CHIRP THE THIRD

CALEB PLUMMER, the toy-maker, and his blind daughter lived all alone
by themselves, as the Story Books say, in a little cracked nutshell of
a wooden house, close to the big establishment of Gruff and Tackleton,
the toy merchants.

I have said that Caleb and his poor blind daughter lived here. I should
have said that Caleb lived here, and his poor blind daughter lived
somewhere else–in a sort of enchanted fairyland, where no shabbiness
or poverty or trouble ever entered; for Caleb, in the magic of his
devoted, deathless love for his daughter, played a little game of
“Pretend” which made the blind girl think their home beautiful, her
father rich and handsome, and that nothing was lacking which they
needed.

The blind girl never knew that the ceilings were broken and the walls
blotched, and bare of plaster here and there, the beams warped and
bending because of age. The blind girl never knew that the woodwork was
rotting and the paper peeling off the walls, and the little building
withering away.

The blind girl never knew that the dishes were ugly and cracked, and
the carpets threadbare; that sorrow and faint-heartedness were in the
house; that Caleb’s scanty hairs were turning grayer, and more gray,
before her sightless face.

The blind girl never knew that they had a master, cold, exacting, and
not caring how they got along–never knew that Tackleton was Tackleton,
in fact. For Caleb led her to think his rough words were meant for
jokes; that he was very good to them, and had a peculiarity in that he
could not bear to be thanked for any favor he had done.

You know why he did this. It was because he felt so sorry for poor
blind Bertha that he deceived her into thinking everything lovely and
fair in order that she might be happier. He, too, had had a cricket
singing on the hearth when his motherless girl was very young, and when
he listened to its music, he made up his mind to cheer the little one’s
dark way by every means he could devise.

Caleb and his daughter were at work together in their usual working
room, which served them for their ordinary living room as well; and a
strange place it was.

There were houses in it, furnished and unfurnished, for dolls of all
stations in life. Nice houses for dolls of moderate means; smaller
houses for dolls not so well off; fine town residences for dolls of
high estate. Some of the houses were already furnished with a view to
the conveniences of dolls of limited income; others could be furnished
on notice from the shelves nearby which were full of chairs and tables,
sofas, bedsteads, and other articles of furniture.

Then there were many dolls themselves of all kinds and from all
stations in life.

There were various other samples of his handicraft besides dolls and
dolls’ houses in Caleb Plummer’s room. There were Noah’s Arks in which
the birds and beasts were an uncommonly tight fit, I assure you.
There were scores of little carts, which, when the wheels went round,
performed most doleful music. There were small fiddles and drums, and
no end of cannon, shields and spears.

There were little fellows in red breeches who would tumble down head
first along a piece of tape. There were old gentlemen dolls who would
fly over trapeze bars when pressed in the right place. There were
beasts of all sorts; horses, in particular, of every breed, from the
little spotted gray on four legs, to the thoroughbred rocked on his
highest mettle.

[Illustration: THERE WERE HOUSES IN IT, FURNISHED AND UNFURNISHED,
FOR DOLLS OF ALL STATIONS IN LIFE]

There were dozens and dozens of other little toys, but you already can
imagine how the room looked.

In the midst of all these objects, Caleb and his daughter sat at work;
the blind girl busy as a doll’s dressmaker; Caleb painting a desirable
doll’s family mansion.

“So you were out in the rain last night, Father, in your beautiful new
great-coat,” said Caleb’s daughter.

“In my beautiful new great-coat,” answered Caleb, glancing toward a
clothes-rack in the room on which the burlap garment was carefully hung
to dry.

“How glad I am you bought it, Father! And such a stylish tailor!”

“It’s too good for me,” said Caleb.

The blind girl rested from her work and laughed with delight. “Too
good, Father! What can be too good for you?”

“I’m half ashamed to wear it, though,” said Caleb, watching the effect
of what he said on her brightening face, “upon my word! When I hear the
boys and people say behind me, ‘Hallo! Here’s a swell!’ I don’t know
which way to look. And when the beggar wouldn’t go away last night;
and when I said I am a very common man, said, ‘No, Your Honor! Bless
Your Honor, don’t say that!’ I was quite ashamed. I really felt as if I
hadn’t a right to wear it.”

Happy blind girl! How merry she was with the idea!

“I see you, Father,” she said, clasping her hands, “as plainly as if I
had the eyes I never want when you are with me. A blue coat—-”

“Bright blue,” said Caleb.

“Yes, yes! Bright blue!” exclaimed the girl, turning up her radiant
face; “the color I can just remember in the blessed sky! You told me it
was blue before. A bright blue coat—-”

“Made loose to the figure,” suggested Caleb.

“Yes! loose to the figure!” cried the blind girl, laughing heartily;
“and in it, you, dear Father, with your merry eye, your smiling face,
your free step, and your dark hair–looking so young and handsome!”

“There! There!” said Caleb, “I shall be vain presently.”

“I think you are already!” cried the blind girl, pointing at him in her
glee. “I know you, Father! Ha, ha, ha! I’ve found you out, you see!”

How different the picture in her mind from Caleb as he sat observing
her. She had spoken of his free step. She was right in that. For years
and years he had never once crossed their threshold with his own slow
pace, but with a footfall free and sprightly, for her to hear; and
never, even when his heart was heaviest, had he forgotten the light
tread that was to render her own so cheerful and courageous.

“There we are,” said Caleb, falling back a step or two to better judge
his work. “It’s a pity the whole front of this doll’s house opens at
once! If there was only a staircase in it, now, and regular doors to
go in at! But that’s the worst of my work, I’m always trying to make
believe!”

“You are speaking quite softly. Are you tired, Father?”

“Tired?” echoed Caleb with a great burst of enthusiasm. “What should
tire me, Bertha? I was never tired. What does it mean?”

To give greater force to his words, he checked himself in the middle of
a yawn, and began to hum a song. He sang it with a pretended care-free
manner that made his face look a thousand times more meagre and more
thoughtful than before.

_Tackleton Comes In_

Just then Tackleton put his head in at the door. “What! You’re singing,
are you?” he thundered. “Go it! I can’t sing!”

Nobody would have suspected that he could. He hadn’t a singing face by
any means.

“I can’t afford to sing,” said Tackleton. “I’m glad you can. I hope
you can afford to work, too. Hardly time for both, I should think.”

Caleb turned toward his daughter, and said in a low tone, “If you could
only see him, Bertha, how he’s winking at me. Such a man to joke! You’d
think, if you didn’t know him, he was in earnest–wouldn’t you now?”

The blind girl smiled and nodded.

“The bird that can sing and won’t sing, must be made to sing,” grumbled
Tackleton. “What about the owl that can’t sing, and oughtn’t to sing,
and will sing. Is there anything that he should be made to do?”

“The way he’s winking at me this moment!” whispered Caleb to his
daughter. “Oh, my gracious!”

“Always merry and light-hearted with us!” cried the smiling Bertha.

“Oh, you’re there, are you?” answered Tackleton. “Poor idiot!”

He really did believe she was an idiot; and, strange to say, he thought
her an idiot because she was fond of him.

“Well! being there, how are you?” said Tackleton, in his grudging way.

“Oh, well; quite well. And as happy as even you could wish me to be–as
happy as you would make the whole world, if you could.”

“Poor idiot!” muttered Tackleton. “No gleam of reason! Not a gleam!”

The blind girl took his hand, and held it a moment in her own two
hands, and laid her cheek against it tenderly, before releasing it.
There was so much affectionate gratitude in the act, that Tackleton
himself was moved to say, in a milder growl than usual:

“What’s the matter now?”

“I stood the little plant beside my pillow when I went to sleep last
night, and remembered it in my dreams. When the day came, and the
glorious red sun–the red sun, Father?”

“Red in the mornings and in the evenings, Bertha,” said poor Caleb,
with a woeful glance at his employer.

“When it rose, and bright light came into the room, I turned the little
tree towards it, and blessed Heaven for making such precious things,
and blessed you for sending it to cheer me.”

“Whew!” said Tackleton under his breath, “we’re getting on! The next
thing will be the padded cell.”

Meanwhile Caleb looked as if he were uncertain whether Tackleton had
done anything deserving of praise or not. Yet he knew that with his own
hands he had brought the little rose tree home for her so carefully,
and that with his own lips he had made her believe that it was a gift
from Tackleton, in order to keep her from suspecting how much he every
day denied himself to save the money it cost–that she might be the
happier.

“Bertha!” said Tackleton, with for once a show of cordiality, “Come
here.”

“Oh, I can come straight to you. You needn’t guide me!”

“Shall I tell you a secret, Bertha?”

“If you will,” she answered eagerly.

How bright the darkened face looked! How anxious the listening head!

“This is the day on which that spoiled child, John Peerybingle’s wife,
pays her regular visit to you–makes what she calls her ‘picnic’ here,
ain’t it?” said Tackleton, with a look of distaste for the affair.

“Yes,” replied Bertha, “this is the day.”

“I thought so,” said Tackleton. “I should like to join the party.”

“Do you hear that, Father?” cried Bertha in delight.

“Yes, yes, I heard it,” murmured Caleb, with the look somewhat of a
sleepwalker, “but I don’t believe it.”

“You see,” said Tackleton, “I–I want to bring the Peerybingles a
little more into the company of May Fielding, for I am going to be
married to May.”

“Married!” cried the blind girl, starting from him.

“Oh! She’s such a confounded idiot,” muttered Tackleton, “that I was
afraid she’d never comprehend. Ah, yes, Bertha! Married! Church,
parson, clerk, bells, satin, veils, and all the rest of the tomfoolery.
A wedding, you know; a wedding. Don’t you know what a wedding is?”

“I know,” replied the blind girl gently. “I understand.”

