Gateway to the Classics: Rollo at Play by Jacob Abbott
Rollo at Play by  Jacob Abbott

The Halo Round the Moon; or, Lucy's Visit

"A Round Rainbow"

ABOUT six miles from the house where Rollo lived, there was a mountain called Benalgon, which was famous for bears and blueberries. There were no bears on it, but there were plenty of blueberries. The reason why it was so famous for bears, when in fact there were none there, was because the boys and girls that went there for blueberries every year, used to see black logs and stumps among the trees and bushes of the mountain, and they would run away very hastily, and insist upon it, when they got down the mountain, that they had seen a bear.

Now, Rollo's father and mother, together with his uncle George, formed a plan for going up this mountain after blueberries, and they were going to take Rollo and his cousin Lucy with them. Uncle George and cousin Lucy were to come in a chaise to Rollo's house immediately after breakfast, and Rollo was to ride with them, and his father and mother were to go in another chaise.

Rollo got his little basket to pick his blueberries in, all ready the night before, and he got a string to tie around his neck, intending to hang his basket upon it, so that he could have both his hands at liberty, and pick faster. He also thought he would take all the heavy things out of his pocket, so that he could run the faster, in case he should see any bears. He put them all on a window in the shed. The things were a knife, a piece of chalk, two white pebble stones, and a plummet. When he got them all out, he asked Jonas, who was splitting wood in the shed, if he would not take care of them for him, till he came back.

"Why, yes," said Jonas, "I will take care of them if you wish; but what are you going to leave them for?"

"O, so that I can run faster," said Rollo.

"Run faster? I do not think you will run much, up old Benalgon, unless he holds his back down lower than when I went up."

Rollo did not mean that he was going to run up the mountain, but he did not explain what he did mean, for he thought that Jonas would laugh at him, if he told him he was afraid of the bears. So he said,

"Jonas, don't you wish you were going with us?"

"I should like it well enough, but I must stay at home and mind my work."

"I wish you could go. I will go and ask my father if he will not let you."

Rollo ran into the house with great haste and eagerness, leaving all the doors open, and calling out, "Father, father," as soon as he had begun to open the parlor door.

"Father, father," said he, running up to him, "I wish you would let Jonas go with us to-morrow."

Now, Rollo's father had come home but a short time before, and was just seated quietly in his arm-chair, reading a newspaper, and Rollo came up to him, pulling down the paper with his hands, and looking up into his father's face, so as to stop his reading at once. Heedless boys very often come to ask favors in this way.


The Way to Ask a Favor.

His father gently moved him back and said,

"No, my son, it is not convenient for Jonas to go to-morrow. Besides, I am busy now, and cannot talk with you;—you must go away."

Rollo turned away disappointed, and went slowly back through the kitchen. His mother, who was there, and who heard all that passed, as the doors were open, said to him, as he walked by her, "What a foolish way that was to ask him, Rollo! You might have known it would have done no good."

Rollo did not answer, but he went and sat down on the step of the door, and was just beginning to think what the foolishness was in his way of asking his father, when a little bird came hopping along in the yard. He ran in to ask his mother to give him some milk to feed the bird with. She smiled, and told him milk was good for kittens, but not for birds; and she gave him some crumbs of bread. Rollo threw the crumbs out, but they only frightened the little thing away.

That night, when Rollo went to bed, his father said, that when he was all ready, he would come up and see him. When he came into his chamber, Rollo called out to him,

"O, father, look out the window, and see what a beautiful ring there is round the moon."

"So there is," said his father; "I am rather sorry to see that."

"Sorry, father! why? It is beautiful, I think."

"It does look pretty, but it is a sign of rain to-morrow."

"Of rain? O no, father; it is a kind of a rainbow. It is a round rainbow. I am sure it will be pleasant to-morrow."

"Very well," said his father, "we shall see in the morning." Then he sat down on Rollo's bed-side some time, talking with him on various subjects, and then heard him say his prayers. At length he took the light, and bade Rollo good night.

Rollo's eye caught another view of the moon as his father was going, and he said,

"O, father, just look at the moon once more; that is  a rainbow; I see the colors. I expect it will grow into a large one, such as you told me was a sign of fair weather. I will watch it."

"Yes," said his father, "you can watch it as you go to sleep."

So Rollo laid his face upon his pillow in such a way that he could see the moon through the window; and he began to watch the bright circle around it, but before it grew any bigger, he was fast asleep.

Who Knows Best, a Little Boy or His Father?

