WEEK 1 |
HEY were not railway children to begin with. I don't suppose they had ever thought about railways except as a means of getting to Maskelyne and Cook's, the Pantomime, Zoological Gardens, and Madame Tussaud's. They were just ordinary suburban children, and they lived with their Father and Mother in an ordinary red-brick-fronted villa, with coloured glass in the front door, a tiled passage that was called a hall, a bath-room with hot and cold water, electric bells, French windows, and a good deal of white paint, and "every modern convenience," as the house-agents say.
There were three of them. Roberta was the eldest. Of course, Mothers never have favourites, but if their Mother had had a favourite, it might have been Roberta. Next came Peter, who wished to be an Engineer when he grew up; and the youngest was Phyllis, who meant extremely well.
Mother did not spend all her time in paying dull calls to dull ladies, and sitting dully at home waiting for dull ladies to pay calls to her. She was almost always there, ready to play with the children, and read to them, and help them to do their home-lessons. Besides this she used to write stories for them while they were at school, and read them aloud after tea, and she always made up funny pieces of poetry for their birthdays and for other great occasions, such as the christening of the new kittens, or the refurnishing of the doll's house, or the time when they were getting over the mumps.
These three lucky children always had everything they needed: pretty clothes, good fires, a lovely nursery with heaps of toys, and a Mother Goose wall-paper. They had a kind and merry nursemaid, and a dog who was called James, and who was their very own. They also had a Father who was just perfect—never cross, never unjust, and always ready for a game—at least, if at any time he was not ready, he always had an excellent reason for it, and explained the reason to the children so interestingly and funnily that they felt sure he couldn't help himself.
You will think that they ought to have been very happy. And so they were, but they did not know how happy till the pretty life in the Edgecombe Villa was over and done with, and they had to live a very different life indeed.
The dreadful change came quite suddenly.
Peter had a birthday—his tenth. Among his other presents was a model engine more perfect than you could ever have dreamed of. The other presents were full of charm, but the Engine was fuller of charm than any of the others were.
Its charm lasted in its full perfection for exactly three days. Then, owing either to Peter's inexperience or Phyllis's good intentions, which had been rather pressing, or to some other cause, the Engine suddenly went off with a bang.
James was so frightened that he went out and did not come back all day. All the Noah's Ark people who were in the tender were broken to bits, but nothing else was hurt except the poor little engine and the feelings of Peter. The others said he cried over it—but of course boys of ten do not cry, however terrible the tragedies may be which darken their lot. He said that his eyes were red because he had a cold. This turned out to be true, though Peter did not know it was when he said it, the next day he had to go to bed and stay there. Mother began to be afraid that he might be sickening for measles, when suddenly he sat up in bed and said:
"I hate gruel—I hate barley water—I hate bread and milk. I want to get up and have something real to eat."
"What would you like?" Mother asked.
"A pigeon-pie," said Peter, eagerly, "a large pigeon-pie. A very large one."
So Mother asked the Cook to make a large pigeon-pie. The pie was made. And when the pie was made, it was cooked. And when it was cooked, Peter ate some of it. After that his cold was better. Mother made a piece of poetry to amuse him while the pie was being made. It began by saying what an unfortunate but worthy boy Peter was, then it went on:
He had an engine that he loved
With all his heart and soul,
And if he had a wish on earth
It was to keep it whole.
One day—my friends, prepare your minds;
I'm coming to the worst—
Quite suddenly a screw went mad,
And then the boiler burst!
With gloomy face he picked it up
And took it to his Mother,
Though even he could not suppose
That she could make another;
For those who perished on the line
He did not seem to care,
His engine being more to him
Than all the people there.
And now you see the reason why
Our Peter has been ill:
He soothes his soul with pigeon-pie
His gnawing grief to kill.
He wraps himself in blankets warm
And sleeps in bed till late,
Determined thus to overcome
His miserable fate.
And if his eyes are rather red,
His cold must just excuse it:
Offer him pie; you may be sure
He never will refuse it.
Father had been away in the country for three or four days. All Peter's hopes for the curing of his afflicted Engine were now fixed on his Father, for Father was most wonderfully clever with his fingers. He could mend all sorts of things. He had often acted as veterinary surgeon to the wooden rocking-horse; once he had saved its life when all human aid was despaired of, and the poor creature was given up for lost, and even the carpenter said he didn't see his way to do anything. And it was Father who mended the doll's cradle when no one else could; and with a little glue and some bits of wood and a pen-knife made all the Noah's Ark beasts as strong on their pins as ever they were, if not stronger.
Peter, with heroic unselfishness, did not say anything about his Engine till after Father had had his dinner and his after-dinner cigar. The unselfishness was Mother's idea—but it was Peter who carried it out. And needed a good deal of patience, too.
At last Mother said to Father, "Now, dear, if you're quite rested, and quite comfy, we want to tell you about the great railway accident, and ask your advice."
"All right," said Father, "fire away!"
So then Peter told the sad tale, and fetched what was left of the Engine.
"Hum," said Father, when he had looked the Engine over very carefully.
The children held their breaths.
"Is there no hope?" said Peter, in a low, unsteady voice.
"Hope? Rather! Tons of it," said Father, cheerfully; "but it'll want something besides hope—a bit of brazing say, or some solder, and a new valve. I think we'd better keep it for a rainy day. In other words, I'll give up Saturday afternoon to it, and you shall all help me."
"Can girls help to mend engines?" Peter asked doubtfully.
"Of course they can. Girls are just as clever as boys, and don't you forget it! How would you like to be an engine-driver, Phil?"
"My face would be always dirty, wouldn't it?" said Phyllis, in unenthusiastic tones, "and I expect I should break something."
"I should just love it," said Roberta—"do you think I could when I'm grown up, Daddy? Or even a stoker?"
"You mean a fireman," said Daddy, pulling and twisting at the engine.
"Well, if you still wish it, when you're grown up, we'll see about
making you a fire-woman. I remember when I was a
Just then there was a knock at the front door.
"Who on earth!" said Father. "An Englishman's house is his castle, of course, but I do wish they built semi-detached villas with moats and drawbridges."
Ruth—she was the parlour-maid and had red hair—came in and said that two gentlemen wanted to see the master.
"I've shown them into the Library, Sir," said she.
"I expect it's the subscription to the Vicar's testimonial," said Mother, "or else it's the choir holiday fund. Get rid of them quickly, dear. It does break up an evening so, and it's nearly the children's bedtime."
But Father did not seem to be able to get rid of the gentlemen at all quickly.
"I wish we had got a moat and drawbridge," said Roberta; "then, when we didn't want people, we could just pull up the drawbridge and no one else could get in. I expect Father will have forgotten about when he was a boy if they stay much longer."
Mother tried to make the time pass by telling them a new fairy story about a Princess with green eyes, but it was difficult because they could hear the voices of Father and the gentlemen in the Library, and Father's voice sounded louder and different from the voice he generally used to people who came about testimonials and holiday funds.
Then the Library bell rang, and everyone heaved a breath of relief.
"They're going now," said Phyllis; "he's rung to have them shown out."
But instead of showing anybody out, Ruth showed herself in, and she looked queer, the children thought.
"Please'm," she said, "the Master wants you to just step into the study.
He looks like the dead, mum; I think he's had bad news. You'd best
prepare yourself for the worst, 'm—p'raps it's a death in the family or
a bank busted
"That'll do, Ruth," said Mother gently; "you can go."
Then Mother went into the Library. There was more talking. Then the bell rang again, and Ruth fetched a cab. The children heard boots go out and down the steps. The cab drove away, and the front door shut. Then Mother came in. Her dear face was as white as her lace collar, and her eyes looked very big and shining. Her mouth looked like just a line of pale red—her lips were thin and not their proper shape at all.
"It's bedtime," she said. "Ruth will put you to bed."
"But you promised we should sit up late tonight because Father's come home," said Phyllis.
"Father's been called away—on business," said Mother. "Come, darlings, go at once."
They kissed her and went. Roberta lingered to give Mother an extra hug and to whisper:
"It wasn't bad news, Mammy, was it? Is anyone dead—
"Nobody's dead—no," said Mother, and she almost seemed to push Roberta away. "I can't tell you anything tonight, my pet. Go, dear, go now."
So Roberta went.
Ruth brushed the girls' hair and helped them to undress. (Mother almost always did this herself.) When she had turned down the gas and left them she found Peter, still dressed, waiting on the stairs.
"I say, Ruth, what's up?" he asked.
"Don't ask me no questions and I won't tell you no lies," the red-headed Ruth replied. "You'll know soon enough."
Late that night Mother came up and kissed all three children as they lay asleep. But Roberta was the only one whom the kiss woke, and she lay mousey-still, and said nothing.
"If Mother doesn't want us to know she's been crying," she said to herself as she heard through the dark the catching of her Mother's breath, "we won't know it. That's all."
When they came down to breakfast the next morning, Mother had already gone out.
"To London," Ruth said, and left them to their breakfast.
"There's something awful the matter," said Peter, breaking his egg. "Ruth told me last night we should know soon enough."
"Did you ask her?" said Roberta, with scorn.
"Yes, I did!" said Peter, angrily. "If you could go to bed without caring whether Mother was worried or not, I couldn't. So there."
"I don't think we ought to ask the servants things Mother doesn't tell us," said Roberta.
"That's right, Miss Goody-Goody," said Peter, "preach away."
"I'm not goody," said Phyllis, "but I think Bobbie's right this time."
"Of course. She always is. In her own opinion," said Peter.
"Oh, don't! " cried Roberta, putting down her egg-spoon; "don't let's be horrid to each other. I'm sure some dire calamity is happening. Don't let's make it worse!"
"Who began, I should like to know?" said Peter.
Roberta made an effort, and answered:
"I did, I suppose,
"Well, then," said Peter, triumphantly. But before he went to school he thumped his sister between the shoulders and told her to cheer up.
The children came home to one o'clock dinner, but Mother was not there. And she was not there at tea-time.
It was nearly seven before she came in, looking so ill and tired that the children felt they could not ask her any questions. She sank into an arm-chair. Phyllis took the long pins out of her hat, while Roberta took off her gloves, and Peter unfastened her walking-shoes and fetched her soft velvety slippers for her.
When she had had a cup of tea, and Roberta had put eau-de-Cologne on her poor head that ached, Mother said:
"Now, my darlings, I want to tell you something. Those men last night did bring very bad news, and Father will be away for some time. I am very worried about it, and I want you all to help me, and not to make things harder for me."
"As if we would!" said Roberta, holding Mother's hand against her face.
"You can help me very much," said Mother, "by being good and happy and not quarrelling when I'm away"—Roberta and Peter exchanged guilty glances—"for I shall have to be away a good deal."
"We won't quarrel. Indeed we won't," said everybody. And meant it, too.
"Then," Mother went on, "I want you not to ask me any questions about this trouble; and not to ask anybody else any questions."
Peter cringed and shuffled his boots on the carpet.
"You'll promise this, too, won't you?" said Mother.
"I did ask Ruth," said Peter, suddenly. "I'm very sorry, but I did."
"And what did she say?"
"She said I should know soon enough."
"It isn't necessary for you to know anything about it," said Mother; "it's about business, and you never do understand business, do you?"
"No," said Roberta; "is it something to do with Government?" For Father was in a Government Office.
"Yes," said Mother. "Now it's bed-time, my darlings. And don't you worry. It'll all come right in the end."
"Then don't you worry either, Mother," said Phyllis, "and we'll all be as good as gold."
Mother sighed and kissed them.
"We'll begin being good the first thing tomorrow morning," said Peter, as they went upstairs.
"Why not now?" said Roberta.
"There's nothing to be good about now, silly," said Peter.
"We might begin to try to feel good," said Phyllis, "and not call names."
"Who's calling names?" said Peter. "Bobbie knows right enough that when I say 'silly', it's just the same as if I said Bobbie."
"Well," said Roberta.
"No, I don't mean what you mean. I mean it's just a—what is it Father calls it?—a germ of endearment! Good night."
The girls folded up their clothes with more than usual neatness—which was the only way of being good that they could think of.
"I say," said Phyllis, smoothing out her pinafore, "you used to say it was so dull—nothing happening, like in books. Now something has happened."
"I never wanted things to happen to make Mother unhappy," said Roberta. "Everything's perfectly horrid."
Everything continued to be perfectly horrid for some weeks.
Mother was nearly always out. Meals were dull and dirty. The between-maid was sent away, and Aunt Emma came on a visit. Aunt Emma was much older than Mother. She was going abroad to be a governess. She was very busy getting her clothes ready, and they were very ugly, dingy clothes, and she had them always littering about, and the sewing-machine seemed to whir—on and on all day and most of the night. Aunt Emma believed in keeping children in their proper places. And they more than returned the compliment. Their idea of Aunt Emma's proper place was anywhere where they were not. So they saw very little of her. They preferred the company of the servants, who were more amusing. Cook, if in a good temper, could sing comic songs, and the housemaid, if she happened not to be offended with you, could imitate a hen that has laid an egg, a bottle of champagne being opened, and could mew like two cats fighting. The servants never told the children what the bad news was that the gentlemen had brought to Father. But they kept hinting that they could tell a great deal if they chose—and this was not comfortable.
One day when Peter had made a booby trap over the bath-room door, and it had acted beautifully as Ruth passed through, that red-haired parlour-maid caught him and boxed his ears.
"You'll come to a bad end," she said furiously, "you nasty little limb, you! If you don't mend your ways, you'll go where your precious Father's gone, so I tell you straight!"
Roberta repeated this to her Mother, and next day Ruth was sent away.
Then came the time when Mother came home and went to bed and stayed there two days and the Doctor came, and the children crept wretchedly about the house and wondered if the world was coming to an end.
Mother came down one morning to breakfast, very pale and with lines on her face that used not to be there. And she smiled, as well as she could, and said:
"Now, my pets, everything is settled. We're going to leave this house, and go and live in the country. Such a ducky dear little white house. I know you'll love it."
A whirling week of packing followed—not just packing clothes, like when you go to the seaside, but packing chairs and tables, covering their tops with sacking and their legs with straw.
All sorts of things were packed that you don't pack when you go to the seaside. Crockery, blankets, candlesticks, carpets, bedsteads, saucepans, and even fenders and fire-irons.
The house was like a furniture warehouse. I think the children enjoyed it very much. Mother was very busy, but not too busy now to talk to them, and read to them, and even to make a bit of poetry for Phyllis to cheer her up when she fell down with a screwdriver and ran it into her hand.
"Aren't you going to pack this, Mother?" Roberta asked, pointing to the beautiful cabinet inlaid with red turtleshell and brass.