“Do you?” muttered Tackleton. “It’s more than I expected.” Then
aloud: “Well, on that account I want to join the party, and bring May
and her mother. I’ll send in a little something or other before the
afternoon–a cold leg of mutton, or some comfortable trifle of that
sort. You’ll expect me?”

“Yes,” she answered, turning away.

“I don’t think you will,” muttered Tackleton, looking at her; “for you
seem to have forgotten all about it already. Caleb!”

“I may venture to say I’m here, I suppose,” thought Caleb. “Sir?”

“Take care she don’t forget what I’ve been saying to her.”

“She never forgets,” returned Caleb; “it’s one of the few things she
ain’t clever in.”

“‘Every man thinks his geese swans’,” observed the toy merchant, with a
shrug of his shoulders. “Poor idiot!”

Having delivered this remark with much contempt, old Gruff and
Tackleton went out.

_Bertha’s Eyes_

Bertha remained where he had left her, lost in thought. The gayety had
vanished from her face, and it was very sad. Three or four times she
shook her head as if bewailing some loss.

It was not until Caleb had been busy for some time in yoking a team
of wooden horses to the tongue of a little wooden wagon by the simple
means of nails, driven through the vital parts of their bodies, that
she drew near his work-bench, and, sitting down beside him, said:
“Father, I am lonely. I want to borrow your eyes.”

“Here they are,” said Caleb. “Always ready. They are more yours than
mine, Bertha, any hour in the four-and-twenty. What shall your eyes do
for you, dear?”

“My patient, willing eyes!” the blind girl said. “Will they look around
the room, Father?”

“All right, no sooner said than done, Bertha.”

“Tell me about it.”

“It’s much the same as usual,” said Caleb. “Homely, but snug. The gay
colors on the walls; the bright flowers on the plates and other dishes;
the shining wood, where there are no panels; the general cheerfulness
and neatness of the building; all make it very pretty.”

Cheerful and neat it was, wherever Bertha’s hands could busy
themselves, but nowhere else were cheerfulness and neatness possible
in the old crazy shed which Caleb’s fancy painted with such pleasant
description.

“You have your working clothes on, and are not so gallant as when you
wear the handsome coat?” said Bertha, touching him.

“Not quite so gallant,” answered Caleb. “Pretty lively, though.”

“Father,” said the blind girl, drawing close to his side, and putting
one arm around his neck, “tell me something about May. Is she very
pretty?”

“She is indeed,” said Caleb. And she was indeed. It was quite a rare
thing for Caleb not to draw upon his imagination.

“I can imagine her,” said Bertha. “Her hair is dark, darker than mine.
Her voice is sweet and musical, I know. I have often loved to hear it.
Her form—-”

“There’s not a doll in all the room can compare with her,” said Caleb.
“And her eyes!”

He stopped; for Bertha’s arm around his neck had given a sudden
pressure. He coughed a moment; hammered a moment; then began to sing
the gay song about the sparkling bowl, a thing he always did when in
such difficulties.

“Now, about your friend, our benefactor, Mr. Tackleton–I am never
tired, you know, of hearing about him. Now, was I ever?” she said
hastily.

“Of course not!” answered Caleb. “And with reason.”

“Ah, with much reason!” cried the blind girl so fervently that Caleb
began to doubt if he had been wise in deceiving her.

“Tell me about him, dear father,” said Bertha. “Many times again! His
face is kind and tender, honest and true, I am sure it is! The goodness
in his heart shines out in his countenance.”

“And makes it noble,” added Caleb, who was rather desperate by now.

“And makes it noble!” cried the blind girl. “He is older than May,
Father?”

“Yes, quite a little older; but that don’t signify,” said Caleb.

“Oh, no, Father! Just to think, she can do so much for him when he
grows old and infirm, and can nurse him if he gets ill, and help him in
every way. Will she do all this, Father?”

“No doubt of it,” said Caleb.

“I love her for that, Father. I love her with all my heart,” exclaimed
the blind girl.

_The Carrier’s Cart_

In the meantime there had been a lively scene at John Peerybingle’s,
for little Mrs. Peerybingle naturally couldn’t think of going anywhere
without the baby; and to get the baby ready took time.

Not that there was so much of the baby, but there was so much to do
about it, and it all had to be done by easy stages. For instance, when
the baby was got, by hook or by crook, to a certain point in dressing,
and you might have supposed that another touch or two would finish him
off, and turn him out a tiptop baby, he was unexpectedly extinguished
in a warm nightgown, and hustled off to bed; where he simmered, so to
speak, between sheets and blankets, for the best part of an hour.

From this place of inaction, he was recalled, shining very much, and
roaring violently, to partake of his luncheon. After which, he went to
sleep again.

Then Mrs. Peerybingle took the opportunity to make herself look as fine
as possible, and Miss Slowboy put on her best bib-and-tucker.

By this time, the baby, being all alive again, was dressed by the
united efforts of Mrs. Peerybingle and Miss Slowboy, and put into his
cream-colored coat and flannel cap; and so, in course of time, they all
three got to the door, where John’s old horse stood tearing up the road
with impatient autographs, and from where Boxer might be seen a little
distance down the road, looking back, tempting the horse to come on
without orders.

If you think that Mrs. Peerybingle needed a chair or anything of that
kind to help her climb into the cart, you are mistaken, or you don’t
know John Peerybingle, for before you could have seen him, he lifted
her from the ground; and there she was in place, fresh and rosy,
saying, “Oh, John, how can you!”

“All ready?” asked John, starting off, after Miss Slowboy and the baby
were in place.

“John, you’ve got the basket with the veal-and-ham-pie and other
things?” asked Dot. “If you haven’t, you must turn around again this
very minute.”

“You’re a nice little article,” replied the carrier, “to be talking
about turning round after keeping me a full quarter of an hour behind
my time.”

“I am sorry for it, John,” said Dot, “but I really could not think of
going to Bertha’s–I would not do it, John, on any account–without the
veal-and-ham-pie and things. Whoa!” This last word was addressed to the
horse, who didn’t mind at all.

“Oh, do turn round, John,” begged Mrs. Peerybingle. “Please!”

“It’ll be time enough to do that,” said John, “when I begin to leave
things behind me. The basket’s here safe enough.”

“What a hard-hearted monster you must be, John, not to have said so at
once, and saved me such a turn! I declare I wouldn’t go to Bertha’s
without the veal-and-ham-pie and things for any money. Regularly, once
a fortnight, ever since we have been married we have had our little
picnic. If anything were to go wrong with it, I should almost think we
were never to be lucky again.”

“It was a kind thought in the first place,” said the carrier, “and I
honor you for it, little woman.”

“My dear John,” replied Dot, turning very red, “don’t talk about
honoring me. Good gracious!”

“By-the-bye–” observed the carrier, “that old gentleman—-”

Dot looked embarrassed.

“He’s an odd fish,” said the carrier. “I can’t make him out. I don’t
believe there’s any harm in him, though.”

“None at all. I’m–I’m sure there’s none at all.”

“Yes?” said the carrier, with his eyes attracted to her face because
she had spoken so earnestly. “Well, I am glad you feel so certain about
it, because it makes me feel surer. It’s curious he should have taken
it into his head to ask us for lodgings, ain’t it? Things come about so
strangely.”

“So very strangely,” she rejoined in a low voice, scarcely audible.

“However, he’s a good-natured old gentleman,” said John, “and pays
as a gentleman, and I think his word is to be relied upon, like a
gentleman’s. I had quite a long talk with him this morning. He can
hear me better already he says, as he gets more used to my voice. He
told me a great deal about himself, and I told him a good deal about
myself; and a rare lot of questions he asked me. I told him about
having two routes, you know, in my business; one day going to the right
from our house and back again, another day going left from our house
and back again (for he’s a stranger, and don’t know the names of the
places about here); and he seemed quite pleased. ‘Why,’ he says, ‘then
I shall be returning your way to-night. I thought I’d be coming in
exactly the opposite direction. That’s capital! I may trouble you for
another lift, perhaps, but I’ll promise not to fall asleep again.’ He
was sound asleep surely! Dot, what are you thinking of?”

“Thinking of, John? I–I was listening to you.”

“Oh! that’s all right!” said the carrier. “I was afraid, from the
look of your face, that I had gone rambling on so long as to set you
thinking of something else. I was very near it, I’ll be bound.”

Dot making no reply, they jogged on for some time in silence. But it
was not very easy to remain silent long in John Peerybingle’s cart, for
everybody on the road had something to say, though it might only be,
“How are you?” and indeed it was very often nothing else. Sometimes
passengers on foot or on horseback plodded on a little way beside the
cart just for the pleasure of having a chat.

Then, too, everybody knew Boxer, all along the road–especially the
fowls and pigs, who, when they saw him coming, running with his body
all on one side and his ears pricked up inquisitively, would make
tracks and not wait for any nearer acquaintance. Wherever he went,
somebody or other might cry, “Hello! Here’s Boxer!” and with that, out
came at least two or three other somebodies to bid John Peerybingle and
his pretty wife good-day.

The packages and parcels to be delivered were as numerous as usual, and
it required many stops to give them out. This was not the worst part
of the journey by any means. Some people were so full of wonder about
their parcels, and other people so full of directions about the parcels
they were sending off by John, and John took so keen an interest in all
the parcels, that it was as good as a play, and Dot thoroughly enjoyed
it, as she looked on from her seat in the cart.

[Illustration: THEY JOGGED ON FOR SOME TIME IN SILENCE]

The trip was a little foggy, to be sure, in the January weather; and
was raw and cold. But who cared for such trifles? Not Dot, decidedly.
Not Tilly Slowboy, for she deemed sitting in a cart, on any terms, the
highest point of human joys. Not the baby, I’ll be bound; for it’s not
in baby nature to be warmer or more sound asleep than the blessed young
Peerybingle was, all the way.