THE next morning, Rollo awoke early, and he was very much pleased to see, as soon as he opened his eyes, that the sun was shining in at the windows. He was not only pleased to find that the prospect was so good for a pleasant ride, but his vanity was gratified at the thought that it had turned out that he knew better about the weather than his father. He began to dress himself, as far as he could without help, and was preparing to hasten down to his father, to tell him that it was going to be a pleasant day. When he was nearly dressed, he was surprised lo observe that the bright sunlight on the wall was gradually fading away, and at length it wholly disappeared. He went to look out the window to see what was the cause. He found that there was a broad expanse of dark cloud covering the eastern sky, excepting a narrow strip quite low down, near the horizon. When the sun first rose, it shone brightly through this narrow zone of clear sky; but now it had ascended a little higher, and gone behind the cloud.

"Never mind," said Rollo to himself. "The cloud is not so very large after all, and the sun will come out again above it when it gets up a little higher."

Rollo came down to breakfast, and he went out into the yard every two or three minutes, to look at the sky. The cloud seemed to extend, so that the sun did not come out of it, as he expected, but still he thought it was going to be pleasant. Children generally think it is going to be pleasant, whenever they want to go away.

His father thought it was probably going to rain, and that at any rate it was very doubtful whether Uncle George would come. However, he said they should soon see, and, true enough, just as they were rising from the breakfast table, a chaise drove up to the door, and out jumped Uncle George and cousin Lucy.

Lucy was a very pleasant little blue-eyed girl, two or three years older than Rollo. She had a small tin pail in her hand, with a cover upon it.

"Good morning, Rollo," said she. "Have you got your basket ready?"

"Yes," said Rollo; "but I am afraid it is going to rain."

While the children were saying this, Uncle George said to Rollo's father,

"I suppose we shall have to give up our expedition to-day. I am in hopes we are going to have some rain."

"In hopes,"  thought Rollo; "that is very strange when we want to go a blueberrying."

Rollo's father and mother and his uncle looked at the clouds all around. They concluded that there was every appearance of rain, and that it would be best to postpone their excursion, and then went into the house. Rollo was very confident it would not rain, and was very eager to have them go. He asked Lucy if she did not think it was going to be pleasant, but Lucy was more modest and reasonable than he was, and said that she did not know; she could not judge of the weather so well as her father.

Rollo began by this time to be considerably out of humor. He said he knew it was not going to rain, and he did not see why they might not go. He did not believe it would rain a drop all day.

Lucy just then pointed down to a little dark spot on the stone step of the door, where a drop had just fallen, and asked Rollo what he called that.

"And that,—and that,—and that," said she, pointing to several other drops.

Rollo at first insisted that that was not rain, but some little spots on the stone.

Then Lucy reached out her hand and said,

"Hold out your hand so, Rollo, and you will feel the drops coming down out of the sky."

Rollo held out his hand a moment, but then immediately withdrew it, saying, impatiently, that he did not care; it was not rain; at any rate it was only a little sprinkling.

Lucy observed that Rollo was getting very much out of humor, and she tried to please him by saying,

"Rollo, I would not mind. If it does rain, I will ask my father to let me stay and play with you to-day, and we can have a fine time up in your little room."

"No, we cannot," said Rollo; "and besides, they will not let you stay, I know. I went yesterday to ask my father to let Jonas go with us to-day, and he would not."

It was certainly very unreasonable for Rollo to imagine that his father and uncle would be unwilling to have Lucy stay just because it had not been convenient to let Jonas go with them. But when children are out of humor, they are always very unreasonable.

"Why would not he let Jonas go?" asked Lucy.

"I do not know. Mother said it was because I did not ask him right."

"How did you ask him?"

"O, I interrupted him. He was reading."

"O, that is not the way. I never interrupt  my father if I want to ask him any thing."

"Suppose he is busy, and you want to know that very minute; what do you do?"

"I will show you. Come with me and I will ask him to let me stay with you to-day."

So Lucy and Rollo walked in. When they came to the parlor door, they saw that their parents were sitting on the sofa, talking about other things.

Rollo stopped at the door, but Lucy went in gently. She walked up to her father's side, and stood there still.

Her father took no notice of her at first, but went on talking with Rollo's father. Lucy stood very patiently until, after a few minutes, her father stopped talking, and said,

"Lucy, my dear, do you want to speak to me?"

"Yes, sir," said Lucy, "I wanted to ask you if you were willing to let me stay here to-day and play with Rollo, if you do not go to the mountain."