"We can't take everything," said Mother.
"But we seem to be taking all the ugly things," said Roberta.
"We're taking the useful ones," said Mother; "we've got to play at being Poor for a bit, my chickabiddy."
When all the ugly useful things had been packed up and taken away in a van by men in green-baize aprons, the two girls and Mother and Aunt Emma slept in the two spare rooms where the furniture was all pretty. All their beds had gone. A bed was made up for Peter on the drawing-room sofa.
"I say, this is larks," he said, wriggling joyously, as Mother tucked him up. "I do like moving! I wish we moved once a month."
"I don't!" she said. "Good night, Peterkin."
As she turned away Roberta saw her face. She never forgot it.
"Oh, Mother," she whispered all to herself as she got into bed, "how brave you are! How I love you! Fancy being brave enough to laugh when you're feeling like that!"
Next day boxes were filled, and boxes and more boxes; and then late in the afternoon a cab came to take them to the station.
Aunt Emma saw them off. They felt that they were seeing her off, and they were glad of it.
"But, oh, those poor little foreign children that she's going to governess!" whispered Phyllis. "I wouldn't be them for anything!"
At first they enjoyed looking out of the window, but when it grew dusk they grew sleepier and sleepier, and no one knew how long they had been in the train when they were roused by Mother's shaking them gently and saying:
"Wake up, dears. We're there."
They woke up, cold and melancholy, and stood shivering on the draughty platform while the baggage was taken out of the train. Then the engine, puffing and blowing, set to work again, and dragged the train away. The children watched the tail-lights of the guard's van disappear into the darkness.
This was the first train the children saw on that railway which was in time to become so very dear to them. They did not guess then how they would grow to love the railway, and how soon it would become the centre of their new life, nor what wonders and changes it would bring to them. They only shivered and sneezed and hoped the walk to the new house would not be long. Peter's nose was colder than he ever remembered it to have been before. Roberta's hat was crooked, and the elastic seemed tighter than usual. Phyllis's shoe-laces had come undone.
"Come," said Mother, "we've got to walk. There aren't any cabs here."
The walk was dark and muddy. The children stumbled a little on the rough road, and once Phyllis absently fell into a puddle, and was picked up damp and unhappy. There were no gas-lamps on the road, and the road was uphill. The cart went at a foot's pace, and they followed the gritty crunch of its wheels. As their eyes got used to the darkness, they could see the mound of boxes swaying dimly in front of them.
A long gate had to be opened for the cart to pass through, and after that the road seemed to go across fields—and now it went down hill. Presently a great dark lumpish thing showed over to the right.
"There's the house," said Mother. "I wonder why she's shut the shutters."
"Who's she?" asked Roberta.
"The woman I engaged to clean the place, and put the furniture straight and get supper."
There was a low wall, and trees inside.
"That's the garden," said Mother.
"It looks more like a dripping-pan full of black cabbages," said Peter.
The cart went on along by the garden wall, and round to the back of the house, and here it clattered into a cobble-stoned yard and stopped at the back door.
There was no light in any of the windows.
Everyone hammered at the door, but no one came.
The man who drove the cart said he expected Mrs. Viney had gone home.
"You see your train was that late," said he.
"But she's got the key," said Mother. "What are we to do?"
"Oh, she'll have left that under the doorstep," said the cart man; "folks do hereabouts." He took the lantern off his cart and stooped.
"Ay, here it is, right enough," he said.
He unlocked the door and went in and set his lantern on the table.
"Got e'er a candle?" said he.
"I don't know where anything is." Mother spoke rather less cheerfully than usual.
He struck a match. There was a candle on the table, and he lighted it. By its thin little glimmer the children saw a large bare kitchen with a stone floor. There were no curtains, no hearth-rug. The kitchen table from home stood in the middle of the room. The chairs were in one corner, and the pots, pans, brooms, and crockery in another. There was no fire, and the black grate showed cold, dead ashes.
As the cart man turned to go out after he had brought in the boxes, there was a rustling, scampering sound that seemed to come from inside the walls of the house.
"Oh, what's that?" cried the girls.
"It's only the rats," said the cart man. And he went away and shut the door, and the sudden draught of it blew out the candle.
"Oh, dear," said Phyllis, "I wish we hadn't come!" and she knocked a chair over.
"Only the rats!" said Peter, in the dark.
But thou, imperial City! thou hast stood
In greatness once, in sackcloth now and tears,
A Mighty name, for evil or for good,
Even in the loneness of thy widowed years:
Thou that hast gazed, as the world hurried by,
Upon its headlong course with sad prophetic eye.
I f an Italian country boy had been taken to visit Rome fifteen hundred years ago, he would have found much to see. There were temples and theatres and baths. There were aqueducts, sometimes with arches one hundred feet high, stretching far out into the country to bring pure water to the city. There was an open space known as the Forum, where the people came together for public meetings, and in this space were beautiful pillars and arches and statues of famous Romans. Around the Forum were palaces and temples and the Senate House; and directly in front of the Senate House was a platform on which speakers stood when they wished to address the people. The platform was called the rostrum, which is a Latin word, meaning the beak of a warship, because it was adorned with the beaks of ships which the Romans had captured. Another open space was the great race-course, the Circus Maximus, in which 250,000 people could sit and watch leaping, wrestling, boxing, foot-races, and especially the famous four-horse chariot races. There was the Coliseum, too, where gladiators, generally captives or slaves, fought with one another or with wild beasts.
The Roman streets were narrow, and they seemed still narrower because many houses were built with their upper stories projecting over the lower; but in those narrow streets there was always something of interest. Sometimes it was a wedding procession with torches and songs and the music of the flute. Sometimes it was a funeral train with not only the friends of the dead man, but also trumpeters and pipers. In the long line walked hired actors wearing waxen masks made to imitate the faces of the dead person's ancestors. Early in the morning, one could see crowds of clients, each one hastening to the home of his patron, some wealthy man who was expected to give him either food or money.
Rome was built upon seven hills, and most of these men of wealth lived either on the Palatine or the Esquiline Hill. After a patron had received his clients, he ate a light meal and then attended to his business, if he had any. About noon he ate another meal and had a nap. When he awoke, he played ball or took some other exercise. Then came his bath; and this was quite a lengthy affair, for there was not only hot and cold bathing, but there was rubbing and scraping and anointing. At the public baths were hot rooms and cold rooms and rooms where friends might sit and talk together, or lie on couches and rest. Dinner, the principal meal of the day, came at two or three o'clock. Oysters were often served first, together with radishes, lettuce, sorrel, and pickled cabbage. These were to increase the keenness of the appetite. Then came fish, flesh, and fowl, course after course. Next came cakes and fruits, and last, wine followed, mixed with water and spices. The formal banquets were much more elaborate than this, for a good host must load his table with as many kinds of expensive food as possible; and a guest who wished to show his appreciation must eat as much as he could. The whole business of a feast was eating, and there was seldom any witty conversation. No one sung any songs or told any merry stories.
Such was the life of the wealthy Romans. Moreover, they kept hosts of slaves to save themselves from every exertion. Their ancestors had been brave, patriotic folk who loved their country and thought it was an honour to fight for it; but these idle, luxurious people were not willing to give up their comfort and leisure and to enter the army. Hired soldiers could defend their fatherland, they thought.
The time had come when Rome needed to be defended. In the early days, it had been only a tiny settlement, but it had grown in power till the Romans ruled all Europe south of the Rhine and the Danube, also Asia Minor, Northern Africa, and Britain. Nearly all the people of Europe are thought to have come from Central Asia. One tribe after another moved to the westward from their early home into Europe, and when the hunting and fishing became poor in their new settlements, they went on still farther west. The Celts came first, pushing their way through Central Europe, and finally into France, Spain, and the British Isles. Later, the Latins and Greeks took possession of Southern Europe. Meanwhile the Celts had to move faster than they wished into France, Spain, and Britain, because another race, the Teutons, had followed close behind them, and taken possession of Central Europe. These Teutons, who lived a wild, restless, half-savage life, roamed back and forth between the Danube and the shores of the Baltic Sea. They consisted of many different tribes, but the Romans called them all Germans. For many years the Germans had tried to cross the Danube and the Rhine, and break into the Roman Empire, but the Roman armies had driven them back, and had destroyed their rude villages again and again. Sometimes, however, the Germans were so stubborn in their efforts to get into the empire that the Roman emperors found it convenient to admit certain tribes as allies.
As time went on, a tribe of Teutons called Goths became the most troublesome of all to the Romans. Part of them lived on the shores of the Black Sea, and were called Ostrogoths, or Eastern Goths; while those who lived near the shores of the Danube were called Visigoths, or Western Goths. Toward the end of the fourth century, the Visigoths found themselves between two fires, for another people, the Huns, were driving them into the Roman Empire, and the Romans were driving them back. The Visigoths could not fight both nations, and in despair they sent ambassadors to the Romans. "Let us live on your side of the river," they pleaded. "Give us food, and we will defend the frontier for you." The bargain was made, but it was broken by both parties. It had been agreed that the Goths should give up their arms, but they bribed the Roman officers and kept them. The Romans had promised to furnish food, but they did not keep their word. Hungry warriors with weapons in their hands make fierce enemies. The Goths revolted, and the Roman Emperor was slain.
Alaric at Athens
As the years passed, the Goths grew stronger and the Romans weaker. By and by, a man named Alaric became leader of the Visigoths. He and his followers had fought under Roman commanders. He had been in Italy twice, and he began to wonder whether it would not be possible for him and his brave warriors to fight their way into the heart of the Roman Empire. One night, he dreamed that he was driving a golden chariot through the streets of Rome and that the Roman citizens were thronging about him and shouting, "Hail, O Emperor, hail!" Another time when he was passing by a sacred grove, he heard, or thought he heard, a voice cry, "You will make your way to the city." "The city" meant Rome, of course; and now Alaric called his chief men together and laid his plans before them. First, they would go to Greece, he said. The warlike Goths shouted for joy, for in the cities of Greece were treasures of gold and silver, and these would fall into the hands of the victors. They went on boldly, and before long Alaric and his followers were feasting in Athens, while great masses of treasure were waiting to be distributed among the soldiers. The Greeks had forgotten how brave their ancestors had been, and Alaric had no trouble in sweeping over the country. At last, however, the general Stilicho was sent with troops from Rome; and now Alaric would have been captured or slain if he had not succeeded in slipping away. Before this, the Roman Empire had been divided into two parts, the western and the eastern. The capital of the western part was Rome; that of the eastern was Constantinople.
The young man of eighteen who was emperor in the eastern part of the empire became jealous of Stilicho. "If he wins more victories, he will surely try to make himself emperor," thought the foolish boy; and he concluded that it would be an exceedingly wise move to make Alaric governor of Eastern Illyricum. This was like setting a hungry cat to watch a particularly tempting little mouse; for Illyricum stretched along the Adriatic Sea, and just across the narrow water lay Italy. Of course, after a few years, Alaric set out for Italy. The boy emperor in the western part of the empire ran away as fast as he could go. He would have been captured had not Stilicho appeared. Then Alaric and his warriors held a council. "Shall we withdraw and make sure of the treasure that we have taken, or shall we push on to Rome?" questioned the warriors. "I will find in Italy either a kingdom or a grave," declared the chief; but Stilicho was upon them, and they were obliged to retreat. Then the boy emperor returned to Rome to celebrate the victory and declare that he had never thought of such a thing as being afraid. Nevertheless, he hurried away to a safe fortress again, and left Rome to take care of itself.
A Barbarian Invasion
Alaric waited for six years, but meanwhile he watched everything that went on in Italy. The boy emperor had become a man of twenty-five, but he was as foolish as ever; and now, like the Emperor in the East, he concluded that Stilicho meant to become ruler of the empire, and he murdered the only man who could have protected it.
This was Alaric's opportunity, and he marched straight up to the walls of Rome, shut off food from the city, and commanded it to surrender. The luxurious Romans were indignant that a mere barbarian should think of conquering their city. Even after they were weakened by famine and pestilence, they told Alaric that if he would give them generous terms of surrender, they might yield; "but if not," they said, "sound your trumpets and make ready to meet a countless multitude." Alaric laughed and retorted, "The thicker the hay, the easier it is mowed." He would leave Rome, he declared, if they would bring him all the gold and silver of the city. Finally, however, he agreed to accept 5000 pounds of gold, 30,000 pounds of silver, 4000 robes of silk, 3000 pieces of scarlet cloth, and 3000 pounds of pepper.
Only two years later, Alaric came again, and the proud Romans were ready to do whatever he commanded. This time he put the prefect of the city upon the throne; but a little later he came a third time and encamped before the walls of Rome. The trumpets blew blast after blast, and the invaders poured into the city. Alaric bade his men spare both churches and people; but the Goths killed all who opposed them, or whom they suspected of concealing their wealth. Then they went away loaded with gold and silver and silk and jewels. They were in no haste to leave Italy with its wine and oil and cattle and corn; and, moreover, Alaric was not satisfied with sacking Rome; he meant to get possession of Sicily and then make an expedition to Africa. Suddenly all these plans came to an end, for he was taken ill and died. His followers turned aside a little river from its channel, wrapped the body of their dead leader in the richest of the Roman robes, and made his grave in the river bed. They heaped around it the most splendid of their treasures, and then turned back the waters of the stream to flow over it for ever. Finally, lest the grave should become known and be robbed or treated with dishonor, they put to death the multitude of captives whom they had forced to do this work.
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou are not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen
Because thou are not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing heigh-ho! unto the green holly;
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly;
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly!
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot;
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing heigh-ho! unto the green holly;
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly;
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly!
WEEK 1 |
HEN Prince Hal came to the throne in
Therefore still bear the balance and the sword:
And I do wish your honours may increase,
Till you do live to see a son of mine
Offend you, and obey you, as I did.
So shall I live to speak my father's
Happy am I, that have a man so bold,
That dares do justice on my proper son;
And no less happy, having such a son,
That would deliver up his greatness so
Into the hands of justice.
Henry came peacefully to the throne, but he had no better right to it than his father had. There were many people who could not forget that, and it was not long before plots were formed. But Henry put down these plots, and then he thought of fighting with France.
You remember how
Henry V. made up his mind to try to win back these lands. He thought that if the plots against him became too strong, and he were driven from the throne of England, he could then still be King of France.
The eldest son of the King of France was called the Dauphin, just as the eldest son of the King of England is always called the Prince of Wales.
At this time the King of France was mad, so the Dauphin
ruled. When he heard that
"Tell the English king," he said to his messenger, "that he is too young and foolish to claim dukedoms here. It will be better for him to amuse himself at home with these balls."