You couldn’t see very far in the fog, of course; but you could see a
great deal! It’s astonishing how much you may see in a thicker fog
than that, if you will only take the trouble to look for it. Why, even
to sit looking for hazy fairy rings, and ghostly figures near the
hedges and trees was a pleasant occupation, to make no mention of the
unexpected shapes in which the trees themselves came out of the mists
and glided in again.

In one place there was a great mound of weeds burning, and they watched
the fire flaring through the fog, with here and there a dash of red in
it, until, because of getting “smoke up her nose,” as she explained,
Miss Slowboy choked and woke the baby, who wouldn’t go to sleep again.
But Boxer, who was in advance a quarter of a mile or so, had passed the
outskirts of the town, and gained the corner of the street where Caleb
and his daughter lived; and long before they reached the door, he and
the blind girl were on the pavement waiting to receive them.

_The Party at Caleb’s_

May Fielding was already there; and so was her mother, a little
querulous chip of an old lady with a peevish face. Gruff and Tackleton
was also there, pretending to be agreeable and perfectly at home, and
really quite as much out of his element as a fish out of water.

“May! My dear old friend!” cried Dot, running up to meet her. “What
happiness to see you!”

Her old friend was as glad as she, and it really was, if you’ll
believe me, a pleasant sight to see them embrace each other. Tackleton
had shown taste, beyond all question. May was very pretty. And so
was Dot pretty. They simply set each other’s beauty off and, as
John Peerybingle came near saying, they ought to have been born
sisters–which was the only improvement you could have suggested.

Tackleton had brought his leg of mutton, and, wonderful to relate, a
tart beside–but he could afford such generosity this time; one doesn’t
get married every day. And in addition to these dainties, there were
the veal-and-ham-pie and “things,” as Mrs. Peerybingle called them;
which were chiefly nuts and oranges and cakes.

When the repast was set forth on the table, together with Caleb’s
contribution, a bowl of smoking potatoes, which was all he was allowed
to provide, Tackleton led his future mother-in-law to the post of
honor. Why, she was gotten up for the occasion; even wearing gloves.
Caleb sat next his daughter. Dot and her old school friend were side by
side. The carrier took care of the bottom of the table. Miss Slowboy
was seated a little distance away, far from every other article of
furniture but the chair she sat on, that she might have nothing to
knock the baby’s head against. She was delighted not only to take care
of the baby, but to stare around at the toys.

“Ah, May,” said Dot. “Dear, dear, what changes! To talk of those merry
school days makes one young again.”

“Why, you ain’t particularly old at any time, are you?” said Tackleton.

“Look at my sober, plodding husband there,” returned Dot. “He adds
twenty years to my age at least. Don’t you, John?”

“Forty,” John replied.

“How many _you’ll_ add to May’s I am sure I don’t know,” said Dot,
laughing. “But she can’t be much less than a hundred years of age on
her next birthday.”

“Ha, ha!” laughed Tackleton. Hollow as a drum was the laugh, though.
And he looked as if he could have twisted Dot’s neck comfortably.

“Dear, dear,” said Dot. “Only think how we used to talk sometimes
about the husbands we would choose. I don’t know how lively and gay
mine was not to be! And as to May’s–ah, dear! I don’t know whether to
laugh or cry when I think what silly girls we were.”

May seemed to know which to do, for the color flashed into her face and
tears stood in her eyes.

“We little thought how things would come about,” said Dot. “I never
fixed on John, I’m sure; I never so much as thought of him. And if I
had told you you were ever to be married to Mr. Tackleton–why, you’d
have slapped me, wouldn’t you, May?”

Though May didn’t say yes, she certainly didn’t say no, or express no,
by any means.

Tackleton laughed–quite shouted, he laughed so loud. John Peerybingle
laughed too, in his ordinary, good-natured and contented manner; but
his was a mere whisper of a laugh compared to Tackleton’s.

“You couldn’t help yourselves for all that,” said Tackleton. “You
couldn’t resist us, you see. Here we are! Here we are! Where are your
gay young bridegrooms now?”

“Some of them are dead,” said Dot; “and some of them forgotten. Some of
them, if they could stand among us at this moment, would not believe
that we are the same creatures, because they would not believe we
_could_ forget them so. No! they would not believe one word of it!”

“Why, Dot!” exclaimed the carrier. “Little woman!” And Dot kept quiet,
while Tackleton looked at her through his half-shut eye.

May uttered no word, good or bad, but sat quite still, with her eyes
downcast, and made no sign of interest in what had passed. Her mother,
however, observed that girls were girls, and bygones were bygones, and
that so long as young people were young and thoughtless, they would
probably conduct themselves like young and thoughtless persons. She
then remarked that she thanked heaven that she had always found in May
a dutiful and obedient child, for which she took no credit to herself,
though she had every reason to believe it was owing to herself. With
regard to Mr. Tackleton, she said that he was a son-in-law to be
desired, as no one in their senses could doubt.

Now, the meal ended, John Peerybingle rose to go, for he only stopped
to feed his horse, and to enjoy the social hour before finishing his
route. He would call for Dot on his way back. This was always the
program on picnic days.

“Good-by,” he said, pulling on his dreadnought coat. “I shall be back
at the usual time. Good-by, all.”

Then he called Boxer, and soon the old horse and the cart were making
lively music down the road.

Caleb and Bertha were talking together at one end of the room.

“So bring me the precious baby, Tilly,” said Dot, drawing a chair to
the fire; “and while I have him in my lap, here’s Mrs. Fielding, Tilly,
who will tell me all about the management of babies, and straighten
me out in twenty points where I’m as wrong as can be. Won’t you, Mrs.
Fielding?”

Here Tackleton walked out, and Mrs. Fielding, sitting bolt upright in
front of Dot, gave her such a marvelous collection of receipts and
rules that would, if Dot had carried them out, have utterly destroyed
the young Peerybingle, even if he had been an infant Samson.

Now Dot brought her needlework out of her pocket, and had a whispering
chat with May while the old lady dozed, and after a while Caleb and
Bertha joined them, and all found it a very short afternoon.

Then as it grew dark, since it was the solemn rule that Bertha should
do no household tasks on the days of the picnics, Dot trimmed the fire,
and swept the hearth, and set the tea-tray out, and drew the curtains,
and lighted a candle. Then she played an air or two on a rude kind of
harp which Caleb had made for Bertha, and played them very well; for
Nature had made her delicate little ear as choice a one for music as it
would have been for jewels–if she had had them to wear.

By this time, it was the usual hour for tea, and Tackleton came back
again, to share the meal and spend the evening.

When it was night, and tea was over, and Dot had nothing more to do
after washing the cups and saucers–when the time drew near for the
carrier’s return, Dot began to grow nervous. Every time she heard the
sound of distant wheels, her color came and went, and she was restless.
Not as good wives are when listening for their husbands. No, no, no. It
was a different sort of restlessness from that.

Soon wheels were heard very near–horse’s feet–the barking of a
dog–and then the scratching of Boxer’s paw.

“Whose step is that?” cried Bertha, starting up.

“‘Whose step’?” said the carrier, standing in the door, his brown face
ruddy as a winter berry from the keen night air. “Why, mine.”

“The other step,” Bertha said. “The man’s tread behind you!”

“She’s not to be deceived,” observed the carrier, laughing. “Come
along, sir. You’ll be welcome, never fear!”

_The Shadow on the Hearth_

He spoke in a loud tone; and as he spoke, the deaf old gentleman
entered.

“He’s not so much a stranger that you haven’t seen him once, Caleb,”
said the carrier. “You’ll give him house-room till we go?”

“Oh, surely, John, and take it as an honor.”

“He’s the best company on earth to talk secrets in,” said John. “I have
reasonably good lungs, but he tried them, I’ll tell you.” Turning to
the old gentleman, he spoke in a loud voice again, “Sit down, sir. All
friends here, and glad to see you.”

Then he added in his natural tone, “A chair in the chimney-corner, and
leave to sit silent and look pleasantly about him is all he cares for.
He’s easily pleased.”

Bertha had been listening intently. She called Caleb to her side, and
when he came, asked him, in a low voice, to describe their visitor.
When he had done so, she moved away and showed no further interest in
him.

The carrier was in high spirits, good fellow that he was, and fonder of
his little wife than ever.

“Some folks may think it queer,” he said jokingly, putting his rough
arm about her, as she stood apart from the others, “but I like this
little lady somehow. Look yonder, Dot.”

He pointed to the old man. She looked down. I think she trembled.

“He’s–ha, ha, ha!–he is so fond of you that he talked of nothing else
the whole way here. I like him for it.”

“I wish he had a better subject, John,” she said with an uneasy glance
about the room–at Tackleton especially.

“A better subject!” cried the jovial John. “There’s no such thing.
Come! Off with the great-coat, off with this thick shawl, off with the
heavy wrappings! And now for a cozy half-hour by the fire. How would
it please you, Mrs. Fielding, to have a game of cards, you and I? All
right? Where are the cards, Dot–and will you let us have a cup of tea
here if there’s any left, small wife?”

Soon the carrier and the old lady were deep within the game. At first
the carrier looked about him sometimes with a smile, or now and then
called Dot to peep over his shoulder to advise him on some knotty
point. But soon he became so absorbed that he had neither eyes nor ears
to spare, and his whole attention was upon the cards, and he thought of
nothing else, until a hand was laid upon his shoulder.

“I am sorry to disturb you,” said Tackleton in a low voice, “but I want
a word with you, please.”

“It’s my turn to deal,” returned the carrier. “Can you wait?”

“No,” said Tackleton. “Come on, man.”

There was an expression in his pale face which made John rise
immediately, and ask him in a hurry what the matter was.