"I do not know," said her father, hesitating, and patting Lucy on the head—"that is a new idea; however, I believe I have no objection."

Lucy ran back joyfully to Rollo, and after a short time, her father went home. Rollo, however, did not feel in any better humor, and all Lucy's endeavors to engage him in some amusement, failed. She proposed building with bricks, or going up into his little room, and drawing pictures on their slates, or getting his storybooks out and reading stories, and various other things, but Rollo would not be pleased.

Rollo ought, now, when he found that he must be disappointed about his ride, to have immediately banished it from his mind altogether, and turned his thoughts to other pleasures; but like all ill-humored people, he would  keep thinking and talking, all the time, about the thing which caused his ill-humor. So he sat in a large back entry, where he and Lucy were, looking out at the door, and saying a great many ill-natured things about the weather, and his father's giving up the ride just for a little sprinkling of rain that would not last half an hour. He said it was a shame, too, for it to rain that day, just because he was going to ride.

Just then, his father spoke to him from the window, and called him in.

He and Lucy went in together into the parlor.

"Rollo," said his father, "did you know you were doing very wrong?"

Rollo felt a little guilty, but he said rather faintly, "No, sir, I was not doing any thing."

"You are committing a great many sins, all at once."

Rollo was silent. He knew his father meant sins of the heart.

"Your heart is in a very wicked state. You are under the dominion of some of the worst of feelings; you are self-conceited, ungrateful, undutiful, unjust, selfish, and," he added in a lower and more solemn tone, "even impious."

Rollo thought that these were heavy charges to bring upon him; but his father spoke calmly and kindly, and he knew that he could easily show that what he said was true.

"You are self-conceited—vainly imagining that you, a little boy of seven years old, can judge better than your father and mother, and obstinately persisting in your opinion that it is not going to rain, when the rain has actually commenced, and is falling faster and faster. You are ungrateful, to speak reproachfully of me, and give me pain, by your ill-will, when I have been planning this excursion, in a great degree, for your enjoyment, and only give it up because I am absolutely compelled to do it by a storm; undutiful, in showing such a repining, unsubmissive spirit towards your father; unjust in making Lucy and all of us suffer, because you are unwilling to submit to these circumstances that we cannot control; selfish, in being unwilling that it should rain and interfere with your ride, when you know that rain is so much wanted in all the fields, all over the country; and, what is worse than all, impious, in openly rebelling against God, and censuring the arrangements of his providence, and pretending to think that they are made just to trouble you."

When he had said this, he paused to hear what Rollo would say. He thought that if he was convinced of his sin, and really penitent, he would acknowledge that he was wrong, or at least be silent;—but that if, on the other hand, he were still unsubdued, he would go to making excuses.

After a moment's pause, Rollo said,—"I did not know that there was need of rain in the fields."

"Did not you?" said his father. "Did not you know that the ground was very dry, and that, unless we have rain soon, the crops will suffer very much?"

"No, sir," said Rollo.

"It is so," said his father; "and this rain, which you are so unwilling to have descend, is going down into the ground all over the country, and into the roots of all the plants growing in the fields, carrying in the nourishment which will swell out all the corn and grain, and apples and pears. In a few days there will be thousands and thousands of dollars' worth of fruit and food more than there would have been without this rain; and yet you are very unwilling to have it come, because you want to go and get a few blueberries!"

Rollo was confounded, and had not a word to say.

"Now, Rollo," continued his father, "all the rest of us are disposed to be good-humored, and to acquiesce in God's decision, and try to have a happy day at home; and we cannot have it spoiled by your wicked repinings. So you must go away by yourself, until you feel willing to submit pleasantly and with good humor. Then you may come back, but be sure not to come back before."


NOW there was in Rollo's house a small back garret, over a part of the kitchen chamber, which had one small window in it, looking out into the garden. This garret was not used, and Rollo's father had put a little rocking-chair there, and a small table with a Bible on it, and hung some old maps about it, so as to make it as pleasant a little place as he could; and there he used to send Rollo when he had done any thing very wrong, or when he was sullen and ill natured, that he might reflect in solitude, and either return a good boy, or else stay where his bad feelings would not trouble or injure others. His father had put in marks, too, at several places in the Bible, where he thought it would be well for him to read at such times; as he said that reading suitable passages in the Bible would be more likely to bring him to repentance, than any other book.