Henry laughed when he received the present and sent back
And tell the pleasant prince, this mock of his
Hath turned his balls to gun stones.
Henry gathered his army and, landing in France, laid siege to the town of Harfleur. The town held out bravely for a long time, and, when at last it fell, the English army was so worn out, so many of them had been killed and wounded, that they were not strong enough to fight any more. Yet Henry did not want to return to England having only taken one French town. He resolved to march from Harfleur to Calais, and sail home from there. He would show the French that the English were not afraid of them.
So the army left Harfleur and, day after day, ragged, hungry, and worn, they marched along the weary way towards Calais. Day after day passed, but no French soldiers ever came in sight, till one evening, when they had gone about half the long journey, the enemy appeared. Even then, weary and worn though the English were, the French did not think themselves strong enough to attack, and fell back before them. But about forty miles from Calais Henry found the French army right across his path. If Calais was to be reached, the French must be beaten. And Calais had to be reached, as it was the only way home, and Henry's men were utterly weary and almost starving.
On the morning of the battle, Henry rode along the lines, cheering his poor tired soldiers. He had a gold crown upon his helmet, and the coat which he wore over his armour was embroidered with the leopards of England and the lilies of France, for already he called himself King of France and England.
As Henry rode along he heard one of his nobles say, "I would that some of the thousands of warriors, who lie idle this day in England, were here to aid us."
"Nay, replied the King, "I would not have one man more. If we win, the greater is the glory God gives to us. If we die, the less is the loss to England."
When Henry had ridden all along the lines, he got off his horse and took his place among his soldiers, with the royal standard waving over him.
The fight began, and a terrible fight it was. It seemed as if it were the story of Crecy and Poitiers over again. The French had an army ten times greater than that of the English; many of the English, too, were sick and ill, weary, ragged and half fed, and yet they won the battle.
When it was over, Henry, riding across the field, met one of the French heralds. "To whom does the victory belong?" he asked.
"To you, sire," replied the man.
"Nay," said the King, "but to God. We English made not this great slaughter. What fortress is that?" he added, "for it is fitting that the battle should have a name."
"That is the castle of Agincourt, sire," replied the herald.
"Then Agincourt shall this battle be called," said Henry. And by that name we know it.
This was one of the greatest battles ever fought between the French and English but, although the English won, the army was too worn out to do more, and so they went home to England.
But Henry soon gathered another army, and returned to France. There was more fighting till at last, five years later, peace was made, and Henry married Catherine, the daughter of the French king.
It was arranged that King Charles who, you remember, was mad, should keep the title of king while he lived, but that Henry should rule, and that when Charles died, Henry should be King of France.
But about two years after this, Henry himself died. He was only thirty-four and had reigned but ten years. He was a wise king and ruled well, yet his great battles are what we hear most of in his reign, and they brought suffering and sorrow to many of his people. Still his people loved him, and their grief at his death was great.
Henry the fifth, too famous to live long.
England ne'er lost a king of so much worth,
England ne'er had a king until his time.
Virtue he had deserving to command:
His brandished sword did blind men with his beams:
His arms spread wider than a dragon's wings:
His sparkling eyes replete with wrathful fire
More dazzled and drove back his enemies,
Than mid-day sun fierce bent against their faces.
What should I say? his deeds exceed all speech.
He ne'er lift up his hand but conquerèd.
Y OU want no gun, no club, no game-bag, no steel trap, no snare when you go hunting the snow. Rubber boots or overshoes, a good, stout stick to help you up the ridges, a pair of field-glasses and a keen eye, are all you need for this hunt,—besides, of course, the snow and the open country.
You have shoveled the first snow of the winter; you have been snowballing in it; you have coasted on it; and gone sleigh-riding over it; but unless you have gone hunting over it you have missed the rarest, best sport that the first snowfall can bring you.
Of all the days to be out in the woods, the day that follows the first snowfall is—the best? No, not the best. For there is the day in April when you go after arbutus; and there is the day in June when the turtles come out to lay in the sand; the muggy, cloudy day in August when the perch are hungry for you in the creek; the hazy Indian Summer day when the chestnuts are dropping for you in the pastures; the keen, crisp February day when the ice spreads glassy-clear and smooth for you over the mill-pond; the muddy, raw, half-thawed, half-lighted, half-drowned March day when the pussy-willows are breaking, and the first spring frogs are piping to you from the meadow. Then there is—every day, every one of the three hundred and sixty-five days, each of them best days to be out in the live world of the fields and woods.
But one of the very best days to be out in the woods is the day that follows the first winter snowfall, for that is the day when you must shoulder a good stout stick and go gunning. Gunning with a stick? Yes, with a stick, and rubber boots, and bird-glasses. Along with this outfit you might take a small jointed foot-rule with which to measure your quarry, and a notebook to carry the game home in.
It ought to be the day after the first real snow, but not if that snow happens to be a blizzard and lies deep in dry powdery drifts, for then you could hardly follow a trail if you should find one. Do not try the hunt, either, if the snow comes heavy and wet; for then the animals will stay in their dens until the snow melts, knowing, as they do, that the soft slushy stuff will soon disappear. The snow you need will lie even and smooth, an inch or two deep, and will be just damp enough to pack into tight snowballs.
If, however, the early snows are not ideal, then wait until over an old crusted snow there falls a fresh layer about an inch deep. This may prove even better hunting, for by this time in the winter the animals and birds are quite used to snow-walking, and besides, their stores of food are now running short, compelling them to venture forth whether or not they wish to go.
It was early in December that our first hunting-snow came last year. We were ready for it, waiting for it, and when the winter sun broke over the ridge, we started the hunt at the hen-yard gate, where we saw tracks in the thin, new snow that led us up the ridge, and along its narrow back, to a hollow stump. Here the hunt began in earnest; for not until that trail of close, double, nail-pointed prints went under the stump were the four small boys convinced that we were tracking a skunk and not a cat.
The creature had moved leisurely—that you could tell by the closeness of the prints. Wide-apart tracks in the snow mean hurry. Now a cat, going as slowly as this creature went, would have put down her dainty feet almost in a single line, and would have left round, cushion-marked holes in the snow, not triangular, nail-pointed prints like these. Cats do not venture into holes under stumps, either.
We had bagged our first quarry! No, no! We had not pulled that wood pussy out of his hole and put him into our game-bag. We did not want to do that. We really carried no bag; and if we had, we should not have put the wood pussy into it, for we were hunting tracks, not animals, and "bagging our quarry" meant trailing a creature to its den, or following its track till we had discovered something it had done, or what its business was, and why it was out. We were on the snow for animal facts, not pelts.
We were elated with our luck, for this stump was not five minutes by the ridge path from the hen-yard. And here, standing on the stump, we were only sixty minutes away from Boston Common by the automobile, driving no faster than the law allows. So we were hunting, not in a wilderness, but just outside our dooryard and almost within the borders of a great city.
And that is the first interesting fact of our morning hunt. No one but a lover of the woods and a careful walker on the snow would believe that here in the midst of hayfields, in sight of the smoke of city factories, so many of the original wild wood-folk still live and travel their night paths undisturbed.
Still, this is a rather rough bit of country, broken, ledgy, boulder-strewn, with swamps and woody hills that alternate with small towns and cultivated fields for many miles around.
Here the animals are still at home, as this hole of the skunk's under the stump proved. But there was more proof. As we topped the ridge on the trail of the skunk, we crossed another trail, made up of bunches of four prints,—two long and broad, two small and roundish,—spaced about a yard apart.
A hundred times, the winter before, we had tried that trail in the hope of finding the form or the burrow of its maker; but it crossed and turned and doubled, and always led us into a tangle, out of which we never got a clue. It was the track of the great northern hare, as we knew, and we were relieved to see the strong prints of our cunning neighbor again; for, what with the foxes and the hunters, we were afraid it might have fared ill with him. But here he was, with four good legs under him; and, after bagging our skunk, we returned to pick up the hare's trail, to try our luck once more.
We followed his long, leisurely leaps down the ridge, out into our mowing-field, and over to the birches below the house. Here he had capered about in the snow, had stood up on his haunches and gnawed the bark from off a green oak sucker two and a half feet from the ground. This, doubtless, was pretty near his length, stretched out—an interesting item; not exact to the inch, perhaps, but close enough for us; for who would care to kill him in order to measure him with scientific accuracy?
Nor was this all; for up the footpath through the birches came the marks of two dogs. They joined the marks of the hare. And then, back along the edge of the woods to the bushy ridge, we saw a pretty race.
It was all in our imaginations, all done for us by those long-flinging footprints in the snow. But we saw it all—the white hare, the yelling hounds, nip and tuck, in a burst of speed across the open field which must have left a gap in the wind behind.
It had all come as a surprise. The hounds had climbed the hill on the scent of a fox, and had started the hare unexpectedly. Off he had gone with a jump. But just such a jump of fear is what a hare's magnificent legs were intended for.
Those legs carried him a clear twelve feet in some of the longest leaps for the ridge; and they carried him to safety, so far as we could read the snow. In the medley of hare-and-hound tracks on the ridge there was no sign of a tragedy. He had escaped again—but how and where we have still to learn.
We had bagged our hare,—yet we have him still to bag,—and taking up the trail of one of the dogs, we continued our hunt. One of the joys of this snow-hunting is having a definite road or trail blazed for you by knowing, purposeful wild-animal feet.
You do not have to blunder ahead, breaking your way into this wilderness world, trusting luck to bring you somewhere. The wild animal or the dog goes this way, and not that, for a reason. You are watching that reason all along; you are pack-fellow to the hound; you hunt with him.
Here the hound had thrust his muzzle into a snowcapped pile of slashings, had gone clear round the pile, then continued on his way. But we stopped; for out of the pile, in a single, direct line, ran a number of mouse prints, going and coming. A dozen white-footed mice might have traveled that road since the day before, when the snow had ceased falling.
We entered the tiny road, for in this kind of hunting a mouse is as good as a mink, and found ourselves descending the woods toward the garden patch below. Halfway down we came to a great red oak, into a hole at the base of which, as into the portal of some mighty castle, ran the road of the mice. That was the end of it. There was not a single straying footprint beyond the tree.
I reached in as far as my arm would go, and drew out a fistful of pop-corn cobs. So here was part of my scanty crop! I pushed in again, and gathered up a bunch of chestnut shells, hickory-nuts and several neatly rifled hazelnuts. This was story enough. There must be a family of mice living under the slashing-pile, who for some good reason kept their stores here in the recesses of this ancient red oak. Or was this some squirrel's barn being pilfered by the mice, as my barn is the year round? It was not all plain. But this question, this constant riddle of the woods, is part of our constant joy in the woods. Life is always new, and always strange, and always fascinating.
It has all been studied and classified according to species. Any one knowing the woods at all, would know that these were mouse tracks, would even know that they were the tracks of the white-footed mouse, and not the tracks of the jumping mouse, the house mouse, or the meadow mouse. But what is the whole small story of these prints? What purpose, what intention, what feeling, do they spell? What and why?—a hundred times!
So it is not the bare tracks that we are hunting; it is the meaning of the tracks—where they are going, and what they are going for. Burns saw a little mouse run across the furrows as he was plowing and wrote a poem about it. So could we write a poem if we like Burns would stop to think what the running of these little mice across the snow might mean. The woods and fields, summer and winter, are full of poems that might be written if we only knew just all that the tiny snow-prints of a wood mouse mean, or understood just what, "root and all, and all in all," the humblest flower is.
The pop-corn cobs, however, we did understand; they told a plain story; and, falling in with a gray squirrel's track not far from the red oak, we went on, our burdenless game-bag heavier, our hearts lighter that we, by the sweat of our brows, had contributed a few ears of corn to the comfort of this snowy winter world.
The squirrel's track wound up and down the hillside, wove in and out and round and round, hitting every possible tree, as if the only road for a squirrel was one that looped and doubled, and tied up every stump, and zigzagged into every tree trunk in the woods.
But all this maze was no ordinary journey. He had not run this coil of a road for breakfast, because a squirrel, when he travels, say for distant nuts, goes as directly as you go to your school or office; only he goes not by streets, but by trees, never crossing more of the open in a single rush than the space between him and the nearest tree that will take him on his way.
What interested us here in the woods was the fact that a second series of tracks, just like the first, except that they were only about half as large, dogged the larger tracks persistently, leaping tree for tree, and landing track for track with astonishing accuracy—tracks which, had they not been evidently those of a smaller squirrel, would have read to us most menacingly.
As this was the mating season for squirrels, I suggested that it might have been a kind of Atalanta's race here in the woods. But why did so little a squirrel want to mate with one so large? They would not look well together, was the answer of the small boys. They thought it much more likely that Father Squirrel had been playing wood-tag with one of his children.
Then, suddenly, as sometimes happens in the woods, the true meaning of the signs was fairly hurled at us, for down the hill, squealing and panting, rushed a full-sized gray squirrel, with a red squirrel like a shadow, like a weasel, at his heels.
For just an instant I thought it was a weasel, so swift and silent and gliding were its movements, so set and cruel seemed its expression, so sure, so inevitable, its victory.
Whether it ever caught the gray squirrel or not, and what it would have done had it caught the big fellow, I do not know. But I have seen the chase often—the gray squirrel nearly exhausted with fright and fatigue, the red squirrel hard after him. They tore round and round us, then up over the hill, and disappeared.
One of the rarest prints for most snow-hunters nowadays, but one of the commonest hereabouts, is the quick, sharp track of the fox. In the spring particularly, when my fancy young chickens are turned out to pasture, I have spells of fearing that the fox will never be exterminated here in this untillable but beautiful chicken country. In the winter, however, when I see Reynard's trail across my lawn, when I hear the music of the baying hounds and catch a glimpse of the white-tipped brush swinging serenely in advance of the coming pack, I cannot but admire the capable, cunning rascal, cannot but be glad for him, and marvel at him, so resourceful, so superior to his almost impossible conditions, his almost numberless foes.
We started across the meadow on his trail, but found it leading so straightaway for the ledges, and so continuously blotted out by the passing of the pack, that, striking the wallowy path of a muskrat in the middle of the meadow, we took up the new scent to see what the shuffling, cowering water-rat wanted from across the snow.
A man is known by the company he keeps, by the way he wears his hat, by the manner of his laugh; and among the wild animals nothing tells more of character than their manner of moving. You can read animal character as easily in the snow as you can read act and direction.
The timidity, the indecision, the lack of purpose, the restless, meaningless curiosity of this muskrat were evident from the first in the starting, stopping, returning, going-on track he had plowed out in the thin snow.