“Hush, John Peerybingle,” said Tackleton. “I am sorry for this. I am
indeed. I have been afraid of it. I have suspected it from the first.”

“What is it?” asked the carrier in alarm.

“Hush! I’ll show you if you’ll come with me.”

The carrier accompanied him without another word. They went across
the yard, where the stars were shining, and by a little side door
they entered Tackleton’s own counting-house. There, through a window,
they could look into a window of the wareroom where the boxes of toys
were kept. The counting-house was closed for the night, and there was
no light, but a dim light was burning in the wareroom, so they could
easily see within.

“Wait a moment!” said Tackleton. “Can you bear to look through that
window, do you think?”

“Why not?” asked the carrier.

“It will be a shock,” said Tackleton. “Promise not to do anything
violent.”

And then John looked, and what do you think he saw?

He saw his dear young wife with the old man–old no longer, but
straight and handsome, holding in his hands his soft white hair with
which he had made every one think him old and treat him so kindly. He
saw her listening to him as he bent his head to whisper in her ear,
and then let him place his arm about her waist and lead her slowly to
the door. He saw her, with her own hands, adjust the wig on his head,
laughing as she did so!

John felt weak as an infant as Tackleton led him back to the house.

He was wrapped up to the chin and busy with his horse and parcels when
she came into the room, ready for going home.

“Now, John, dear! Good-night, May! Good-night, Bertha,” she said.

How could she kiss them? How be so blithe and gay in her parting? Why
didn’t she blush? Tackleton as well as John wondered.

Tilly was hushing the baby and as she walked to and fro, she was
repeating drowsily: “Did they thought that it was to be its wives wring
its heart almost to breaking? and did it weep all nights when nobody
was there to see it?”

“Now, Tilly, give me the baby,” said little Mrs. Peerybingle.
“Good-night, Mr. Tackleton. Where’s John, for goodness’ sake?”

“He’s going to walk beside the horse’s head,” said Tackleton, who
helped her into the cart.

“My dear John! Walk?–to-night?”

The muffled figure of her husband made a hasty sign; and the Stranger
and nurse being by this time in their places, the old horse moved off,
Boxer running on before, running back, running round and round the
cart, and barking merrily.

When Tackleton had gone off likewise, taking May and her mother, poor
Caleb sat down by the fire beside his daughter. The toys that had been
wound and set in motion for the baby had run down long ago. In the
silence one might have imagined that they had been stricken motionless
with wonder at Dot being false, or Tackleton beloved under any set of
circumstances.

Presently Bertha spoke.

“After Mr. Tackleton is married, we shall not see so much of him, shall
we, Father?”

“Well, we might–that is to say–” began Caleb.

“How I should love to be like May, Father, and have my eyes so that I
might serve him, might show my love for him, who has been so good, so
kind, so dear.”

Poor Caleb! How often he said to himself as he looked at her, in
remorse, “Have I deceived her from her cradle, thinking to make her
happier, but to break her heart at last?”

THE Dutch clock in the corner struck ten, when the carrier sat down at
his fireside. So troubled was he that he scarcely heard the cuckoo as
it counted off the strokes.

He could scarcely believe what his eyes had seen in the wareroom
of Gruff and Tackleton. If any one had told him, he would not have
believed his Dot could be a party to such dreadful deceit.

Yet, in his own heart, he did not blame her, but rather the old young
man who had been so wickedly unfair, and he was planning to do him
harm to pay him back. He hoped that Dot would be able to explain; but
no–there really wasn’t any hope of that.

There, she was coming.

She had been upstairs with the baby, putting it to bed.

As he sat brooding near the hearth, she came close to him, and put her
little stool at his feet. He then felt her hand upon his own, and knew
she was looking up in his face.

He glanced at her. She looked as sweet as ever, until she caught
the expression on his face. At first she seemed surprised, then her
surprise changed in a wild recognition of his thoughts, and she simply
bent her head and clasped her hands, but no words were said.

At length she rose and went away, and he felt glad, for the first time
since he had known her, to have her gone.

There was a gun hanging on the wall. He took it down, and moved toward
the Stranger’s room. He put his hand to the door–when suddenly the
struggling fire burst into a glow of light, and the cricket on the
hearth began to chirp.

No sound he could have heard, no human voice, not even hers, could so
have moved and softened him. The very words in which she had told him
of her love for this same cricket were as if just spoken in her sweet,
pleasant voice, making household music; and they thrilled through and
through his better nature, and awoke it into life and action.

He moved from the door like a man who had been walking in his sleep
when awakening from a frightful dream. He put the gun aside. Clasping
his hands before his face, he sat down again beside the fire.

The cricket on the hearth came out into the room and stood in fairy
shape before him.

“‘I love it’,” said the fairy voice, “‘for the many times I have heard
it, and the many thoughts its harmless music has given me’.”

“She said so!” cried the carrier. “True!” “‘This has been a happy home,
John; and I love the cricket for its sake.’”

“She’s so sweet-tempered, so cheerful, busy, light-hearted. Otherwise I
never could have loved her as I did.”

The voice, correcting him, said, “do.”

“You should trust her,” the fairy voice said.

All night long he listened to the voice. All night long the household
fairies were busy with him, showing him how sweet and dear she was; how
he had never found her untrue, or had reason to doubt her except this
once.

He rose up when it was broad day, and washed and tidied himself.

He could not go on his usual rounds, for it was Tackleton’s wedding
day. He had planned to go merrily to the church with Dot. But such
plans were at an end. Ah! what a different wedding anniversary he had
expected!

_John Blames Himself_

The carrier had thought that Tackleton would pay him an early visit,
and he was right. He had just finished brushing his hair when he saw
the merchant in his carriage coming along the road. As the carriage
drew near he saw that Tackleton was dressed out sprucely for marriage,
and that he had decorated his horse’s head with flowers and favors.

The horse looked much more like a bridegroom than Tackleton, whose
half-closed eye was more disagreeably expressive than ever. But the
carrier took little heed of this. His thoughts were elsewhere.

“John Peerybingle!” said Tackleton. “My good fellow, how do you find
yourself this morning?”

“I have had but a poor night, Mr. Tackleton,” said the carrier, shaking
his head, “for I have been a good deal disturbed in my mind. But it’s
over now! Can you spare me half an hour or so, for some private talk?”

“I came on purpose,” returned Tackleton lightly. “Never mind the horse.
He’ll stand quiet enough if you’ll give him a mouthful of hay.”

“You are not to be married before noon, I think?” said John.

“No,” answered Tackleton. “Plenty of time. Plenty of time.”

When they entered the kitchen, Tilly Slowboy was knocking at the
Stranger’s door. One of her very red eyes was at the keyhole, for she
had been crying because her mistress cried. She was knocking very loud,
and seemed frightened.

“If you please, I can’t make nobody hear,” said Tilly, looking round.
“I hope nobody ain’t gone and been and died, if you please.”

This hope Miss Slowboy made more emphatic by kicking on the door, but
it led to no result.

“Shall I help?” asked Tackleton, turning to John.

The carrier nodded his head.

So Tackleton went to the door and he, too, kicked and knocked; and he,
too, failed to get any reply. But he thought of trying the handle of
the door, and as it opened easily, he peeped in, went in, and soon came
running out again.

“He’s gone!” said Tackleton; “and the window’s open. I don’t see any
marks–to be sure–or signs of a fight, but I thought perhaps you might
have been so angry—-”

He nearly shut up the expressive eye altogether, he looked at John so
hard. And he gave his eye, and his face, and his whole body, a sharp
twist, as if he would have screwed the truth out of John.

“Make yourself easy,” said the carrier. “He went into that room last
night without harm in word or act from me, and no one has entered it
since. He has gone away of his own free will.”

“Oh! Well, I think he has got off pretty easy,” said Tackleton, taking
a chair.

The sneer was lost upon the carrier, who sat down, too, and shaded his
face in his hand for some time before speaking.

“You showed me last night,” he said at length, “my wife, my dear wife
that I love, deceiving me, and meeting a strange man who had deceived
me. I think there’s no man in the world I wouldn’t rather have had show
it to me.”

“I confess I know that I am not a favorite in your home, John, because
I never believed wholly in your pretty little wife,” said Tackleton.

“And as you did show me, and as you saw her to such disadvantage, it is
right you should know what my mind is on the subject. For it’s settled,
and nothing can change it.”

Tackleton muttered a few words about its being necessary to decide, but
he was overawed by the manner of his companion. Plain and unpolished as
it was, there was something noble and dignified about it.

“I am a plain, rough man,” continued the carrier, “with very little to
recommend me. I am not a clever man, as you very well know. I am not
a young man. I loved my little Dot because I had seen her grow up from
a child, in her father’s house; because I knew how precious she was;
because she had been in my life for years and years.”

He paused a moment, then went on.

“I often thought that though I wasn’t good enough for her, I should
make her a kind husband, and perhaps appreciate her better than
another. And so it came about we were married.”

“Hah!” said Tackleton, with a shake of his head.

“I knew how much I loved her, and how happy I should be,” continued the
carrier; “but I had not sufficiently considered her.”

“No,” said Tackleton. “No; you didn’t stop to think how giddy,
frivolous, fickle, vain! Hah!”

“You’d better not interrupt me,” said the carrier, with some sternness,
“till you understand me, which you seem far from doing.”

The toy merchant looked at him in surprise.

“I didn’t consider that I took her, at her age, with her beauty, away
from her young companions and their many scenes of pleasure into my
dull house and my tedious society. I didn’t consider how little suited
I was to her fun and humor, and how wearisome I must be to one of her
quick spirit. No! I took advantage of her hopeful nature, and I married
her. I shouldn’t have done so!”

The toy merchant gazed at him without winking. Even the half-shut eye
was now open.