Rollo knew that when his father told him to go away by himself, he meant for him to go into this back garret. So he turned round and walked out of the room. As he passed up the back stairs, the kitten came frisking around him, but he had no heart to play with her, and walked on. He then turned and went up the narrow, steep stairs that led to the garret; they were rather more like a ladder than like stairs. Rollo ascended them, and then sat down in the little rocking-chair. The rain was beating against the windows, and pattering on the roof which was just over his head.


It is sometimes but a little thing which turns the whole current of the thoughts and feelings. In Rollo's case, at this time, it was but a drop of water. For after having sat some time in his chair, his heart remaining pretty nearly the same, a drop of water, which, somehow or other, contrived to get through some crevice in the boards and shingles over his head, fell exactly into the back of his neck. The first feeling it occasioned was an additional emotion of impatience and fretfulness. But he next began to think how unreasonable and wicked it was to make all that difficulty, just because his father was preventing his going out to stay all day in the rain, when a single drop falling upon him vexed and irritated him.

He also looked out of the window towards the garden, and the dry ground, and all the trees and garden vegetables seemed to be drinking in the rain with delight. That made him think of the vast amount of good the rain was doing, and he saw his own selfishness in a striking point of view. In a word Rollo was now beginning to be really penitent. The tears came into his eyes; but they were tears of real sorrow for sin, not of vexation and anger.

He took up his little Bible, to read one of the passages, as his father had advised him. He happened to open at a mark which his father had put in at the parable of the prodigal son. The first verse which his eye fell upon, was the verse, "I will arise and go to my father." Rollo thought that that was exactly the thing for him to do—to go and confess his fault to his father.

So he laid down his little Bible, wiped the tears from his eyes, and went down stairs. He met his father in the entry. He went up to him, and took his hand, and said,

"Father, I am really very sorry I have been so naughty; I will try  to be a good boy now."

His father stooped down and kissed him. "I am very glad to hear it, Rollo," said he. "Now you may go and find Lucy. I believe she is up in your mother's chamber."

Rollo went off quite happy in pursuit of Lucy. He found her sitting on a cricket in his mother's room, looking over a little picture-book. Rollo ran laughing up to her, and said,

"What have you got, Lucy?"

"One of your little picture-books. Will you lend it to me to carry home?"

Rollo said he would, and then they began to talk about what they should do. It rained very fast, and they could not go out of doors; and, after proposing several things, which, however, neither of them seemed to like, they turned to Rollo's mother, and asked her what they had better do.

"I always find," said his mother, "that when I am disappointed of any pleasure, it is best not to try to find any other pleasure in its place, but to turn to duty."

The children did not understand this very well, and they were silent.

"What I mean," she continued, "is this: When we have just been disappointed of any pleasure which we had set our hearts upon, it is very difficult to find any thing else that we can have in its place, that will look as pleasant as the one we had lost. You see that you are not satisfied with any thing you propose to one another. Now, I find that the best way, in such cases, is to give up pleasure altogether, and turn to some duty; and after performing the duty a short time, peace and satisfaction return to the mind again, and we get over the effects of the disappointment in the quickest and pleasantest way."

Rollo and Lucy looked at one another rather soberly. They did not seem to know what to say.

"I presume, however, you will not do this," continued his mother.

"Why?" said Rollo.

"Because," said his mother, "it requires a good deal of resolution, at first, to turn to duty  when you have just been setting your heart on pleasure."

"O, we have got resolution enough," said Rollo.

"What duty do you think we had better do?" asked Lucy.

"If I were you," replied Rollo's mother, "I should first of all sit down and have a good reading lesson."

Rollo and Lucy hesitated a little, but they concluded to take their mother's advice at last, and went to Rollo's little library, and chose a book, and then went down to the back entry, and sat down there, on a long cricket, and began to read.

At first, it was rather hard to do it, for it did not look very pleasant to either of them to sit down and read, just at the time when they expected to be gathering blueberries on the mountain. Rollo said, when they were opening the hook and finding the place, that, if they had gone, they should, by that time, have just about arrived at the foot of the mountain.

"Yes," said Lucy, "but we must not think of that now. Besides, just see how it rains. It would be a fine time now to go up a mountain, wouldn't it?"

Rollo looked out of the open door, and saw the rain pouring down into the yard, and felt again ashamed to recollect how he had insisted that it was not going to rain.

Lucy said it was beautiful to see it pouring down so fast. "Look," said she; "how it streams down from the spout at the corner of the barn!"