He did not know where he was going or what he was going for; he knew only that he insisted upon going back, but all the while kept going on; that he wanted to go to the right or to the left, yet kept moving straight ahead.
We came to a big wallow in the snow, where, in sudden fear, he had had a fit at the thought of something that might not have happened to him had he stayed at home. Every foot of the trail read, "He would if he could; if he couldn't, how could he?"
We followed him on, across a dozen other trails, for it is not every winter night that the muskrat's feet get the better of his head, and, willy-nilly, take him abroad. Strange and fatal weakness! He goes and cannot stop.
Along the stone wall of the meadow we tracked him, across the highroad, over our garden, into the orchard, up the woody hill to the yard, back down the hill to the orchard, out into the garden, and back toward the orchard again; and here, on a knoll just at the edge of the scanty, skeleton shadow where the sunlight fell through the trees, we lost him.
Two mighty wings, we saw, had touched the snow lightly here, and the lumbering trail had vanished as into the air.
Close and mysterious the shadowy silent wings hang poised indoors and out. Laughter and tears are companions. Life begins, but death sometimes ends the trail. Yet the sum of life, outdoors and in, is peace, gladness, and fulfillment.
Have you ever heard the wind go "Yooooo"?
'Tis a pitiful sound to hear!
It seems to chill you through and through
With a strange and speechless fear.
'T is the voice of the night that broods outside
When folks should be asleep,
And many and many 's the time I 've cried
To the darkness brooding far and wide
Over the land and the deep:
"Whom do you want, O lonely night,
That you wail the long hours through?"
And the night would say in its ghostly way:
My mother told me long ago
(When I was a little tad)
That when the night went wailing so,
Somebody had been bad;
And then, when I was snug in bed,
Whither I had been sent,
With blankets pulled up 'round my head,
I'd think of what my mother'd said,
And wonder what boy she meant!
And "Who's been bad to-day?" I'd ask
Of the wind that hoarsely blew,
And the voice would say in its meaningful way:
That this was true I must allow—
You 'll not believe it, though!
Yes, though I 'm quite a model now,
I was not always so.
And if you doubt what things I say,
Suppose you make the test;
Suppose, when you 've been bad some day
And up to bed are sent away
From mother and the rest—
Suppose you ask, "Who has been bad?"
And then you 'll hear what 's true;
For the wind will moan in its ruefulest tone:
WEEK 1 |
NE evening, at twilight, they were assembled in a group,
all six of them. Uncle Paul was reading in a large book. He
always reads to rest himself from his labors, finding that
after work nothing refreshes so much as communion with a
book that teaches us the best that others have done, said,
and thought. He has in his room, well arranged on pine
shelves, books of all kinds. There are large and small ones,
with and without pictures, bound and unbound, and even
Uncle Paul is an excellent, God-fearing man, obliging to every one, and, as "good as bread." The village has the greatest esteem for him, so much so that they call him Maître Paul, on account of his learning, which is at the service of all.
To help him in his field work—for I must tell you that
Uncle Paul knows how to handle a plow as well as a book, and
cultivates his little estate with success—he has Jacques,
the old husband of old Ambroisine. Mother Ambroisine has the
care of the house, Jacques looks after the animals and
fields. They are better than two servants; they are two
friends in whom Uncle Paul has every confidence. They saw
Paul born and have been in the house a long, long time. How
often has Jacques made whistles from the bark of a willow
to console little Paul when he was unhappy! How many
times Ambroisine, to encourage him to go to school without
crying, has put a hard-boiled
Uncle Paul has no family, he is alone; yet he is never happier than when with children, children who chatter, who ask this, that, and the other, with the adorable ingenuousness of an awakening mind. He has prevailed upon his brother to let his children spend a part of the year with their uncle. There are three: Emile, Jules, and Claire.
Claire is the oldest. When the first cherries come she will be twelve years old. Little Claire is industrious, obedient, gentle, a little timid, but not in the least vain. She knits stockings, hems handkerchiefs, studies her lessons, without thinking of what dress she shall wear Sunday. When her uncle, or Mother Ambroisine, who is almost a mother to her, tells her to do a certain thing, she does it at once, even with pleasure, happy in being able to render some little service. It is a very good quality.
Jules is two years younger. He is a rather thin little body, lively, all fire and flame. When he is preoccupied about something, he does not sleep. He has an insatiable appetite for knowledge. Everything interests and takes possession of him. An ant drawing a straw, a sparrow chirping on the roof, are sufficient to engross his attention. He then turns to his uncle with his interminable questions: Why is this? Why is that? His uncle has great faith in this curiosity, which, properly guided, may lead to good results. But there is one thing about Jules that his uncle does not like. As we must be honest, we will own that Jules has a little fault which would become a grave one if not guarded against: he has a temper. If he is opposed he cries, gets angry, makes big eyes, and spitefully throws away his cap. But it is like the boiling over of milk soup: a trifle will calm him. Uncle Paul hopes to be able to bring him round by gentle reprimands, for Jules has a good heart.
Emile, the youngest of the three, is a complete madcap; his
age permits it. If any one gets a face smeared with berries,
a bump on the forehead, or a thorn in the finger, it is sure
to be he. As much as Jules and Claire enjoy a new book, he
enjoys a visit to his box of playthings. And what has he not
in the way of playthings? Now it is a
WAY, way in the far north, in the land of ice and snow, dwelt the Norsemen or Northmen. A bold, daring race, they knew no fear. They plowed the mighty waves of the sea in their small open vessels and made war on the strongest nations, with no thought of the dangers that they faced.
The Northmen had blue eyes and golden hair. They were so tall and powerfully built that when they went into battle they seemed almost like an army of giants. Imagine how they must have looked in their coats of mail, sharp swords hanging from their belts, and on their heads helmets of iron or steel. The sides of these helmets were adorned with wings, and between the wings was an image of some fierce-looking animal. Is it to be wondered that these Northmen were the most dreaded of fighters?
On the sea they were the bravest of sailors. Their ships were small and open, only about fifty feet long, but strongly built and seaworthy. They were low in the center, curving up toward the stern and the bow; and on the bow was carved either a dragon or a sea monster. They carried terror—these little vessels—to the people who watched their ugly bows plunging slowly through the waves and coming toward their shores.
Even France learned to dread the daring ventures of these Northmen or Vikings. There seemed no limit to what they would attempt. One of their leaders, called Rollo, forced from the French king a province on the northern coast of France. Rollo named it Normandy, and his descendants have lived there ever since.
Nor was France the only land which the Northmen molested. Even before Rollo seized his French province, his countrymen had raided the English coast. But these Vikings were not so lucky as Rollo. Although they conquered large districts north of the Thames River, they were soon driven away by England's good King Alfred.
And, strange as it may seem, these bold sailors were the first white men to visit the coasts of the great continent which lay across the sea, as yet undreamed of by any European race.
It happened in this way. Out to the west of the Northmen's land lay the island of Iceland. Here the Northmen planted a flourishing colony of happy, prosperous people. And here dwelt Eric the Red and his family.
This Eric the Red was as brave and fierce a warrior as ever lived, with a temper hard to control. Once upon a time he fell out with a neighbor, and in his anger killed the man. Such actions would not do, even in the Northmen's republic; so Eric the Red was banished from Iceland, as was just and right.
Soon a little Norse ship was plowing the angry waves of the Atlantic Ocean under the command of the exiled Eric. He was determined to seek his fortune in some new land, and daringly headed his vessel for the west, not knowing what lay before him.
Finally one day the outlines of a rough, forbidding coast came in sight. "This country, bleak as it is, may answer our purpose," reasoned Eric. So for three years he and his followers explored the shores of the land they had found.
At last they chose the pleasantest place they had seen, and there decided to make their home. Eric the Red named the new country Greenland; for, as he wisely said, "It is well to give it a pleasing name, you know, if we want others to be tempted to join us here."
This was just what Eric did want. He wanted to found a
colony in Greenland. So he returned to Iceland and told
the people wonderful tales about the beautiful land he
had discovered. His stories so appealed to the
adventurous spirit of his people that, when he set sail
from Iceland the second time,
Among Eric's colonists there was a certain man who had a devoted but roving son, named Biarni. After having made a long voyage this son went back to Iceland, full of enthusiasm in the thought of seeing his father again. Picture his disappointment on reaching his old home and being told that his father had moved to the new colony in Greenland!
But Biarni was not to be cheated out of his great desire and at once set sail for Greenland. He had scarcely left Iceland when a terrible storm arose, and the winds blew his vessel toward the south. For days and days he sailed on without knowing where he was. Then he came in sight of a thickly wooded land very different from what he had heard Greenland to be. His sailors wished to go ashore, but Biarni said, "No, I shall not rest until I have seen my father, who is with Eric the Red."
So they turned the ship northward and sailed until at last they reached Greenland. Little did Biarni suspect that he had seen a new world!
Biarni naturally talked of the strange lands he had seen on his trip to Greenland. He told the colonists about them; and later, when he went to Norway, he told about them there.
What Biarni reported in Norway of these lands reached the ears of Eric the Red's eldest son, Leif, who lived in Norway at the time. Leif found Biarni's tales so interesting that he determined to go himself to see the new country.
First, Leif went to Greenland and there made ready for his voyage of discovery. Then he and his sailors set sail for the south. Many days passed before they saw land. Early one morning the eager cry of "Land! land!" was raised; and great was the excitement when they saw before them a low, sandy coast covered with fine forests.
"This land shall be called Markland," said Leif. "It must be the land that Biarni saw. Let us go ashore."
The Northmen did not remain any length of time in
Markland, but sailed on till they came to a river that
flowed into a channel. They sailed slowly up the river
and soon came to a lake. Here they cast anchor. Some of
the men went ashore and explored the
Explorations were cautiously made, but no inhabitants were to be seen. One night one of the men who had wandered off failed to come back. A party was sent out to find him. They became more and more anxious. After searching a long time, they came upon their lost comrade; and to their surprise, he was in a state of happy excitement.
Where had he been and what had happened? Everyone wanted to know. The man replied that he had been for a ramble and, wonderful to tell, had discovered countless vines loaded with grapes; and if the others had been Germans, as he was, and had been brought up in the land of luscious grapes, they would understand his joy.
The Northmen had never seen or tasted grapes before, but you can imagine that they soon shared with the German sailor his love for them. On account of the vines, Leif named the land Vinland.
All this was in the year 1000. When the next spring
came, the Northmen went home to Greenland,
their ship filled with
timber and dried grapes.
Leif received the name of
THE voyage of Leif the Lucky greatly impressed the Greenland colonists. So much so, in fact, that Leif's brother, Thorvald, became very enthusiastic over the wonders of Vinland; and in the year 1002 he and thirty companions set sail in Leif's ship.
They soon arrived at Vinland and, finding Leif's huts, spent two winters there. Early in the second spring they sailed farther south. In coasting thus, the explorers came upon a beautiful land covered with woods. All went ashore. On seeing how attractive the place was, Thorvald said, "I should like to build myself a home here."
Up to this time the Northmen had met no inhabitants; but, as they were wandering along the sands, they came upon three canoes turned bottom upward. They lifted these. Hidden under each canoe was a man. The Northmen killed two of the men, but the third escaped. Then being weary, Thorvald and his companions foolishly lay on the beach and went to sleep.
Suddenly, and without warning, one of his men cried out, "Arise, Thorvald! Tarry no longer, but haste to your ship! Arise, Thorvald!"
The men sprang to their feet and saw the woods alive
with fierce natives who had come to avenge the death of
their comrades. The Northmen ran to their boats and
rowed swiftly to the ship. A few
But a sad thing had happened. A swift arrow had struck Thorvald and wounded him mortally. All the men gathered sorrowfully around their chief. Realizing that he was dying, Thorvald said to them, "Bury me here on these shores, the place where I have said I should like to build myself a home. Return to Greenland." They buried him as he had directed, and placed two crosses on his grave. Then they went back to Greenland with their sad tale.
Not long after Thorvald's death, there came to Greenland from Iceland a handsome, wealthy, and most energetic young man. His name was Karlsefin. He married a beautiful young woman; and together they hit upon the plan of trying to found a colony in Vinland. Others gladly promised to go with them; and in the spring the expedition set sail with all that was necessary to start their colony, even to the cattle to supply milk.
In due time the colonists reached Vinland, and there still stood Leif's huts to offer them a shelter. A little fishing and hunting showed that fish and game were plentiful, and that it would be easy enough to get food in their new home.
For a year the settlers had things their own way. Then the natives began to pay them visits. Of course these natives were really what we call Indians, but the colonists called them Skraelings, meaning "inferior people."
The first time the Skraelings came was early one
morning. Some of the Northmen saw them approaching in
canoes. They were
Then suddenly one day a great number of natives appeared in their canoes. They had come to trade with the Northmen. They proved to be especially fond of the red cloth that the Northmen had. In exchange for it the Skraelings gave skins of animals.
The Skraelings continued to come in such great numbers that the Northmen were soon short of red cloth, so Karlsefin divided what they had into narrow strips. Some were not more than an inch in width, but the natives gave as much for these narrow strips as they had given for the wider.
After a while something happened which changed this peaceful relation between the Northmen and the Skraelings. Karlsefin had a bull. Now, it is difficult to see how a bull could bring on a war, but that is what this bull did. Once when the Indians were trading with the settlers, it ran, loudly bellowing, out of the field in which it had been kept. Terribly frightened, the natives fled to their canoes.
For fully three weeks they were not seen. When they did appear, there was no more peace for the settlers. Quarrel after quarrel with the savage Indians kept them in constant terror. They never knew when to look for an attack. At last, after many of his brave men had been killed in these fights with the Skraelings, Karlsefin decided to give up his colony and go back to Greenland.
When the disappointed settlers sailed away from Vinland, just ten years had gone by since Leif's discovery of this beautiful country—his land of grapes, which most likely lay somewhere on the New England coast.
Still later, other expeditions came to its shores; but before long the Norsemen lost their interest in the new world. All trace of the white man's visits gradually faded away, and once more the Skraelings held full sway.
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
WEEK 1 |
ETWEEN the far away past history of the world, and that which lies near to us; in the time when the wisdom of the ancient times was dead and had passed away, and our own days of light had not yet come, there lay a great black gulf in human history, a gulf of ignorance, of superstition, of cruelty, and of wickedness.
That time we call the dark or middle ages.
Few records remain to us of that dreadful period in our world's history, and we only know of it through broken and disjointed fragments that have been handed down to us through the generations.
Yet, though the world's life then was so wicked and black, there yet remained a few good men and women here and there (mostly in peaceful and quiet monasteries, far from the thunder and the glare of the world's bloody battle), who knew the right and the truth and lived according to what they knew; who preserved and tenderly cared for the truths that the dear Christ taught, and lived and died for in Palestine so long ago.