“Heaven bless her!” said the carrier, “for the cheerful way she has
tried not to let me see how it was! Heaven help me, that, in my slow
mind I have not found it out before. Poor child! Poor Dot! Strange I
did not realize when I have seen her eyes fill with tears on hearing of
such a marriage as our own spoken of. How good and kind she has been!
The thought will comfort me when I am here alone.”

“Here alone?” said Tackleton. “Then you do mean to take some notice of
her deceit?”

“I mean,” answered the carrier, “to do her the greatest kindness in my
power–to try to make it all up to her. She shall be free to go where
she will.”

“Make it up to her!” exclaimed Tackleton, twisting and turning his
great ears with his hands. “I must have heard wrong. You didn’t say
that, of course.”

“Didn’t I speak plainly?” said the carrier, giving the toy merchant a
shake.

“Very plainly indeed,” answered Tackleton.

“As if I meant it?”

“Very much as if you meant it.”

“Anger and distrust have left me,” said the carrier; “and nothing but
my grief remains. In an unhappy moment some old lover, better suited
to her years than I, returned. Last night she saw him in the interview
we witnessed. It was wrong. But otherwise than this, she is innocent
if there is truth on earth! I should not have taken her from her home.
She shall return to it, and I will trouble her no more. Her father and
mother will be here to-day, and they shall take her home. This is the
end of what you showed me. Now, it’s over.”

“Oh, no, John, not over. Do not say it’s over yet. Not quite yet. I
heard your noble words. I could not steal out again, letting you think
me ignorant of what you said. Do not say it’s over–’till the clock has
struck again!”

Dot had entered quietly while John and Tackleton were talking, and had
heard every word.

“No hand can make the clock which will strike again for me the hours
that are gone,” replied the carrier, with a faint smile. “But let it be
so, if you will, my dear.”

“Well!” muttered Tackleton. “I must be off, for when it strikes again,
I must be on my way to church. Good-by, John Peerybingle.”

The carrier saw him to the door, watched his horse until it disappeared
in the distance, and then went out himself.

His little wife, being left alone, sobbed piteously, but often dried
her tears to say how good and dear he was!–and once or twice she
laughed through her tears so heartily and triumphantly that Tilly was
quite horrified.

“Ow, if you please, don’t!” said Tilly. “It’s enough to dead and bury
the baby; so it is, if you please.”

“Will you bring him to see me sometimes,” inquired her mistress, “when
I don’t live here, and have gone to my old home?”

“Ow, if you please, don’t!” cried Tilly, throwing back her head. She
looked a great deal like Boxer when he howled. “Ow, if you please,
don’t! What has everybody gone and been and done with everybody, making
everybody so miserable? Ow-w-w!”

_Caleb Confesses His Deceit_

And she might have kept on, if just at that moment Caleb Plummer had
not come in, leading his daughter.

“Why, Mary” (which was Dot’s other name, you remember). “Why, Mary!”
said Bertha. “Not at the wedding?”

“I told her you would not be there, mum,” whispered Caleb. “I heard as
much last night. But bless you,” said the little man, “I don’t care
what they say. I don’t believe them. There ain’t much of me, but what
little there is would be torn to pieces sooner than I’d believe a word
against you!”

He put his arms around her neck and hugged her very much as a child
might have hugged one of the dolls he had made.

“Bertha wanted to come see you instead of going to the wedding,” said
Caleb, “so we started in good time. I often wish I had not deceived
her in regard to Tackleton, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d
better tell her the truth. You’ll stay with us while I tell her, won’t
you, mum?” he inquired, trembling from head to foot. “I don’t know what
effect it may have upon her. I don’t know what she’ll think of me; I
don’t know that she’ll ever care for her father afterwards. But it’s
best she should be undeceived, and I must bear the consequences as I
deserve.”

“Mary,” said Bertha, “where is your hand? I heard them speaking softly
last night of some blame against you. They were wrong. I told them so.
I scorned to hear a word! I know and trust you, Mary, so well that
could my sight be restored at this instant, I could choose you from a
crowd–my sister!”

Her father went on one side of her, while Dot remained on the other,
holding her hand.

“Bertha, my dear,” said Caleb, “I have something on my mind I want to
tell you while we three are alone. Listen kindly! I have a confession
to make to you.”

“A confession, Father?”

“Yes, my child; I have wandered from the truth,” said Caleb, with a
pitiable expression in his face. “I have wandered from the truth,
intending to be kind to you; and have been cruel.”

She turned toward him, and repeated the word, “Cruel?”

“He accuses himself too strongly, Bertha,” said Dot. “You’ll say so,
presently. You’ll be the first to tell him so.”

“He, cruel to me?” cried Bertha, with an unbelieving smile.

“Not meaning to be, my child,” said Caleb, “but I have been, although
I never knew it until yesterday. My dear blind daughter, forgive me.
The world, dear heart, is not as you imagine it. It is not as I have
represented it. The eyes you have trusted in have been false to you.”

She turned her wondering face toward him still, but drew back, and
clung closer to her friend.

“Your road in life was rough, my poor one,” said Caleb, “and I meant to
smooth it for you. I have pictured things to you as different from what
they are. I have even changed the characters of some people, to make
you happier. I have surrounded you with fancies.”

“But living people are not fancies,” she said, turning very pale. “You
can’t change them.”

“I have done so, Bertha,” Caleb told her. “There is one person you
know—-”

“Oh, Father, why do you say I know?” she said. “I who am so miserably
blind.”

She stretched out her hands as if to feel her way.

“The marriage that takes place to-day,” Caleb continued, “is with a
stern, sordid, grinding man. He has been a hard master to you and me,
my dear, for many years. Ugly in his looks and in his nature. Cold and
callous always. Unlike what I have painted him to you in everything, my
child–in everything.”

“Oh, why,” cried the blind girl, “why did you ever do this? Teach me to
love a person who really never existed? It is like death!”

Her poor father hung his head and offered no reply in his penitence and
sorrow. Suddenly the cricket on the hearth, unheard by all but her,
began to chirp, not merrily, but so mournfully that her tears began to
flow; and when the fairy spirit which had been near the carrier all
night, appeared behind her, pointing toward her father, she turned to
Dot.

“Mary,” she said, “tell me what my home is like–what it is truly.”

“It is a poor place, Bertha; very poor and bare indeed. The house will
scarcely keep out the wind and rain another winter. It is as roughly
shielded from the weather, Bertha,” Dot continued in a low voice, “as
your poor father in his sackcloth coat.”

The blind girl, greatly agitated, rose and led the carrier’s wife a
little aside.

“Those presents that I treasured so much; that came almost at my wish,”
she said, trembling; “where did they come from? Did you send them?”

“No.”

“Who, then?”

Dot saw she knew already, and was silent. The blind girl spread her
hands before her face again, but in quite a different manner now.

“Dear Mary, a moment, please. Speak softly. Tell me truly. Look across
the room to where we were sitting just now–to where my father is–my
father, so kind and loving to me–and tell me what you see.”

“I see,” said Dot, who understood her well, “an old man sitting in a
chair, and leaning over sorrowfully with his head resting in his hands.
He looks as if his child should comfort him, Bertha.”

“Yes, yes. She will. Go on.”

“He is an old man, worn with care and work. He is a sad, thoughtful,
gray-haired man, who seems to have lost the object he most loved in the
world–his child for whom he lived.”

The blind girl broke away from her, and dropping on her knees before
him, threw her arms around his neck.

“Oh, my Father! My dear, dear Father!” she cried. “I have been so
blind! But now my eyes are open. I never knew you. To think, I might
have died and never truly known the father who has been so loving to
me!”

Caleb managed to say, “My Bertha!”

“And in my blindness, I believed him to be so different,” said the
girl, still caressing him, “so young and gay!”

“The fresh, smart father in the blue coat–” said poor Caleb, “he’s
gone!”

“Nothing is gone,” she answered. “Dearest Father, no! Everything is
here–in you. But, Father—-” She hesitated.

“Mary–Mary is just what you told me? There is no change in her? You
never told me anything of her that was not true?”

“I should have done so, I’m afraid,” said Caleb, “if I could have made
her better than she was. But I must have changed her for the worse, if
I had changed _her_ at all. Nothing could improve her, Bertha.”

The blind girl was delighted with this reply, even though she had felt
so sure of what it must be, and her renewed embrace of Dot was charming
to behold.

_The Dead Returns to Life_

Dot glanced at the clock, and saw that it was within a few minutes of
striking, and immediately became very excited.

“More changes than you think for may happen, though,” said Dot;
“changes for the better, I mean; changes for great joy to some of us.
You mustn’t let them startle you too much when they come. But listen!
You’ve a quick ear, Bertha. Do you hear wheels upon the road?”

“Yes–coming very fast.”

“I–I–I know you have a quick ear,” said Dot, holding her hand to her
heart and talking as fast as she could, “because I have often noticed
it, and because you were so quick to hear that strange step last night.
Though why you should have taken such quick notice of it, and said,
‘Whose step is that?’ seems strange. But, as I said just now, there are
great changes in this world; great changes, and we can’t do better than
prepare ourselves to be surprised at hardly anything.”

Caleb wondered what she meant, for he saw that she was speaking to him
as much as to his daughter. He saw with astonishment, that she was
fluttered and distressed, and could scarcely breathe, as she held to a
chair to save herself from falling.

“They are wheels indeed!” she panted. “Coming nearer! Nearer! Very
close! And now you hear them stopping at the garden gate! And now you
hear a step outside the door–the same step, Bertha–is it not?–and
now!—-”

She uttered a cry of delight; and running up to Caleb, put her hands
over his eyes, as a young man rushed into the room, and flinging his
hat into the air, came sweeping down upon them.

“Is it over?” cried Dot.

“Yes!”

“Happily over?”