"Yes," said Rollo, "and see that little pond out by the garden gate. How it is all full of little bubbles! It will be a beautiful pond for me to sail boats in, when the rain is over. I can make paper-boats and pea boats!"

"Pea boats?" said Lucy; "what are pea-boats?"

"O! they are beautiful little boats," said he. "Jonas showed me how to make them. We take a pea-pod, a good large full pea-pod, and shave off the top from one end to the other, and then take out the peas, and it makes a beautiful little boat. I wish we had some; I could show you."

"Let us make some when we have done reading, and sail them. Only that pond will all go away when the rain is over."

"O no," said Rollo, "I will put some ground all around it, and then the water cannot run away."

"Yes, but it will soak down into the ground."

"Will it?" said Rollo. "Well, we can sail our boats on it a little while before it is gone."

"But it is so wet," said Lucy, "we cannot go out to get any pea-pods."

"I did not think of that," said Rollo. "Perhaps Jonas could get some for us, with an umbrella."

"I  could go with an umbrella," said Lucy, "just as well as not."

The children saw an umbrella behind the door, and they thought they would go both together, and they actually laid down their book, spread the umbrella, and went to the door. It then occurred to them that it would not be quite right to go out, without leave; so Rollo went to ask his mother.

His mother said it was not suitable for young ladies to go out in the rain, as their shoes, and their dress generally, were thin, and could not bear to be exposed to wet; but she said that Rollo himself might take off his shoes and stockings, and go out alone, when the rain held up.

"But, mother," said he, "why cannot I go out now, with the umbrella?"

"Because," she replied, "when it rains fast, some of the water spatters through the umbrella, and some will be driven against you by the wind."

"Well, I will wait, and as soon as it rains but little, I will go out. But must I take off my shoes and stockings?"

"Yes," said his mother, "or else you will get them wet and muddy. And before you go you must get a dipper of water ready in the shed, to pour on your feet, and wash them, when you get back; and then wait till they are entirely dry, before you put on your shoes and stockings again. If you want the pea-pods enough to take all that trouble, you may go for them."

Rollo said he did want them enough for that, and he then went back and told Lucy what his mother had said, and they concluded to read until the rain should cease, and that then Rollo should go out into the garden.

They began to read; but their minds were so much upon the pea-pod boats, that the story did not interest them very much. Besides, children cannot read very well aloud, to one another; for if they succeed in calling all the words right, they do not generally give the stops and the emphasis, and the proper tones of voice, so as to make the story interesting to those that hear. Some boys and girls are vain enough to think that they can read very well, just because they can call all the words without stopping to spell them; but this is very far from being enough to make a good reader.

Rollo read a little way, and then Lucy read a little way; but they were not much interested, and thinking that the difficulty might be in the book, they got another, but with no better success. At last Rollo said they would go and get their mother to read to them. So they went together to her room, and Rollo said that they could not get along very well in rending themselves, and asked her if she would not be good enough to read to them.

"Why, what is the difficulty?" said she.

"O, I do not know, exactly: the story is not very interesting, and then we cannot read very well."

"In what respect will it be better for me to read to you?" she asked.

"Why, mother, you can choose us a prettier story; and then we should understand it better if you read it."

"I suppose you would; but I see you have made a great mistake."

"What mistake?" said both the children at once.

"Why is it that you are going to read at all?"

"Why, you advised us to, mother."

"Did I advise you to do it as a duty, or as a pleasure?"

"As a duty, mother; I recollect now." said Rollo.

"Yes: well, now the mistake you have made is, that you are looking upon it only as a pleasure, and instead of doing it faithfully, in such a way as will make it most useful to you, you are forgetting that altogether, and only intent upon having it interesting and pleasant. Is it not so?"

"Why———yes," said Rollo, hesitating, and looking down; and then turning round to Lucy, he said, "I suppose we had better go and read the story ourselves."

"Do just as you please," said his mother. "I have not commanded you to read, but only recommended it; and that not as a way of interesting  you, but as a way of spending an hour usefully, as a preparation for an hour of enjoyment afterwards. You can do as you please, however; but if you attempt to read at all, I advise you to do it not as play, but as a lesson."

"Well, come, Rollo," said Lucy, "let us go."

So the children ran back to the entry, and sat down to their story, taking pains to read carefully, as if their object was to learn to read; and though they did not expect it, they did, in fact, have a very pleasant time.

The rest of the adventures of Rollo and Lucy, during this day must be reserved for another story.

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