This tale that I am about to tell is of a little boy who lived and suffered in those dark middle ages; of how he saw both the good and the bad of men, and of how, by gentleness and love and not by strife and hatred, he came at last to stand above other men and to be looked up to by all. And should you follow the story to the end, I hope you may find it a pleasure, as I have done, to ramble through those dark ancient castles, to lie with little Otto and Brother John in the high belfry-tower, or to sit with them in the peaceful quiet of the sunny old monastery garden, for, of all the story, I love best those early peaceful years that little Otto spent in the dear old White Cross on the Hill.
Poor little Otto's life was a stony and a thorny pathway, and it is well for all of us nowadays that we walk it in fancy and not in truth.
P from the gray rocks, rising sheer and bald and bare, stood the walls and towers of Castle Drachenhausen. A great gate-way, with a heavy iron-pointed portcullis hanging suspended in the dim arch above, yawned blackly upon the bascule or falling drawbridge that spanned a chasm between the blank stone walls and the roadway that ran winding down the steep rocky slope to the little valley just beneath. There in the lap of the hills around stood clustered the wretched straw-thatched huts of the peasants belonging to the castle—miserable serfs who, half timid, half fierce, tilled their poor patches of ground, wrenching from the hard soil barely enough to keep body and soul together. Among those vile hovels played the little children like foxes about their dens, their wild, fierce eyes peering out from under a mat of tangled yellow hair.
Beyond these squalid huts lay the rushing, foaming river, spanned by a high, rude, stone bridge where the road from the castle crossed it, and beyond the river stretched the great, black forest, within whose gloomy depths the savage wild beasts made their lair, and where in winter time the howling wolves coursed their flying prey across the moonlit snow and under the net-work of the black shadows from the naked boughs above.
The watchman in the cold, windy bartizan or watch-tower that clung to the gray walls above the castle gateway, looked from his narrow window, where the wind piped and hummed, across the tree-tops that rolled in endless billows of green, over hill and over valley to the blue and distant slope of the Keiserberg, where, on the mountain side, glimmered far away the walls of Castle Trutz-Drachen.
Within the massive stone walls through which the gaping gateway led, three great cheerless brick buildings, so forbidding that even the yellow sunlight could not light them into brightness, looked down, with row upon row of windows, upon three sides of the bleak, stone courtyard. Back of and above them clustered a jumble of other buildings, tower and turret, one high peaked roof overtopping another.
"There they sat, just as little children in the town might sit upon their father's door-step."
The great house in the centre was the Baron's Hall, the part to the left was called the Roderhausen; between the two stood a huge square pile, rising dizzily up into the clear air high above the rest—the great Melchior Tower.
At the top clustered a jumble of buildings hanging high aloft in the windy space; a crooked wooden belfry, a tall, narrow watch-tower, and a rude wooden house that clung partly to the roof of the great tower and partly to the walls.
From the chimney of this crazy hut a thin thread of smoke would now and then rise into the air, for there were folk living far up in that empty, airy desert, and oftentimes wild, uncouth little children were seen playing on the edge of the dizzy height, or sitting with their bare legs hanging down over the sheer depths, as they gazed below at what was going on in the court-yard. There they sat, just as little children in the town might sit upon their father's door-step; and as the sparrows might fly around the feet of the little town children, so the circling flocks of rooks and daws flew around the feet of these air-born creatures.
It was Schwartz Carl and his wife and little ones who lived far up there in the Melchior Tower, for it overlooked the top of the hill behind the castle and so down into the valley upon the further side. There, day after day, Schwartz Carl kept watch upon the gray road that ran like a ribbon through the valley, from the rich town of Gruenstadt to the rich town of Staffenburgen, where passed merchant caravans from the one to the other—for the lord of Drachenhausen was a robber baron.
Dong! Dong! The great alarm bell would suddenly ring out from the belfry high up upon the Melchior Tower. Dong! Dong! Till the rooks and daws whirled clamoring and screaming. Dong! Dong! Till the fierce wolf-hounds in the rocky kennels behind the castle stables howled dismally in answer. Dong! Dong!—Dong! Dong!
Then would follow a great noise and uproar and hurry in the castle court-yard below; men shouting and calling to one another, the ringing of armor, and the clatter of horses' hoofs upon the hard stone. With the creaking and groaning of the windlass the iron-pointed portcullis would be slowly raised, and with a clank and rattle and clash of iron chains the drawbridge would fall crashing. Then over it would thunder horse and man, clattering away down the winding, stony pathway, until the great forest would swallow them, and they would be gone.
Then for a while peace would fall upon the castle court-yard, the cock would crow, the cook would scold a lazy maid, and Gretchen, leaning out of a window, would sing a snatch of a song, just as though it were a peaceful farm-house, instead of a den of robbers.
Maybe it would be evening before the men would return once more. Perhaps one would have a bloody cloth bound about his head, perhaps one would carry his arm in a sling; perhaps one—maybe more than one—would be left behind, never to return again, and soon forgotten by all excepting some poor woman who would weep silently in the loneliness of her daily work.
Nearly always the adventurers would bring back with them pack-horses laden with bales of goods. Sometimes, besides these, they would return with a poor soul, his hands tied behind his back and his feet beneath the horse's body, his fur cloak and his flat cap woefully awry. A while he would disappear in some gloomy cell of the dungeon-keep, until an envoy would come from the town with a fat purse, when his ransom would be paid, the dungeon would disgorge him, and he would be allowed to go upon his way again.
One man always rode beside Baron Conrad in his expeditions and adventures—a short, deep-chested, broad-shouldered man, with sinewy arms so long that when he stood his hands hung nearly to his knees.
His coarse, close-clipped hair came so low upon his brow that only a strip of forehead showed between it and his bushy, black eyebrows. One eye was blind; the other twinkled and gleamed like a spark under the penthouse of his brows. Many folk said that the one-eyed Hans had drunk beer with the Hill-man, who had given him the strength of ten, for he could bend an iron spit like a hazel twig, and could lift a barrel of wine from the floor to his head as easily as though it were a basket of eggs.
As for the one-eyed Hans he never said that he had not drunk beer with the Hill-man, for he liked the credit that such reports gave him with the other folk. And so, like a half savage mastiff, faithful to death to his master, but to him alone, he went his sullen way and lived his sullen life within the castle walls, half respected, half feared by the other inmates, for it was dangerous trifling with the one-eyed Hans.
A MONKEY lived in a great tree on a river bank.
In the river there were many Crocodiles. A Crocodile watched the Monkeys for a long time, and one day she said to her son: "My son, get one of those Monkeys for me. I want the heart of a Monkey to eat."
"How am I to catch a Monkey?" asked the little Crocodile. "I do not travel on land, and the Monkey does not go into the water."
"Put your wits to work, and you'll find a way," said the mother.
And the little Crocodile thought and thought.
At last he said to himself: "I know what I'll do. I'll get that Monkey that lives in a big tree on the river bank. He wishes to go across the river to the island where the fruit is so ripe."
So the Crocodile swam to the tree where the Monkey lived. But he was a stupid Crocodile.
"Oh, Monkey," he called, "come with me over to the island where the fruit is so ripe."
"How can I go with you?" asked the Monkey. "I do not swim."
"No—but I do. I will take you over on my back," said the Crocodile.
The Monkey was greedy, and wanted the ripe fruit, so he jumped down on the Crocodile's back.
"Off we go!" said the Crocodile.
"This is a fine ride you are giving me!" said the Monkey.
"Do you think so? Well, how do you like this?" asked the Crocodile, diving.
"Oh, don't!" cried the Monkey, as he went under the water. He was afraid to let go, and he did not know what to do under the water.
When the Crocodile came up, the Monkey sputtered and choked. "Why did you take me under water, Crocodile?" he asked.
"I am going to kill you by keeping you under water," answered the Crocodile. "My mother wants Monkey-heart to eat, and I'm going to take yours to her."
"Why did you take me under water, Crocodile?" he asked.
"I wish you had told me you wanted my heart," said the Monkey, "then I might have brought it with me."
"How queer!" said the stupid Crocodile. "Do you mean to say that you left your heart back there in the tree?"
"That is what I mean," said the Monkey. "If you want my heart, we must go back to the tree and get it. But we are so near the island where the ripe fruit is, please take me there first."
"No, Monkey," said the Crocodile, "I'll take you straight back to your tree. Never mind the ripe fruit. Get your heart and bring it to me at once. Then we'll see about going to the island."
"Very well," said the Monkey.
But no sooner had he jumped onto the bank of the river than—whisk! up he ran into the tree.
From the topmost branches he called down to the Crocodile in the water below:
"My heart is way up here! If you want it, come for it, come for it!"
T HE Monkey soon moved away from that tree.
He wanted to get away from the Crocodile, so that he might live in peace.
But the Crocodile found him, far down the river, living in another tree.
In the middle of the river was an island covered with fruit-trees.
Half-way between the bank of the river and the island, a large rock rose out of the water. The Monkey could jump to the rock, and then to the island. The Crocodile watched the Monkey crossing from the bank of the river to the rock, and then to the island.
He thought to himself, "The Monkey will stay on the island all day, and I'll catch him on his way home at night."
The Monkey had a fine feast, while the Crocodile swam about, watching him all day.
Toward night the Crocodile crawled out of the water and lay on the rock, perfectly still.
When it grew dark among the trees, the Monkey started for home. He ran down to the river bank, and there he stopped.
"What is the matter with the rock?" the Monkey thought to himself. "I never saw it so high before. The Crocodile is lying on it!"
But he went to the edge of the water and called: "Hello, Rock!"
Then he called again: "Hello, Rock!"
Three times the Monkey called, and then he said:
"Why is it, Friend Rock, that you do not answer me
"Oh," said the stupid Crocodile to himself, "the rock answers the Monkey at night. I'll have to answer for the rock this time."
So he answered: "Yes, Monkey! What is it?"
The Monkey laughed, and said: "Oh, it's you, Crocodile, is it?"
"Yes," said the Crocodile. "I am waiting here for you. I am going to eat you."
"You have caught me in a trap this time," said the Monkey. "There is no other way for me to go home. Open your mouth wide so I can jump right into it."
The Monkey jumped.
Now the Monkey well knew that when Crocodiles open their mouths wide, they shut their eyes.
While the Crocodile lay on the rock with his mouth wide open and his eyes shut, the Monkey jumped.
But not into his mouth! Oh, no! He landed on the top of the Crocodile's head, and then sprang quickly to the bank. Up he whisked into his tree.
When the Crocodile saw the trick the Monkey had played on him, he said: "Monkey, you have great cunning. You know no fear. I'll let you alone after this."
"Thank you, Crocodile, but I shall be on the watch for you just the same," said the Monkey.
I had for my winter evening walk—
No one at all with whom to talk,
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.
And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sound of a violin;
I had a glimpse through curtain laces
Of youthful forms and youthful faces.
I had such company outward bound.
I went till there were no cottages found.
I turned and repented, but coming back
I saw no window but that was black.
Over the snow my creaking feet
Disturbed the slumbering village street
Like profanation, by your leave,
At ten o'clock of a winter eve.
WEEK 1 |
"Calm as an under-current, strong to draw
Millions of waves into itself and run
From sea to sea, impervious to the sun
And ploughing storm, the spirit of Nassau
—Wordsworth, William III.
W ILLIAM and Mary were living peaceably at The Hague when Charles II. died in 1685, leaving no children. He was succeeded by his brother James, a Roman Catholic. The next heir to the English throne was Mary, William's wife. England was considering the matter of succession when a son was born to James, an unfortunate little prince, destined to seventy-seven years of wandering and exile, and known to history as the Old Pretender. His birth brought matters to a crisis. He was sure to be brought up as a Roman Catholic like his father, and England wanted a Protestant ruler.
So an invitation was written and secretly conveyed to The Hague begging William to come over to England with an army and restore the Protestant religion. The Prince of Orange accepted the invitation. Though he must fight against his own father-in-law, there were larger questions at stake than mere family ties. A camp was formed at once. Soldiers and sailors were raised. The gunmakers of Utrecht worked at pistols and muskets by day and night, the saddlers at Amsterdam toiled at harness, the docks were busy with shipping. And ever and anon a light swift skiff sped between the Dutch and English coasts. It was an anxious time. The Prince maintained an icy calmness, but to his friend he wrote openly: "My sufferings, my disquiet, are dreadful. I hardly see my way. Never in my life did I feel so much the need of God's guidance."
By the autumn of 1688 all was ready. He said good-bye to the States-General, alone standing calm amid his weeping friends.
"I am now leaving you, perhaps never to return," he told them. "If I should fall in defence of my religion, take care of my beloved wife."
Though beaten back on his first venture by a violent storm, William set sail with his 600 ships, accompanied by fifty men-of-war, for the shores of England. As the Dutch fleet passed the narrow Straits of Dover the flourish of trumpets, the clash of cymbals, and the rolling of the drums was heard on either shore. As night drew on the watchers on the southern coast beheld the sea in a blaze of light, through which three huge lanterns flamed from the leading ship, which bore to England William, Prince of Orange.
Meanwhile the news that his son-in-law had landed at Torbay reached James, who was already preparing to oppose him. He had a splendid army, but he could not depend on his men. Soon they began to desert him and flock to the standard of William, until at last he fled to London in despair, only to hear that his daughter Anne had fled secretly.
"God help me!" cried the wretched king, "for my own children have forsaken me."
His spirit was broken now. Nothing was left him but flight. He arranged for the safety of his wife and child, declaring he himself would stick to his post. It was a December night. The king and queen went to bed as usual. When all was quiet James called to his side a faithful French friend to whom he had confided his secret.
"I confide to you my queen and my son. You must risk everything to carry them to France," he said.
It was a bitter night in December. Wrapping his own cloak round the ill-fated baby of seven months old, and giving his hand to the weeping queen, the Frenchman took them down the back- stairs and placed them in an open boat on the Thames. The rain was falling in torrents, the wind roared, the water was rough, but the little party of fugitives escaped to a ship and set sail with a fair wind for France.
The next day the king rose at three in the morning, and taking the Great Seal of State, he disappeared down a secret passage, crossed the Thames, and flinging the Great Seal into the midst of the stream, he attempted to follow his wife and child to France. He was captured and brought back to London; but William had no wish to have his royal father-in-law on his hands, and James, the fugitive king, was allowed to embark for France.
Then, amid the peal of bells, the blast of trumpets, and the joyous shouts of the citizens, William and Mary were proclaimed King and Queen of England.
The great Revolution was over.