“Yes!”

“Do you know the voice, dear Caleb? Did you ever hear one like it
before?” cried Dot.

“If my boy who went to South America had not died–if he were alive–”
said Caleb, trembling.

“He is alive!” shrieked Dot, taking her hands from his eyes, and
clapping them in ecstasy. “Look at him! See, here he stands before you,
healthy and strong! Your own dear son. Your own dear living brother,
Bertha!”

She turned to meet the sunburned sailor half way, and let him kiss her
heartily.

Just at this moment, the carrier entered. Upon seeing them thus, he
started back.

“Look, John!” cried Caleb. “Look here! My own son! Him that you fitted
out, and sent away yourself! Him you were always such a friend to!”

The carrier advanced to seize him by the hand, but stepped back as he
noticed his resemblance to the deaf man in the cart.

“Edward! Was it you?”

“Now tell him all!” cried Dot. “Tell him all, Edward, and don’t spare
me.”

“I was the man,” said Edward.

“And you stole, disguised, into the home of your old friend!” the
carrier said. “I would never have believed it of you! There was a true
and frank boy once–how many years is it, Caleb, since we heard that he
was dead, and had it proved, we thought? He would never have done that!”

“There was a generous friend of mine, once, a friend, who was more a
father than a friend; he never would have judged a man before he heard
his case. You were he. So I am certain you will hear me now.”

The carrier, with a troubled glance at Dot, replied, “Well, that’s but
fair. I will.”

“You must know, then, that when I left here, a boy, I was in love, and
my love was returned, but the girl was very young, and couldn’t quite
make up her mind. Still I felt quite certain that she loved me as
dearly as I loved her.”

“You did!” exclaimed the carrier.

“Yes; and now I am sure she did. So all through the hardships and
perils of my years away, I was constantly thinking of when I should
come back to her. When I landed, twenty miles from here, I heard she
had bestowed herself upon another and a richer man. I did not wish to
find fault with her if she had preferred him. What I wanted to find out
was whether she had done this of her own free will. I wanted to judge
for myself just how she felt, so I disguised myself–you know how;
and waited on the road–you know where. You had no suspicion of me;
neither had she,” pointing to Dot, “until I whispered in her ear at the
fireside, and so startled her that she nearly betrayed me.”

“Oh, Dot!” exclaimed the carrier.

“But when she knew that Edward was alive, and had come back,” sobbed
Dot, now speaking for herself, as she had long wished to do, “and when
he told her why he had disguised himself, she advised him to keep his
secret close, by all means; for she knew that his old friend, John
Peerybingle, was too open in his nature to keep such a secret, no
matter how he tried. Then she–that’s me, John–told him all, how his
sweetheart had thought him dead; and how she had, after all the years,
been over-persuaded by her mother, because the silly, dear, old thing
called the marriage advantageous; and when she–that’s me, John–told
him they were not yet married (but soon would be) and that it would
be nothing but a sacrifice if it went on, for there was no love on
her side; and when he went nearly wild with joy to hear it; when
she–that’s me again, John–said she would help him, and carry messages
to his sweetheart, as she had so often done as a girl; and she would
find out what his sweetheart thought was right—-”

“Oh!” said John.

“And it was right, John,” Dot continued, catching her breath, “for they
were married, John, an hour ago! And here’s the bride! And Gruff and
Tackleton may die a bachelor! And I’m a happy little woman. May God
bless you!”

As she drew May forward and lavished all kinds of good wishes and
congratulations upon her, the carrier stood confounded. As he flew
towards her, Dot stretched out her hand to stop him.

“John, dear John, forgive me! It was wrong to have a secret from you.
I’m very sorry. I didn’t think it any harm until the night when I came
and sat down by you on the little stool. But when I looked at your
face, I knew you must have seen me walking in the wareroom with Edward,
and were suspicious of me. But oh, John, how could–how could you think
wrong of me?”

John Peerybingle would have caught her in his arms; but no, she
wouldn’t let him.

“Wait a minute, please, John dear, until you let me hear you tell me
that you believe me, and trust me, and that you know how much I love
you–so much that I’ll never have another secret from you; and that
you’ll never, never think of sending me from my home, and yours, John,
and our cricket on the hearth.”

Then you would have been delighted to see Dot run into the carrier’s
arms. You may be sure the carrier was in a state of perfect rapture;
and you may be sure that everybody, especially Miss Slowboy, wept
for joy, and she, wishing to include the baby, handed him around to
everyone in succession as if he were something to eat or drink.

But now the sound of wheels was heard again outside the door, and
somebody exclaimed that Gruff and Tackleton was coming back in. Soon he
appeared, looking warm and flustered.

“My, what in nation’s this, John Peerybingle!” said Tackleton. “There’s
some mistake. I had an appointment with Miss Fielding to meet me at the
church, and–oh, here she is!” seeing her with Edward, to whom he then
turned, saying:

“I beg your pardon, sir; I haven’t the pleasure of knowing you; but
if you can do me the favor to spare this young lady–she has a rather
particular engagement with me this morning.”

“But I can’t spare her,” said Edward. “I couldn’t think of it.”

“What do you mean, you vagabond?” exclaimed Tackleton.

“I mean–and I pardon you for being vexed–I mean that I am as deaf to
your harsh words as I was last night.”

Such a startled look as Tackleton gave him!

“It is too bad, sir,” said Edward, holding out May’s left hand,
especially the third finger, “that the young lady can’t accompany you
to the church; but as she has been there once this morning, perhaps
you’ll excuse her.”

Tackleton looked hard at the third finger, and took a ring out of his
waistcoat pocket.

“Miss Slowboy,” said Tackleton, “will you have the kindness to throw
that into the fire? Thank you.”

“It was a previous engagement, quite an old engagement, that prevented
my wife from keeping her appointment with you, I assure you,” said
Edward.

“Mr. Tackleton will do me the justice to say that I told him about this
old engagement many times, and that I never could forget it,” said May,
blushing.

“Oh, certainly,” said Tackleton. “Oh, to be sure! Oh, it’s all right,
it’s quite correct. You are now Mrs. Edward Plummer, I infer?”

“That’s the name,” said the bridegroom.

“Ah, I shouldn’t have known you,” said Tackleton. “I give you joy, sir.”

With these words, he hurried away, merely stopping at the gate to take
the flowers and favors off the horse’s head, and to kick the horse
once, just to relieve his feelings.

Of course, the next thing in order was the wedding feast; and Dot set
to work with all her might, even calling in some neighborly help, and
everybody, as if on the point of life or death, ran against each other
in all the doorways, and round all the corners, tumbling over Tilly
Slowboy and the baby everywhere.

Then there was an expedition to find Mrs. Fielding, and to apologize to
her, and to bring her back, happy and forgiving. At first, she would
not listen at all, and wouldn’t say anything but, “Now carry me to my
grave,” which seemed absurd, on account of her not being dead, or even
ill.

After a while she settled down into a dreadful calm, and advantage was
taken of this to get her into her coat and gloves, and carry her off to
John Peerybingle’s.

When they reached the house, there were Dot’s father and mother; and
May’s mother and Dot’s mother began to renew their acquaintance.

After a grand confusion of talk and action, they actually were seated
at the table. To have missed that dinner would have been to have missed
as good and as jolly a meal as man need eat.

After dinner, Caleb sang his song about the sparkling bowl; and, you
may not believe it, but he sang it through.

And, by-the-bye, a most unexpected thing occurred just as he finished
the last verse.

_Tackleton Does the Unexpected_

There was a tap at the door, and a man came staggering in with a big
round box, which he set on the table in the center of the nuts and
apples. He said:

“Mr. Tackleton’s compliments, and as he hasn’t got no use for the cake
himself, perhaps you’ll eat it.”

And with these words, he walked off.

There was some surprise among the company, as you may imagine. Mrs.
Fielding suggested that the cake might be poisoned, and told about a
cake which she had heard of that had turned a seminary of young ladies
blue. But, notwithstanding the story, the cake was cut by May with much
ceremony and rejoicing.

I don’t think any one had tasted it, when there came another tap at the
door, and the same man appeared again, having under his arm a big brown
paper parcel.

“Mr. Tackleton’s compliments, and he’s sent a few toys for the baby.
They ain’t ugly.”

The whole party would not have been able to find words to express their
astonishment even if they had had plenty of time. But they had none,
for the messenger had scarcely shut the door when there came another
tap, and Tackleton himself walked in.

“Mrs. Peerybingle!” said the toy merchant, hat in hand, “I’m sorry. I’m
sour by disposition, but I am going to try to do better. Caleb, I might
have had you and your daughter for dear friends. As it is, my house is
lonely to-night. I have not even a cricket on the hearth. I have scared
them all away. Be kind to me, please; let me join this happy party!”

He was at home in five minutes. You never saw such a fellow. _What_ had
he been doing with himself all his life, never to have known before how
much fun he had in him! Or what had the fairies been doing with him to
change him so!

There was but one more living creature wanted to make the party
complete, and in the twinkling of an eye, there he was, very
thirsty–with hard running, for Boxer had gone all the way with the
cart on its journey, and being disgusted at finding his master absent,
and unable to induce the horse to come with him, had turned tail and
trotted home.

There was a dance in the evening; but since the old people didn’t
dance, and Dot said her dancing days were over because, I believe, she
preferred to sit near the carrier really, Edward and May were the only
dancers, and they got up amid great applause, to dance alone, while
Bertha played her liveliest tune.

Well, if you’ll believe me, they had not been dancing five minutes,
when the carrier suddenly jumps up, takes Dot round the waist, dashes
out into the room, and starts off with her, toe and heel, quite
wonderfully. Tackleton no sooner sees this than he skims across to Mrs.
Fielding, and follows suit. Then Dot’s father and mother, and Caleb and
Tilly Slowboy join in.

