go all swimmy, like being on a roundabout. It doesn't matter! Only, I hope we shall be able to see our dinner, that's all—because if it's invisible it'll be unfeelable as well, and then we can't eat it! I know it will, because I tried to feel if I could feel the Lamb's chair and there was nothing under him at all but air. And we can't eat air, and I feel just as if I hadn't had any breakfast for years and years."
"It's no use thinking about it," said Anthea. "Let's go on exploring. Perhaps we might find something to eat."
This lighted hope in every breast, and they went on exploring the castle. But though it was the most perfect and delightful castle you can possibly imagine, and furnished in the most complete and beautiful manner, neither food nor men-at-arms were to be found in it.
"If you'd only thought of wishing to be besieged in a castle thoroughly garrisoned and provisioned!" said Jane reproachfully.
"You can't think of everything, you know," said Anthea. "I should think it must be nearly dinner-time by now."
It wasn't; but they hung about watching the strange movements of the servants in the middle of the courtyard, because, of course, they couldn't be sure where the dining-room of the invisible house was. Presently they saw Martha carrying an invisible tray across the courtyard, for it seemed that, by the most fortunate accident, the dining-room of the house and the banqueting-hall of the castle were in the same place. But oh, how their hearts sank when they perceived that the tray was invisible!
They waited in wretched silence while Martha went through the form of carving an unseen leg of mutton and serving invisible greens and potatoes with a spoon that no one could see. When she had left the room, the children looked at the empty table, and then at each other.
"This is worse than anything," said Robert, who had not till now been particularly keen on his dinner.
"I'm not so very hungry," said Anthea, trying to make the best of things, as usual.
Cyril tightened his belt ostentatiously. Jane burst into tears.
I will go up the mountain after the Moon:
She is caught in a dead fir-tree.
Like a great pale apple of silver and pearl,
Like a great pale apple is she.
I will leap and will catch her with quick cold hands
And carry her home in my sack.
I will set her down safe on the oaken bench
That stands at the chimney-back.
And then I will sit by the fire all night,
And sit by the fire all day.
I will gnaw at the Moon to my heart's delight
Till I gnaw her slowly away.
And while I grow mad with the Moon's cold taste
The World will beat at my door,
Crying "Come out!" and crying "Make haste,
And give us the Moon once more!"
But I shall not answer them ever at all.
I shall laugh, as I count and hide
The great black beautiful Seeds of the Moon
In a flower-pot deep and wide.
Then I shall lie down and go fast asleep,
Drunken with flame and aswoon.
But the seeds will sprout and the seeds will leap,
The subtle swift seeds of the Moon.
And some day, all of the World that cries
And beats at my door shall see
A thousand moon-leaves spring from my thatch
On a wonderful white Moon-tree!
Then each shall have Moons to his heart's desire:
Apples of silver and pearl;
Apples of orange and copper fire
Setting his five wits aswirl!
And then they will thank me, who mock me now,
"Wanting the Moon is he,"—
Oh, I'm off to the mountain after the Moon,
Ere she falls from the dead fir-tree!