But James had no intention of giving up his kingdom so quietly. By the help of Louis XIV. he raised an army and sailed over to assert his rights in Ireland.
NCE there was another Sun and another Moon; a different Sun and a different Moon from the ones we see now. Sol was the name of that Sun and Mani was the name of that Moon. But always behind Sol and Mani wolves went, a wolf behind each. The wolves caught on them at last and they devoured Sol and Mani. And then the world was in darkness and cold.
In those times the Gods lived, Odin and Thor, Hödur and Baldur, Tyr and Heimdall, Vidar and Vali, as well as Loki, the doer of good and the doer of evil. And the beautiful Goddesses were living then, Frigga, Freya, Nanna, Iduna, and Sif. But in the days when the Sun and Moon were destroyed, the Gods were destroyed too—all the Gods except Baldur who had died before that time, Vidar and Vali, the sons of Odin, and Modi and Magni, the sons of Thor.
At that time, too, there were men and women in the world. But before the Sun and the Moon were destroyed, terrible things happened in the world. Snow fell on the four corners of the earth and kept on falling for three seasons. Winds came and blew everything away. And the people of the world who had lived on in spite of the snow and the cold and the winds fought each other, brother killing brother, until all the people were destroyed.
Also there was another earth at that time, an earth green and beautiful. But the terrible winds that blew leveled down forests and hills and dwellings. Then fire came and burnt the earth. There was darkness, for the Sun and the Moon were devoured. The Gods had met with their doom. And the time in which all these things happened was called Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods.
Then a new Sun and a new Moon appeared and were travelling through the heavens; they were more lovely than Sol and Mani, and no wolves followed behind them in chase. The earth became green and beautiful again, and in a deep forest that the fire had not burnt a woman and a man wakened up. They had been hidden there by Odin and left to sleep during Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods.
Lif was the woman's name, and Lifthrasir was the man's. They moved through the world, and their children and their children's children made people for the new earth. And of the gods were left Vidar and Vali, the sons of Odin, and Modi and Magni, the sons of Thor; on the new earth Vidar and Vali found tablets that the older Gods had written on and had left there for them, tablets telling of all that had happened before Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods.
And the people who lived after Ragnarök, the Twilight of the Gods, were not troubled, as the people in the older days were troubled, by the terrible beings who had brought destruction upon the world and upon men and women, and who from the beginning had waged war upon the Gods.
He prayeth well who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.
He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
WEEK 1 |
I N the sea, once upon a time, O my Best Beloved, there was a Whale, and he ate fishes. He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel, and the really truly twirly-whirly eel. All the fishes he could find in all the sea he ate with his mouth—so! Till at last there was only one small fish left in all the sea, and he was a small 'Stute Fish, and he swam a little behind the Whale's right ear, so as to be out of harm's way. Then the Whale stood up on his tail and said, "I'm hungry." And the small 'Stute Fish said in a small 'stute voice, "Noble and generous Cetacean, have you ever tasted Man?"
"No," said the Whale. "What is it like?"
"Nice," said the small 'Stute Fish. "Nice but nubbly."
"Then fetch me some," said the Whale, and he made the sea froth up with his tail.
"One at a time is enough," said the 'Stute Fish. "If you swim to latitude Fifty North, longitude Forty West (that is magic), you will find, sitting on a raft, in the middle of the sea, with nothing on but a pair of blue canvas breeches, a pair of suspenders (you must not forget the suspenders, Best Beloved), and a jack-knife, one ship-wrecked Mariner, who, it is only fair to tell you, is a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity."
So the Whale swam and swam to latitude Fifty North, longitude Forty West, as fast as he could swim, and on a raft, in the middle of the sea, with nothing to wear except a pair of blue canvas breeches, a pair of suspenders (you must particularly remember the suspenders, Best Beloved), and a jack-knife, he found one single, solitary shipwrecked Mariner, trailing his toes in the water. (He had his mummy's leave to paddle, or else he would never have done it because he was a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity.)
Then the Whale opened his mouth back and back and back till it nearly touched his tail, and he swallowed the shipwrecked Mariner, and the raft he was sitting on, and his blue canvas breeches, and the suspenders (which you must not forget), and the jack-knife—He swallowed them all down into his warm, dark, inside cupboards, and then he smacked his lips—so, and turned round three times on his tail.
But as soon as the Mariner, who was a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity, found himself truly inside the Whale's warm, dark, inside cupboards, he stumped and he jumped and he thumped and he bumped, and he pranced and he danced, and he banged and he clanged, and he hit and he bit, and he leaped and he creeped, and he prowled and he howled, and he hopped and he dropped, and he cried and he sighed, and he crawled and he bawled, and he stepped and he lepped, and he danced hornpipes where he shouldn't, and the Whale felt most unhappy indeed. (Have you forgotten the suspenders?)
So he said to the 'Stute Fish, "This man is very nubbly, and besides he is making me hiccough. What shall I do?"
"Tell him to come out," said the 'Stute Fish.
So the Whale called down his own throat to the shipwrecked Mariner, "Come out and behave yourself. I've got the hiccoughs."
"Nay, nay!" said the Mariner. "Not so, but far otherwise. Take me to my natal-shore and the white-cliffs-of-Albion, and I'll think about it." And he began to dance more than ever.
"You had better take him home," said the 'Stute Fish to the Whale. "I ought to have warned you that he is a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity."
So the Whale swam and swam and swam, with both flippers and his
tail, as hard as he could for the hiccoughs; and at last he saw
the Mariner's natal-shore and the white-cliffs-of-Albion, and
he rushed half-way up the beach, and opened his mouth wide and
wide and wide, and
said, "Change here for Winchester, Ashuelot,
Nashua, Keene, and stations
By means of a grating
I have stopped your ating.
For the Mariner he was also an
The small 'Stute Fish went and hid himself in the mud under the Door-sills of the Equator. He was afraid that the Whale might be angry with him.
The Sailor took the jack-knife home. He was wearing the blue canvas breeches when he walked out on the shingle. The suspenders were left behind, you see, to tie the grating with; and that is the end of that tale.
When the cabin port-holes are dark and green
Because of the seas outside;
When the ship goes wop (with a wiggle between)
And the steward falls into the soup-tureen,
And the trunks begin to slide;
When Nursey lies on the floor in a heap,
And Mummy tells you to let her sleep,
And you aren't waked or washed or dressed,
Why, then you will know (if you haven't guessed)
You're 'Fifty North and Forty West!'
I T is a lovely summer morning. Let us shut up our books and wander in the garden and field, in search of insects. The best way is to take a few card match-boxes with us, and drop one insect into each as we find them. Then when we get back to school, we can put them separately under tumblers.
Insects are so small that we often pass them by. But they form three-fourths of the whole animal kingdom, and they do us so much good and so much harm that we ought to know about them.
As we start I see a Cabbage Butterfly in the kitchen garden, and a beautiful Red Admiral flitting about among the flowers. We will take the Cabbage Butterfly, so that she may not lay her eggs on our cabbages.
Next stop at this rose-tree, there are a number of tiny insects, on the flower-stalks. If you look closely, you will see that each one has his beak buried in the stem, so as to suck out the juice. These are plant-lice. Each one is called an Aphis (see picture, p. 77), and in the plural they are called Aphides.
We must syringe the tree with soft soap and tobacco water, or it will soon be covered with these insects, for they increase at the rate of more than a million in a month, and they stick out all the sweet sap from the plants to which they cling. On the same tree you will very likely find a Lady-bird, for she feeds on aphides.
Now look into the flower of this old Cabbage Rose, which grows in most cottage gardens. You are almost sure to find in it a lovely Rose-beetle with green shining wings shot with gold. Take it up and look at the bright wing-cases. While you are looking, it may open these cases and spread out the transparent wings underneath; but if it flies away you can easily get another.
Now, look! At your feet runs a beetle which is not half so pretty. It is the Cocktail, or Rove Beetle (see p.36), often called the Devil's Coach-horse. As you pick him up he will cock up his tail and squirt out a very disagreeable fluid over your fingers, while he raises his head and snaps with his jaws. So drop him in his box quickly. The fact, is, he is terribly frightened, and hopes to make you set him free.
Now we will go out into the newly-mown field, and there you will see a number of small green Grasshoppers hopping about. They have been hatched under the earth-clods, and are eating the tips of the young grass. Some will have wings, but others, which are not fully grown, will have none. Pick one up and make him too a prisoner.
1. Spider 2. Centipede 3. Daddy-long-legs
Next try to find a Wasp or a Bee. You can pick it up in your handkerchief and drop it in its box. We must go down to the river to find a May-fly or a Dragon-fly, and near there we shall easily get a Daddy-long-legs. But if there is not one to be seen, a Blue-bottle or a Gnat will do.
4. and 6. Grasshoppers 5. Wasp
You will wonder that I have not asked for a Spider. You had better get one, and also a Hundred-legs or Centipede, if you can find it.
When you have put these specimens under their glasses, look carefully at them. You will find a difference between the spider, the hundred-legs and all the others. The spider has eight legs and the centipede a very great many, while all the others have only six.
Now look at the Grasshopper, the Wasp, and the Daddy-long-legs. You will see very clearly that their bodies are divided into three parts—(a) the head; (b) the front body, on which the six legs and the wings grow; (c) the hind body, which has no legs on it, even when it is very long, as in the daddy-long-legs and the May-fly. You cannot see these divisions quite so well in the beetle because its wing-cases cover the join between the front and hind body.
We had better call these three divisions by their right names—(a) head; (b) front body, or, thorax; (c) hind body, or, abdomen. It is because insects are cut into these three parts that they have their name. It comes from the Latin "inseco" (I cut into). The Spider's head is not clearly divided from its body, and a Centipede has not three divisions. For this reason, and because they have not six legs, some naturalists separate them from the true insects. This is why I did not call them insects.
Another thing you can notice well in the little green Grasshopper: his body is divided into rings (r), from his tail up to his head; and you can see the same in the wasp and the daddy-long-legs, the aphis and the cocktail beetle. All insects have ringed bodies.
It is these rings which enable the Wasp to bend her abdomen (c) when she wants to sting and to breathe. You can see, as she stands, how it keeps moving up and down all the time. This is because she is breathing. How do you think she does it? Not through her mouth as we do, but through her sides.
If you look closely at the grasshopper you will see along the sides of his body, some little black dots (h, p. 7), one in each ring. These are breathing holes, and through them the air goes in and out. They are smaller in a wasp, but they are there, and she is pumping the air in and out of there.
Now that we have put aside the spider and the centipede, those that remain are true insects. But there is a difference between the daddy-long-legs and the rest, which you must notice. This is that they all have four wings and he has only two. This would be very strange if it were not that we can find some remains of the right number. He has two little knobs (k) behind his front wings, and with these he balances himself. So he has two wings and the stumps of two more.
There is a great deal more to be learnt about these insects. But I want you to remember now that they have six legs; that their body is divided into three parts: that you can see the rings in their hind body or abdomen; that their legs and wings grow on the front body or thorax; and that they never breathe through their mouths. Also that while bees, butterflies, and beetles have four wings, flies have two wings and two stumps.
Find as many insects as you can, and notice their different parts.
"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"
"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."
"You are old," said the youth, "as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door—
Pray, what is the reason of that?"
"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his gray locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment—one shilling the box—
Allow me to sell you a couple."
"You are old," said the youth, "and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak:
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"
"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw
Has lasted the rest of my life."
"You are old," said the youth; "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose—
What made you so awfully clever?"
"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said his father, "don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you down-stairs!"
WEEK 1 |
Nehemiah viii: 1, to xiii: 31;
Malachi i: 1, to iv: 6.
HEN the wall of Jerusalem was finished, Nehemiah called together all the Jews from the villages and cities in the land to meet in Jerusalem. They met, a great company with their wives and children, in an open place before the Temple. Ezra, the good priest and scribe, who had wrought so great a work in bringing together and writing the books of the Old Testament (see Story 107), was in the city at that time. They asked Ezra to bring the book, and to read the law of the Lord to the people.
He came, carrying with him the great rolls upon which the law was written, and stood up on a pulpit which they had built, where all the people could see him; and with Ezra were men whom he had taught in the law, so that they could teach it to others.
When Ezra stood up in the pulpit, above the heads of the people, and unrolled the scroll, all the people, who had been sitting upon the ground, rose up, while Ezra gave thanks to the Lord, who had given to them his law. Then the people said "Amen!" with a loud voice, and they bowed until their heads touched the ground, and worshipped.
Then Ezra began to read in the book, aloud, so that as many as possible could hear. But as the people did not all understand the old Hebrew tongue in which the book was written, men were chosen to stand by Ezra; and as he read each sentence, these men explained it to the people, while all the people stood listening. So, as Ezra read, these men told its meaning, so that the people could understand the word of the Lord.
Ezra's great bible class.
Many of the people had never heard God's law read before, and they wept as they listened to it. But Nehemiah, who was there as the ruler, said to them, "This day is holy to the Lord; do not mourn nor weep, but rather be glad, and eat and drink, and send gifts of food to those who are in need, for you are strong in the Lord, and should be joyful."
And the Levites quieted the people, saying, "Hold your peace, for the day is holy. Do not weep, but be glad in the Lord."
And all the people went home to feast and to be glad, because they could hear and understand the words of God's law.
After this another great meeting was held, and the people confessed their sins before God, and the sins of their fathers in forsaking God's law, and in not doing his will. And all the people made a solemn promise that they would keep God's law, and would do his will; that they would be God's people, and no more give their sons to marry women who did not worship the Lord; that they would keep holy God's day, the Sabbath; and they would give to the Lord's house for all the offerings. And they wrote the promise on a roll, and all the princes and rulers and priests signed it, and placed their seals upon it.
Nehemiah had now finished the work for which he had made the long journey to Jerusalem. He went back to Shushan, and stood once more in his place, pouring the wine at the king's table. But after some years he came again to Jerusalem. He found that not all the people had fulfilled their promises to serve the Lord, and especially, that the Sabbath-day was not kept as it should be. People were treading wine-presses, and bringing into the city loads of grain, and selling wine, and grapes and figs, on the Sabbath-day. And men from the city of Tyre, beside the Great Sea, who were not worshippers of the Lord, brought in fish, and sold them on the Sabbath. When Nehemiah saw all these evils, he was greatly displeased, and said to the rulers of the city, "Why do you allow these evil things to be done, and the Sabbath-day to be broken? Were not these the very things that made God angry with our fathers, so that he let this city be destroyed? Will you bring God's anger upon us again by doing such things on God's holy day?"