* * * * *

Hark! how the cricket joins the music with its chirp! chirp! chirp! and
how the kettle hums!

IN the middle of the story, “The Cricket on the Hearth,” when everybody
was so anxious to hear more, there came the sound of many voices, and
then a loud scream. Mary Frances knew it was the voice of the old
witch, who had been listening.

“Let me be!” she was crying. “I don’t want to go away! I want to find
out who the old man was! I want to find out who the old man was! I want
to see if Tackleton did marry May Fielding! I won’t go! S-so there! Did
I tramp all the miles to get here just to be taken back again?”

Then came the deep, heavy voice of the giant: “Be quiet!” it said. “Be
quiet! No, you won’t have to go back. We’ll take you. This time we’ll
lock you up so tight you’ll stay where you’re put, and you’ll come when
you’re bid. That’s what you’ll do!”

“S-somebody tell me quick!” screamed the old witch. “Quick! Did May
Fielding marry Tackleton? Did she? Did she?” and Mary Frances heard her
screaming, “Did she? Did she?” until her voice died away.

How Mary Frances longed to tell her no, but she did not dare!

“She deserves her punishment,” the Queen whispered, and since she knew
that that was true, Mary Frances did not speak.

After the story was over, she received her copy from the Ready Writer
and slipped it into her story satchel with the rest of the stories.
Then she wandered down by the seashore alone. Near the shore there was
a boy with a feather in his cap sitting on a rock. She knew him in a
minute.

“Where did the giant take the old witch, do you think, Peter Pan?” she
asked.

“To the Devil’s Den,” said Peter. “I saw them go.”

“To the Devil’s Den!” cried Mary Frances. “How dreadful!”

“It’s not such a bad place,” said Peter. “It is just a deep cave. It is
lighted from a large opening in the top. Its name is the worst thing
about it; but the old witch cannot get out of it if they lock her in.”

“Oh, she got away from the giant’s basket, then?”

“She did. She was so crazy to hear a story through that she watched her
first chance to make off when the giant guard was asleep.”

“What about the pirate?” asked Mary Frances.

“He is chained to a rock in the Pirate’s Cove, and he spends his time
jumping in and out of the water. He has jumped so much and so hard that
the suds are rising all around him just as when you blow bubbles in a
bowl, holding the pipe down in the water. Poor thing! Some day the suds
will rise so high that the bubbles will cover him and smother him.”

“Is there no way for him to save himself?” asked Mary Frances.

“Certainly!” said Peter Pan. “All he has to do is to be good; but he
won’t be! He’s just naturally wicked. He’d murder fairies if he could,
and he’d steal all the stories in the world, and he’d feed children on
charcoal and castor oil–he told me so once. It was after I caught him
trying to steal my shadow.”

“He must have a wicked heart!” said Mary Frances.

“Once I asked him why he was so bad,” Peter told her “and what do you
think he said?”

“I don’t know, I’m sure,” she returned.

“He said it was because his mother never kissed him.”

“His mother never kissed him!” exclaimed Mary Frances. “Why, what a
queer kind of mother! Now my mother—-”

Suddenly she felt very homesick. Tears sprang to her eyes. “Why,
Peter!” she cried wistfully. “Why, Peter! It must be over a year since
my mother kissed me! Shall I turn wicked, too? Oh, I wish I could see
her–my own dear mother!”

As she finished speaking, a beautiful little sail-boat appeared before
them. It was smaller than The Good Ferry.

“Step aboard, then,” said Peter Pan, rising and leading her toward the
boat. “This is a fairy boat. You will be home in an hour. Sit in the
stern. Take the tiller in your hand. Hold it steady, and wish out loud
where you want to go.”

He helped Mary Frances into the boat.

“Oh, but I haven’t thanked the Story People for my wonderful, wonderful
time!” she exclaimed. “I wish I could thank them!”

Even as she spoke, every door and window of the castle opened and the
Story People appeared.

“Thank you all! Thank you forever–and–ever! Thank you for all the
girls and boys in the world!” cried Mary Frances.

“Have you your stories?” called the Story King.

“Yes, I have them here!” said Mary Frances, holding up her story
satchel.

“When you want more, come again, dear child,” called the Story Queen.

“Oh, yes, come again!” called all the Story People. “For we love you!
The Story People love all children. Take our love to all you can, and
good-by! Good-by! Good-by!”

“Good-by, dear, dear friends!” called Mary Frances, as the little boat
sailed away. “Good-by, and thank you!”

She watched until the island was too far away for her to make out the
forms of the people at the castle windows. Then she wished aloud,
“Home! Take me to my mother and father and my brother, little fairy
sail-boat!”

And the wind blew and filled the sails and the sun warmed and cheered
her, and the waves danced about the boat, making little lapping sounds
which were like music–and the next thing she knew she was running up
the garden walk into her mother’s open arms.

“The stories are not yours, dear; they belong to all children,” said
her mother, when Mary Frances emptied her story satchel, and told of
her wonderful adventures among the Story People. “Let us make enough
copies for them all.”

Continue Reading

ROBERT OF SICILY

THERE is an old legend of a proud king, named Robert of Sicily. This
legend tells of the greatest event of Robert’s life; and the poet,
Longfellow, has written a beautiful poem about it, which every one
should read. This is the story:

Robert, King of Sicily, was a very proud monarch and a very selfish
one. He spent most of his time enjoying himself, and gave little heed
to the wants of his people.

On St. John’s eve he attended vesper service with a great retinue of
knights and lords and pages. He was dressed most magnificently, and
proudly sat while the choir chanted some strange Latin words.

The king did not understand Latin, and turning to a learned clerk
nearby, he said, “What do those words mean?”

The clerk answered, “They mean,

‘He has put down the mighty from their seat,
And has exalted them of low degree!’”

The king laughed scornfully, and said, “It is well that such words are
sung in Latin, for there is no power on earth that can push me from my
throne.”

Then he leaned back yawning, and fell asleep.

When he awoke it was already night; the church was empty and all in
darkness.

The king was angry at finding himself alone. He groped his way toward
the great doors, but found them locked.

Then he thought of the windows, but they were high above his reach.
Then he became frightened and cried aloud. He listened, but all that he
heard was the resounding echoes of his cries, as they rang, again and
again, through the high, vaulted ceiling of the church.

He knocked with his fists against the doors, and swore awful oaths
against every one in his court. He became so angry that he tore his
magnificent robes into shreds. He had long since lost his hat and cloak.

At length the sexton of the church heard the noise, and he thought that
perhaps thieves were breaking into the church, so he lit his lantern
and went to the door. When he could make himself heard, he asked, “Who
is there?”

The king, half choked with rage, answered fiercely, “Open, ’tis I, the
king. Are you afraid?”

The frightened sexton muttered to himself: “It is some drunken beggar,
or some one crazy;” and, turning the great key, he flung open the doors.

A man in torn garments, without hat or cloak, rushed past him. He
neither looked at him nor spoke, but, leaping into the darkness,
vanished almost like a spectre from his sight.

Bareheaded, breathless, covered with dust and cobwebs, Robert strode on
through the darkness, and came to the palace gates. He rushed through
the courtyard, thrusting aside the guards and pages, and hurried up the
broad stairs. From hall to hall he passed in breathless speed, although
he heard voices and cries to stop him, until he came to the banquet
room, which was blazing with light.

There he stood motionless, speechless, amazed; for on the throne there
sat another king, wearing his crown, his robes, and even his signet
ring. He looked at first glance exactly like King Robert. He was of the
same height and the same form and features; but there was a gracious
beauty about him which Robert lacked.

King Robert stood there, gazing at him in anger and rage when he
looked up. With a glance of surprise and pity, he asked, “Who are you?”

Robert answered, “I am the king, and I have come to take my place; you
are an imposter who pretends to be king.”

At these words the angry guests sprang up with drawn swords, but the
man on the throne said, “No, not the king, but the king’s jester.
You shall from now on wear the bells and scalloped cape of the court
jester, and make fun for us all. Your companion shall be an ape.” Then
he turned away toward his guests.

Some of the servants came forward to take Robert away, and they were
quite deaf to his ravings and angry threats. With shouts of laughter
they pushed him on before them down the stairs, and mockingly bowed
before him, and pretended to honor him, all the while laughing and
tittering and making fun of him. They left him in a room in the stable
where at length, exhausted, he fell asleep.

The next morning, waking with the day’s first light, he thought to
himself: “I’ve had an ugly dream.” But the straw rustled when he turned
his head, and there were the jester’s cap and bells lying near. He
heard the horses champing in their stalls, and on looking around the
room saw the poor ape. So he remembered. It was no dream. His happy
life that he thought could not be changed, had vanished from him.

The days came and went. Under the rule of the new king the island
prospered as never before. Robert continued to be the jester, laughed
at and scorned. His only friend was the ape. His only food, what others
left.

Sometimes the other king would meet him, and ask, “Are you still the
king?” and always Robert would throw back his head and fling the answer
haughtily, “I am, I am the king!”

[Illustration: TOWARD THE VERY LAST, ROBERT, THE JESTER, RODE ON A
PIEBALD PONY]

Robert had two brothers; one was Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine, the
other was Pope Urbane. One day, almost three years after the wild
night that Robert had been locked in the church, ambassadors came from
Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine, bringing letters. The letters asked King
Robert to join his brother Valmond in a visit to their brother at Rome.
The ambassadors were received with great pleasure, and were presented
with many beautiful gifts of robes and jewels.

Then the king who was not King Robert went with them across the sea to
Italy. He was accompanied by a great retinue of knights, all dressed
in uniform, wearing gay plumes in their helmets. They rode horses with
jeweled bridles, and even wore golden spurs. They were followed by
pages and servants; and, toward the very last, Robert, the jester, rode
on a piebald pony, and behind was perched the ape. Through every town
they went they made much fun for the people, who followed along after,
laughing and poking fun at them. The company were received with great
pomp and ceremony, and the three brothers seemed delighted at being
together again.