Then Nehemiah gave orders that before the sun set on the evening before the Sabbath the gates of the city should be shut, and not opened until the morning after the Sabbath was over. The men came with their things to be sold, and waited outside for the gates to be opened. Nehemiah looked over the wall, and saw them, and said to them, "What are you doing here? If you come here again on the Sabbath, I will put you in prison!"
Then they went away, and came no more upon the holy day. By such strong acts as these Nehemiah led the people to a more faithful service of the Lord. And after this Jerusalem grew large and strong, and was full of people. And Jews from other lands began to come to live in the land, until it was once more filled with cities and towns; and the hills over all the land were covered with vineyards and oliveyards, and the plains were waving with fields of grain.
A little after the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, Malachi arose as the last of the prophets of the Old Testament.
"Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me. And the Lord shall suddenly come to his Temple; behold, he cometh, saith the Lord. Behold, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the great day of the Lord shall come. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers."
And with these words the Old Testament ends.
T HE house was three miles from the station, but, before the dusty hired hack had rattled along for five minutes, the children began to put their heads out of the carriage window and say, "Aren't we nearly there?" And every time they passed a house, which was not very often, they all said, "Oh, is this it?" But it never was, till they reached the very top of the hill, just past the chalk-quarry and before you come to the gravel-pit. And then there was a white house with a green garden and an orchard beyond, and mother said, "Here we are!"
"How white the house is," said Robert.
"And look at the roses," said Anthea.
"And the plums," said Jane.
"It is rather decent," Cyril admitted.
The Baby said, "Wanty go walky;" and the hack stopped with a last rattle and jolt.
Everyone got its legs kicked or its feet trodden on in the scramble to get out of the carriage that very minute, but no one seemed to mind. Mother, curiously enough, was in no hurry to get out; and even when she had come down slowly and by the step, and with no jump at all, she seemed to wish to see the boxes carried in, and even to pay the driver, instead of joining in that first glorious rush round the garden and orchard and the thorny, thistly, briery, brambly wilderness beyond the broken gate and the dry fountain at the side of the house. But the children were wiser, for once. It was not really a pretty house at all; it was quite ordinary, and mother thought it was rather inconvenient, and was quite annoyed at there being no shelves, to speak of, and hardly a cupboard in the place. Father used to say that the iron-work on the roof and coping was like an architect's nightmare. But the house was deep in the country, with no other house in sight, and the children had been in London for two years, without so much as once going to the seaside even for a day by an excursion train, and so the White House seemed to them a sort of Fairy Palace set down in an Earthly Paradise. For London is like prison for children, especially if their relations are not rich.
That first glorious rush round the garden.
Of course there are the shops and theatres, and entertainments and things, but if your people are rather poor you don't get taken to the theatres, and you can't buy things out of the shops; and London has none of those nice things that children may play with without hurting the things or themselves—such as trees and sand and woods and waters. And nearly everything in London is the wrong sort of shape—all straight lines and flat streets, instead of being all sorts of odd shapes, like things are in the country. Trees are all different, as you know, and I am sure some tiresome person must have told you that there are no two blades of grass exactly alike. But in streets, where the blades of grass don't grow, everything is like everything else. This is why many children who live in the towns are so extremely naughty. They do not know what is the matter with them, and no more do their fathers and mothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, tutors, governesses, and nurses; but I know. And so do you, now. Children in the country are naughty sometimes, too, but that is for quite different reasons.
The children had explored the gardens and the outhouses thoroughly before they were caught and cleaned for tea, and they saw quite well that they were certain to be happy at the White House. They thought so from the first moment, but when they found the back of the house covered with jasmine, all in white flower, and smelling like a bottle of the most expensive perfume that is ever given for a birthday present; and when they had seen the lawn, all green and smooth, and quite different from the brown grass in the gardens at Camden Town; and when they found the stable with a loft over it and some old hay still left, they were almost certain; and when Robert had found the broken swing and tumbled out of it and got a bump on his head the size of an egg, and Cyril had nipped his finger in the door of a hutch that seemed made to keep rabbits in, if you ever had any, they had no longer any doubts whatever.
Cyril had nipped his finger in the door of a hutch.
The best part of it all was that there were no rules about not going to places and not doing things. In London almost everything is labelled "You mustn't touch," and though the label is invisible it's just as bad, because you know it's there, or if you don't you very soon get told.
The White House was on the edge of a hill, with a wood behind it—and the chalk-quarry on one side and the gravel-pit on the other. Down at the bottom of the hill was a level plain, with queer-shaped white buildings where people burnt lime, and a big red brewery and other houses; and when the big chimneys were smoking and the sun was setting, the valley looked as if it was filled with golden mist, and the limekilns and hop-drying houses glimmered and glittered till they were like an enchanted city out of the Arabian Nights.
Now that I have begun to tell you about the place, I feel that I could go on and make this into a most interesting story about all the ordinary things that the children did,—just the kind of things you do yourself, you know, and you would believe every word of it; and when I told about the children's being tiresome, as you are sometimes, your aunts would perhaps write in the margin of the story with a pencil, "How true!" or "How like life!" and you would see it and would very likely be annoyed. So I will only tell you the really astonishing things that happened, and you may leave the book about quite safely, for no aunts and uncles either are likely to write "How true!" on the edge of the story. Grown-up people find it very difficult to believe really wonderful things, unless they have what they call proof. But children will believe almost anything, and grown-ups know this. That is why they tell you that the earth is round like an orange, when you can see perfectly well that it is flat and lumpy; and why they say that the earth goes round the sun, when you can see for yourself any day that the sun gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night like a good sun as it is, and the earth knows its place, and lies as still as a mouse. Yet I daresay you believe all that about the earth and the sun, and if so you will find it quite easy to believe that before Anthea and Cyril and the others had been a week in the country they had found a fairy. At least they called it that, because that was what it called itself; and of course it knew best, but it was not at all like any fairy you ever saw or heard of or read about.
It was at the gravel-pits. Father had to go away suddenly on business,
and mother had gone away to stay with Granny, who was not very well.
They both went in a great hurry, and when they were gone the house
seemed dreadfully quiet and empty, and the children wandered from one
room to another and looked at the bits of paper and string on the floors
left over from the packing, and not yet cleared up, and wished they had
something to do. It was Cyril who
"I say, let's take our spades and dig in the gravel-pits. We can pretend it's seaside."
"Father says it was once," Anthea said; "he says there are shells there thousands of years old."
So they went. Of course they had been to the edge of the gravel-pit and looked over, but they had not gone down into it for fear father should say they mustn't play there, and it was the same with the chalk-quarry. The gravel-pit is not really dangerous if you don't try to climb down the edges, but go the slow safe way round by the road, as if you were a cart.
Each of the children carried its own spade, and took it in turns to carry the Lamb. He was the baby, and they called him that because "Baa" was the first thing he ever said. They called Anthea "Panther," which seems silly when you read it, but when you say it it sounds a little like her name.
The gravel-pit is very large and wide, with grass growing round the edges at the top, and dry stringy wildflowers, purple and yellow. It is like a giant's washbowl. And there are mounds of gravel, and holes in the sides of the bowl where gravel has been taken out, and high up in the steep sides there are the little holes that are the little front doors of the little bank-martins' little houses.
The children built a castle, of course, but castle-building is rather poor fun when you have no hope of the swishing tide ever coming in to fill up the moat and wash away the drawbridge, and, at the happy last, to wet everybody up to the waist at least.
Cyril wanted to dig out a cave to play smugglers in, but the others thought it might bury them alive, so it ended in all spades going to work to dig a hole through the castle to Australia. These children, you see, believed that the world was round, and that on the other side the little Australian boys and girls were really walking wrong way up, like flies on the ceiling, with their heads hanging down into the air.
The children dug and they dug and they dug, and their hands got sandy and hot and red, and their faces got damp and shiny. The Lamb had tried to eat the sand, and had cried so hard when he found that it was not, as he had supposed, brown sugar, that he was now tired out, and was lying asleep in a warm fat bunch in the middle of the half-finished castle. This left his brothers and sisters free to work really hard, and the hole that was to come out in Australia soon grew so deep that Jane, who was called Pussy for short, begged the others to stop.
"Suppose the bottom of the hole gave way suddenly," said she, "and you tumbled out among the little Australians, all the sand would get in their eyes."
"Yes," said Robert; "and they would hate us, and throw stones at us, and not let us see the kangaroos, or opossums, or bluegums, or Emu Brand birds, or anything."
Cyril and Anthea knew that Australia was not quite so near as all that, but they agreed to stop using the spades and to go on with their hands. This was quite easy, because the sand at the bottom of the hole was very soft and fine and dry, like sea-sand. And there were little shells in it.
"Fancy it having been wet sea here once, all sloppy and shiny," said Jane, "with fishes and conger-eels and coral and mermaids."
"And masts of ships and wrecked Spanish treasure. I wish we could find a gold doubloon, or something," Cyril said.
"How did the sea get carried away?" Robert asked.
"Not in a pail, silly," said his brother.
"Father says the earth got too hot underneath, as you do in bed sometimes, so it just hunched up its shoulders, and the sea had to slip off, like the blankets do us, and the shoulder was left sticking out, and turned into dry land. Let's go and look for shells; I think that little cave looks likely, and I see something sticking out there like a bit of wrecked ship's anchor, and it's beastly hot in the Australian hole."
The others agreed, but Anthea went on digging. She always liked to finish a thing when she had once begun it. She felt it would be a disgrace to leave that hole without getting through to Australia.
The cave was disappointing, because there were no shells, and the
wrecked ship's anchor turned out to be only the broken end of a pick-axe
handle, and the cave party were just making up their minds that sand
makes you thirstier when it is not by the seaside, and someone had
suggested that they all go home for lemonade, when Anthea suddenly
"Cyril! Come here! Oh, come quick—It's alive! It'll get away! Quick!"
Anthea suddenly screamed, "It's alive!"
They all hurried back.
"It's a rat, I shouldn't wonder," said Robert. "Father says they infest
old places—and this must be pretty old if the sea was here thousands of
"Perhaps it is a snake," said Jane, shuddering.
"Let's look," said Cyril, jumping into the hole. "I'm not afraid of snakes. I like them. If it is a snake I'll tame it, and it will follow me everywhere, and I'll let it sleep round my neck at night."
"No, you won't," said Robert firmly. He shared Cyril's bedroom. "But you may if it's a rat."
"Oh, don't be silly!" said Anthea; "it's not a rat, it's much bigger. And it's not a snake. It's got feet; I saw them; and fur! No—not the spade. You'll hurt it! Dig with your hands."
"And let it hurt me instead! That's so likely, isn't it?" said Cyril, seizing a spade.
"Oh, don't!" said Anthea. "Squirrel, don't. I—it sounds silly, but it
said something. It really and truly
"It said, 'You let me
But Cyril merely observed that his sister must have gone off her head, and he and Robert dug with spades while Anthea sat on the edge of the hole, jumping up and down with hotness and anxiety. They dug carefully, and presently everyone could see that there really was something moving in the bottom of the Australian hole.
Then Anthea cried out, "I'm not afraid. Let me dig," and fell on her knees and began to scratch like a dog does when he has suddenly remembered where it was that he buried his bone.
"Oh, I felt fur," she cried, half laughing and half crying. "I did indeed! I did!" when suddenly a dry husky voice in the sand made them all jump back, and their hearts jumped nearly as fast as they did.
"Let me alone," it said. And now everyone heard the voice and looked at the others to see if they had heard it too.
"But we want to see you," said Robert bravely.
"I wish you'd come out," said Anthea, also taking courage.
"Oh, well—if that's your wish," the voice said, and the sand stirred and spun and scattered, and something brown and furry and fat came rolling out into the hole, and the sand fell off it, and it sat there yawning and rubbing the ends of its eyes with its hands.
"I believe I must have dropped asleep," it said, stretching itself.
The children stood round the hole in a ring, looking at the creature they had found. It was worth looking at. Its eyes were on long horns like a snail's eyes, and it could move them in and out like telescopes; it had ears like a bat's ears, and its tubby body was shaped like a spider's and covered with thick soft fur; its legs and arms were furry too, and it had hands and feet like a monkey's.
"What on earth is it?" Jane said. "Shall we take it home?"
The thing turned its long eyes to look at her, and
"Does she always talk nonsense, or is it only the rubbish on her head that makes her silly?"
It looked scornfully at Jane's hat as it spoke.
"She doesn't mean to be silly," Anthea said gently; "we none of us do, whatever you may think! Don't be frightened; we don't want to hurt you, you know."
"Hurt me!" it said. "Me frightened? Upon my word! Why, you talk as if I were nobody in particular." All its fur stood out like a cat's when it is going to fight.
"Well," said Anthea, still kindly, "perhaps if we knew who you are in particular we could think of something to say that wouldn't make you angry. Everything we've said so far seems to have done so. Who are you? And don't get angry! Because really we don't know."
"You don't know?" it said. "Well, I knew the world had changed—but—well, really—Do you mean to tell me seriously you don't know a Psammead when you see one?"
"A Sammyadd? That's Greek to me."
"So it is to everyone," said the creature sharply. "Well, in plain English, then, a Sand-fairy. Don't you know a Sand-fairy when you see one?"
It looked so grieved and hurt that Jane hastened to say, "Of course I see you are, now. It's quite plain now one comes to look at you."
"You came to look at me, several sentences ago," it said crossly, beginning to curl up again in the sand.
"Oh—don't go away again! Do talk some more," Robert cried. "I didn't know you were a Sand-fairy, but I knew directly I saw you that you were much the wonderfullest thing I'd ever seen."
The Sand-fairy seemed a shade less disagreeable after this.
"It isn't talking I mind," it said, "as long as you're reasonably civil. But I'm not going to make polite conversation for you. If you talk nicely to me, perhaps I'll answer you, and perhaps I won't. Now say something."
Of course no one could think of anything to say, but at last Robert thought of "How long have you lived here?" and he said it at once.
"Oh, ages—several thousand years," replied the Psammead.
"Tell us about it. Do."
"It's all in books."
"You aren't!" Jane said. "Oh, tell us everything you can about yourself! We don't know anything about you, and you are so nice."
The Sand-fairy smoothed his long rat-like whiskers and smiled between them.
"Do please tell!" said the children all together.
It is wonderful how quickly you get used to things, even the most astonishing. Five minutes before, the children had had no more idea than you had that there was such a thing as a Sand-fairy in the world, and now they were talking to it as though they had known it all their lives.
It drew its eyes in and
"How very sunny it is—quite like old times! Where do you get your Megatheriums from now?"
"What?" said the children all at once. It is very difficult always to remember that "what" is not polite, especially in moments of surprise or agitation.
"Are Pterodactyls plentiful now?" the Sand-fairy went on.
The children were unable to reply.
"What do you have for breakfast?" the Fairy said impatiently, "and who gives it to you?"
"Eggs and bacon, and bread and milk, and porridge and things. Mother gives it to us. What are Mega-what's-its-names and Ptero-what-do-you-call-thems? And does anyone have them for breakfast?"
"Why, almost everyone had Pterodactyl for breakfast in my time! Pterodactyls were something like crocodiles and something like birds—I believe they were very good grilled. You see, it was like this: of course there were heaps of Sand-fairies then, and in the morning early you went out and hunted for them, and when you'd found one it gave you your wish. People used to send their little boys down to the seashore in the morning before breakfast to get the day's wishes, and very often the eldest boy in the family would be told to wish for a Megatherium, ready jointed for cooking. It was as big as an elephant, you see, so there was a good deal of meat on it. And if they wanted fish, the Ichthyosaurus was asked for,—he was twenty to forty feet long, so there was plenty of him. And for poultry there was the Plesiosaurus; there were nice pickings on that too. Then the other children could wish for other things. But when people had dinner-parties it was nearly always Megatheriums; and Ichthyosaurus, because his fins were a great delicacy and his tail made soup."
"There must have been heaps and heaps of cold meat left over," said Anthea, who meant to be a good housekeeper some day.
"Oh no," said the Psammead, "that would never have done. Why, of course at sunset what was left over turned into stone. You find the stone bones of the Megatherium and things all over the place even now, they tell me."
"Who tell you?" asked Cyril; but the Sand-fairy frowned and began to dig very fast with its furry hands.
"Oh, don't go!" they all cried; "tell us more about when it was Megatheriums for breakfast! Was the world like this then?"
It stopped digging.
"Not a bit," it said; "it was nearly all sand where I lived, and coal grew on trees, and the periwinkles were as big as tea-trays—you find them now; they're turned into stone. We Sand-fairies used to live on the seashore, and the children used to come with their little flint-spades and flint-pails and make castles for us to live in. That's thousands of years ago, but I hear that children still build castles on the sand. It's difficult to break yourself of a habit."
"But why did you stop living in the castles?" asked Robert.
"It's a sad story," said the Psammead gloomily. "It was because they would build moats to the castles, and the nasty wet bubbling sea used to come in, and of course as soon as a Sand-fairy got wet it caught cold, and generally died. And so there got to be fewer and fewer, and, whenever you found a fairy and had a wish, you used to wish for a Megatherium, and eat twice as much as you wanted, because it might be weeks before you got another wish."
"And did you get wet?" Robert inquired.
The Sand-fairy shuddered. "Only once," it said; "the end of the twelfth hair of my top left whisker—I feel the place still in damp weather. It was only once, but it was quite enough for me. I went away as soon as the sun had dried my poor dear whisker. I scurried away to the back of the beach, and dug myself a house deep in warm dry sand, and there I've been ever since. And the sea changed its lodgings afterwards. And now I'm not going to tell you another thing."
"Just one more, please," said the children. "Can you give wishes now?"
"Of course," said it; "didn't I give you yours a few minutes ago? You said, 'I wish you'd come out,' and I did."
"Oh, please, mayn't we have another?"
"Yes, but be quick about it. I'm tired of you."
I daresay you have often thought what you would do if you had three wishes given you, and have despised the old man and his wife in the black-pudding story, and felt certain that if you had the chance you could think of three really useful wishes without a moment's hesitation. These children had often talked this matter over, but, now the chance had suddenly come to them, they could not make up their minds.
"Quick," said the Sand-fairy crossly. No one could think of anything, only Anthea did manage to remember a private wish of her own and Jane's which they had never told the boys. She knew the boys would not care about it—but still it was better than nothing.
"I wish we were all as beautiful as the day," she said in a great hurry.
The children looked at each other, but each could see that the others were not any better-looking than usual. The Psammead pushed out his long eyes, and seemed to be holding its breath and swelling itself out till it was twice as fat and furry as before. Suddenly it let its breath go in a long sigh.
"I'm really afraid I can't manage it," it said apologetically; "I must be out of practice."
The children were horribly disappointed.
"Oh, do try again!" they said.
"Well," said the Sand-fairy, "the fact is, I was keeping back a little strength to give the rest of you your wishes with. If you'll be contented with one wish a day among the lot of you I daresay I can screw myself up to it. Do you agree to that?"
"Yes, oh yes!" said Jane and Anthea. The boys nodded. They did not believe the Sand-fairy could do it. You can always make girls believe things much easier than you can boys.
It stretched out its eyes farther than ever, and swelled and swelled and swelled.
"I do hope it won't hurt itself," said Anthea.
"Or crack its skin," Robert said anxiously.
Everyone was very much relieved when the Sand-fairy, after getting so big that it almost filled up the hole in the sand, suddenly let out its breath and went back to its proper size.
"That's all right," it said, panting heavily. "It'll come easier to-morrow."
"Did it hurt much?" said Anthea.
"Only my poor whisker, thank you," said he, "but you're a kind and thoughtful child. Good day."
It scratched suddenly and fiercely with its hands and feet, and disappeared in the sand. Then the children looked at each other, and each child suddenly found itself alone with three perfect strangers, all radiantly beautiful.
They stood for some moments in silence. Each thought that its brothers
and sisters had wandered off, and that these strange children had stolen
up unnoticed while it was watching the swelling form of the Sand-fairy.
"Excuse me," she said very politely to Jane, who now had enormous blue eyes and a cloud of russet hair, "but have you seen two little boys and a little girl anywhere about?"
"I was just going to ask you that," said Jane.
And then Cyril
"Why, it's you! I know the hole in your pinafore! You are Jane, aren't you? And you're the Panther; I can see your dirty handkerchief that you forgot to change after you'd cut your thumb! The wish has come off, after all. I say, am I as handsome as you are?"
"If you're Cyril, I liked you much better as you were before," said Anthea decidedly. "You look like the picture of the young chorister, with your golden hair; you'll die young, I shouldn't wonder. And if that's Robert, he's like an Italian organ-grinder. His hair's all black."
"You two girls are like Christmas cards, then—that's all—silly Christmas cards," said Robert angrily. "And Jane's hair is simply carrots."
It was indeed of that Venetian tint so much admired by artists.
"Well, it's no use finding fault with each other," said Anthea; "let's get the Lamb and lug it home to dinner. The servants will admire us most awfully, you'll see."
Baby was just waking up when they got to him, and not one of the children but was relieved to find that he at least was not as beautiful as the day, but just the same as usual.
"I suppose he's too young to have wishes naturally," said Jane. "We shall have to mention him specially next time."
Anthea ran forward and held out her arms.
"Come, then," she said.
The Baby looked at her disapprovingly, and put a sandy pink thumb in his mouth. Anthea was his favourite sister.
"Come, then," she said.
"G'way 'long!" said the Baby.
"Come to own Pussy," said Jane.
"Wants my Panty," said the Lamb dismally, and his lip trembled.
"Here, come on, Veteran," said Robert, "come and have a yidey on Yobby's back."
"Yah, narky narky boy," howled the Baby, giving way altogether. Then the children knew the worst. The Baby did not know them!
The Baby did not know them!
They looked at each other in despair, and it was terrible to each, in this dire emergency, to meet only the beautiful eyes of perfect strangers, instead of the merry, friendly, commonplace, twinkling, jolly little eyes of its own brothers and sisters.
"This is most truly awful," said Cyril when he had tried to lift up the Lamb, and the Lamb had scratched like a cat and bellowed like a bull! "We've got to make friends with him! I can't carry him home screaming like that. Fancy having to make friends with our own baby!—it's too silly."
That, however, was exactly what they had to do. It took over an hour, and the task was not rendered any easier by the fact that the Lamb was by this time as hungry as a lion and as thirsty as a desert.
At last he consented to allow these strangers to carry him home by turns, but as he refused to hold on to such new acquaintances he was a dead weight, and most exhausting.
"Thank goodness, we're home!" said Jane, staggering through the iron gate to where Martha, the nursemaid, stood at the front door shading her eyes with her hand and looking out anxiously. "Here! Do take Baby!"
Martha snatched the Baby from her arms.
"Thanks be, he's safe back," she said. "Where are the others, and whoever to goodness gracious are all of you?"
"We're us, of course," said Robert.
"And who's Us, when you're at home?" asked Martha scornfully.
"I tell you it's us, only we're beautiful as the day," said Cyril. "I'm Cyril, and these are the others, and we're jolly hungry. Let us in, and don't be a silly idiot."
Martha merely dratted Cyril's impudence and tried to shut the door in his face.
"I know we look different, but I'm Anthea, and we're so tired, and it's long past dinner-time."
"Then go home to your dinners, whoever you are; and if our children put
you up to this play-acting you can tell them from me they'll catch it,
so they know what to expect!" With that she did bang the door. Cyril
rang the bell violently. No answer. Presently cook put her head out of a
bedroom window and
"If you don't take yourselves off, and that precious sharp, I'll go and fetch the police." And she slammed down the window.
"It's no good," said Anthea. "Oh, do, do come away before we get sent to prison!"
The boys said it was nonsense, and the law of England couldn't put you in prison for just being as beautiful as the day, but all the same they followed the others out into the lane.
"We shall be our proper selves after sunset, I suppose," said Jane.
"I don't know," Cyril said sadly; "it mayn't be like that now—things have changed a good deal since Megatherium times."
"Oh," cried Anthea suddenly, "perhaps we shall turn into stone at sunset, like the Megatheriums did, so that there mayn't be any of us left over for the next day."
She began to cry, so did Jane. Even the boys turned pale. No one had the heart to say anything.
It was a horrible afternoon. There was no house near where the children could beg a crust of bread or even a glass of water. They were afraid to go to the village, because they had seen Martha go down there with a basket, and there was a local constable. True, they were all as beautiful as the day, but that is a poor comfort when you are as hungry as a hunter and as thirsty as a sponge.
Three times they tried in vain to get the servants in the White House to
let them in and listen to their tale. And then Robert went alone, hoping
to be able to climb in at one of the back windows and so open the door
to the others. But all the windows were out of reach, and Martha emptied
a toilet-jug of cold water over him from a top window,
"Go along with you, you nasty little Eye-talian monkey."
Martha emptied a toilet-jug of cold water over him.
It came at last to their sitting down in a row under the hedge, with their feet in a dry ditch, waiting for sunset, and wondering whether, when the sun did set, they would turn into stone, or only into their own old natural selves; and each of them still felt lonely and among strangers, and tried not to look at the others, for, though their voices were their own, their faces were so radiantly beautiful as to be quite irritating to look at.
"I don't believe we shall turn to stone," said Robert, breaking a long miserable silence, "because the Sand-fairy said he'd give us another wish to-morrow, and he couldn't if we were stone, could he?"
The others said "No," but they weren't at all comforted.
Another silence, longer and more miserable, was broken by Cyril's suddenly saying, "I don't want to frighten you girls, but I believe it's beginning with me already. My foot's quite dead. I'm turning to stone, I know I am, and so will you in a minute."
"Never mind," said Robert kindly, "perhaps you'll be the only stone one, and the rest of us will be all right, and we'll cherish your statue and hang garlands on it."
But when it turned out that Cyril's foot had only gone to sleep through his sitting too long with it under him, and when it came to life in an agony of pins and needles, the others were quite cross.
"Giving us such a fright for nothing!" said Anthea.
The third and miserablest silence of all was broken by Jane. She
"If we do come out of this all right, we'll ask the Sammyadd to make it so that the servants don't notice anything different, no matter what wishes we have."
The others only grunted. They were too wretched even to make good resolutions.
At last hunger and fright and crossness and tiredness—four very nasty things—all joined together to bring one nice thing, and that was sleep. The children lay asleep in a row, with their beautiful eyes shut and their beautiful mouths open. Anthea woke first. The sun had set, and the twilight was coming on.
Anthea pinched herself very hard, to make sure, and when she found she could still feel pinching she decided that she was not stone, and then she pinched the others. They, also, were soft.
"Wake up," she said, almost in tears for joy; "it's all right, we're not stone. And oh, Cyril, how nice and ugly you do look, with your old freckles and your brown hair and your little eyes. And so do you all!" she added, so that they might not feel jealous.
When they got home they were very much scolded by Martha, who told them about the strange children.
"A good-looking lot, I must say, but that impudent."
"I know," said Robert, who knew by experience how hopeless it would be to try to explain things to Martha.
"And where on earth have you been all this time, you naughty little things, you?"
"In the lane."
"Why didn't you come home hours ago?"
"We couldn't because of them," said Anthea.
"The children who were as beautiful as the day. They kept us there till after sunset. We couldn't come back till they'd gone. You don't know how we hated them! Oh, do, do give us some supper—we are so hungry."
"Hungry! I should think so," said Martha angrily; "out all day like this. Well, I hope it'll be a lesson to you not to go picking up with strange children—down here after measles, as likely as not! Now mind, if you see them again, don't you speak to them—not one word nor so much as a look—but come straight away and tell me. I'll spoil their beauty for them!"
"If ever we do see them again we'll tell you," Anthea said; and
Robert, fixing his eyes fondly on the cold beef that was being brought
in on a tray by cook, added in heartfelt
"And we'll take jolly good care we never do see them again."
And they never have.
"Are you awake, Gemelli,
This frosty night?"
"We'll be awake till reveillé,
Which is Sunrise," say the Gemelli,
"It's no good trying to go to sleep:
If there's wine to be got we'll drink it deep,
But sleep is gone for to-night
But sleep is gone for to-night."
"Are you cold, too, poor Pleiads,
This frosty night?"
"Yes, and so are the Hyads:
See us cuddle and hug," say the Pleiads,
"All six in a ring: it keeps us warm:
We huddle together like birds in a storm:
It's bitter weather to-night,
It's bitter weather to-night."
"What do you hunt, Orion,
This starry night?"
"The Ram, the Bull and the Lion,
And the Great Bear," says Orion,
"With my starry quiver and beautiful belt
I am trying to find a good thick pelt
To warm my shoulders to-night,
To warm my shoulders to-night."
"Did you hear that, Great She-bear,
This frosty night?"
"Yes, he's talking of stripping me bare
Of my own big fur," says the She-bear,
"I'm afraid of the man and his terrible arrow:
The thought of it chills my bones to the marrow,
And the frost so cruel to-night!
And the frost so cruel to-night!"
"How is your trade, Aquarius,
This frosty night?"
"Complaints is many and various
And my feet are cold," says Aquarius,
"There's Venus objects to Dolphin-scales,
And Mars to Crab-spawn found in my pails,
And the pump has frozen to-night,
And the pump has frozen to-night."