Suddenly Robert burst through the crowd, and running up to them cried,
“I am the king! Do you not know me? Look at me. I am your brother,
Robert of Sicily. This man is but an imposter! He is not the king!”

The emperor and the pope looked at the angry worried jester for a long
moment; then the emperor laughed, and said, “What strange sport to keep
a crazy fellow for a jester!” and the poor baffled jester was hustled
back into the crowd.

Then came Easter Sunday, and the beauty and the solemnity of the Easter
services touched the hearts of all men. Robert was deeply moved. For
the first time in his life he saw what kind of man he had been. He saw
how selfish and proud and haughty he had been. He wished with all his
soul that he had been a better man, and he made up his mind that, no
matter what happened, he would never be so selfish and mean again.

Now, the visit ended; the grand visitors left Rome and journeyed
homeward. And when they were once more established, the king on the
throne sent for Robert. He motioned every one else out of the room and
beckoned Robert to draw near.

And when they were alone, he asked, “Art thou the king?”

Robert bowed his head, and folding his arms, said, “You know best. I
only know that I have sinned, and have been proud and selfish. Let me
go from here and try to make up in some way for the wrong which I have
done!”

And just as he finished saying this, there rose through the windows
loud and clear the words of the chant:

“He has put down the mighty from their seat,
And has exalted them of low degree!”

Then the man who was with Robert cried joyously. “I am not the king! I
am an angel! You are the king!”

When King Robert raised his eyes–lo! he was alone, but all dressed in
his magnificent apparel as of old; and when his courtiers came, they
found him kneeling upon the floor in silent prayer.

* * * * *

“Robert was fortunate,” said the Story King, “in learning his lesson
before it was too late.”

“Yes, indeed, he was,” answered the Story Lady. “The fourth story is of
a young man who repented when it was too late.”

ONCE there was a man, a young officer in the United States Army, who
did a dreadful thing–he cursed his native country!

He pretended for a while that he did not care, when he was punished,
but in the end he was very, very sorry. Because he wore his uniform
without the official buttons, the sailors on the ships on which he was
imprisoned called him “Plain Buttons.”

His name was Philip Nolan. Lieutenant Nolan was as fine a young officer
as there was in the “Legion of the West,” as the Western division of
the United States Army was called in those early days, one hundred
years ago.

At that time the Mississippi valley was the Far West to most people,
and seemed a very distant land indeed. There were a number of forts
along the river and Nolan was stationed in one of these. Nolan’s
idol was the brilliant and dashing Aaron Burr, who visited the fort
several times between 1805 and 1807. He walked and talked with Nolan
and obtained a very strong influence over him. He got Nolan to take
him out in his skiff and show him something of the great river and the
plans for the new post; and by the time Burr’s visit was over Nolan was
enlisted body and soul in Burr’s disloyal schemes. From then on, though
he did not yet know it, Nolan lived as a man without a country.

Burr soon got into trouble with the government, and some of his friends
were tried for treason, Nolan among them. It became very plain during
the trial that Nolan would do anything Burr told him; that he would
obey Burr far quicker than his country in spite of his oath as an
officer of the army.

So when Colonel Morgan, who was president of the court, asked Nolan, at
the close of the trial, whether he wished to say anything to show that
he had always been faithful to the United States, he cried out, in a
fit of frenzy: “Curse the United States! I wish I may never hear of the
United States again!”

Probably he did not realize how the words would shock old Colonel
Morgan and the other members of the court. Half the officers who sat
with him had served through the Revolutionary War, and had risked their
lives, not to say their necks, cheerfully and loyally for the country
which Nolan so lightly cursed in his madness.

It may be said for Nolan that he had grown up in the West of those
days, then an almost unknown country. He had been educated on a
plantation, where the most welcome guests were Spanish officers and
French merchants from Orleans, who, to say the least, were unfriendly
to the United States. He had spent half his youth with an older
brother, hunting horses in Texas, which was not then a part of the
United States. In a word, the “United States” meant almost nothing to
him.

Yet there was little excuse for Nolan. He had sworn on his faith as a
Christian to be true to the United States. It was the United States
which gave him the uniform he wore and the sword by his side. Nay, Burr
cared nothing for poor Nolan, but had picked him out to aid him in his
wicked plots, only because of the uniform he wore. Of course, Nolan did
not know this, and it did not excuse him; but it does partly explain
why he cursed his country and wished that he might never hear her name
again.

He never did hear her name but once again. From that moment, September
23, 1807, till the day he died, May 11, 1863, he never heard her name
again. For that half-century and more he was a man without a country.

Colonel Morgan, as you may suppose, was terribly shocked. If Nolan had
compared George Washington to Benedict Arnold, or had cried, “God save
King George,” Morgan would not have felt worse. He called the court
into his private room, and returned in fifteen minutes, with a face
white as a sheet, to say:

“Prisoner, hear the sentence of the Court! The Court decides, subject
to the approval of the President, that you never hear the name of the
United States again.”

Nolan laughed; but nobody else laughed–the whole room was hushed dead
as night for a minute. Then Colonel Morgan added, “Mr. Marshall, take
the prisoner to Orleans in an armed boat and deliver him to the naval
commander there. Request him to order that no one shall mention the
United States to the prisoner while he is on board ship.”

Colonel Morgan himself went to Washington and President Jefferson
approved the sentence, so a plan was formed to keep Nolan constantly
at sea, far from his own country. The ships of our navy took few long
cruises then, but one ship was directed to carry the prisoner as far
away as it was going, then transfer him to another vessel before it
sailed for home. He was to be confined only so far as necessary to
prevent his escape and to make it certain that he never saw or heard of
his country again.

As soon as a vessel on which Nolan sailed was homeward bound, Nolan was
transferred to an outward-bound vessel for another cruise. At first he
made light of it–but in time he learned something he had not thought
of, perhaps–that there was no going home for him, even to a prison.

There were some twenty such transfers which took him all over the
world, but which kept him all his life at least some hundred miles from
the country he had hoped he might never hear of again.

[Illustration: HE FLUNG THE BOOK INTO THE SEA]

Nolan wore his uniform, but with plain buttons. He always had a sentry
before his door, but the men were as good to him as his sentence
permitted. No mess wanted to have him with them too steadily because
they could never talk about home matters when he was present–more than
half the talk men liked to have at sea. They took turns inviting him to
dinner, and the captain always asked him on Mondays. He could have any
books or papers not printed in America. Newspapers having any mention
of America had to be gone over and the allusions cut out. He used to
join the men as they were reading on deck and take his turn in reading
aloud.

Once when they were cruising around the Cape of Good Hope, somebody
got hold of Scott’s “Lay of the Last Minstrel,” which was then new and
famous. Nolan was reading to the others when he came to this passage:

“Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned
From wandering on a foreign strand?

“If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name,
Boundless his wealth as wish can claim,–
Despite those titles, power and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self”—-

Here the poor fellow choked, and could not go on, but started up and
flung the book into the sea and fled to his stateroom. It was two
months before he dared join the men again.

There was a change in Nolan after this. He never read aloud again,
unless it was the Bible or Shakespeare, or something else he was sure
of. He was always shy afterwards and very seldom spoke unless spoken
to, except to a very few friends. He generally had the nervous, tired
look of a heart-wounded man. Sometimes he tried to trap people into
mentioning his country, but he never succeeded; his sentence was too
well known among the men who had him in charge.

There was only one day on which, perhaps, he was really happy, except
when he knew his lonely life was closing. Once, during the war of 1812,
the ship on which he was staying had a fight with an English frigate.
A round shot from the enemy entered one of the ports and killed the
officer of the gun himself and many of the gun’s crew. Now you may
say what you choose about courage, but that is not a nice thing to
see. But, as the men who were not killed picked themselves up, and
as they and the surgeon’s people were carrying off the bodies, there
appeared Nolan, in his shirt sleeves, with the rammer in his hand, and,
just as if he had been the officer, told them off with authority–who
should go to the cock-pit with the wounded men, who should stay with
him–perfectly cheery, and with that way which makes men feel sure
all is right and is going to be right. And he finished loading the
gun with his own hands, aimed it, and bade the men fire. And there he
stayed, captain of that gun, keeping those fellows in spirits, till
the enemy struck–sitting on the carriage while the gun was cooling,
though he was exposed all the time,–showing them easier ways to handle
heavy shot–making the raw hands laugh at their own blunders–and
when the gun cooled again, getting it loaded and fired twice as often
as any other gun on the ship. The commodore walked forward by way of
encouraging the men, and Nolan touched his hat and said:

“I am showing them how we do this in the artillery, sir.”

“I see you are, and I thank you, sir,” the commodore said; “and I shall
never forget this day, sir, and you never shall, sir.”

And after the whole thing was over, and he had the Englishman’s sword,
in the midst of the state and ceremony of the quarter-deck, he said:

“Where is Mr. Nolan? Ask Mr. Nolan to come here.” And when Nolan came,
he said:

“Mr. Nolan, we are all very grateful to you; you are one of us to-day;
you will be named in the despatches.”

And then the commodore took off his own sword of ceremony, and gave it
to Nolan, and made him put it on. Nolan cried like a baby, and well he
might. He had not worn a sword since that infernal day at Fort Adams.
But always afterwards on occasions of ceremony, he wore that quaint old
French sword of the commodore’s.

The commodore did mention him in the despatches, and asked that he
might be pardoned. He wrote a special letter to the Secretary of War.
But nothing ever came of it.

At another time Nolan went with a young officer named Vaughan to
overhaul a dirty little schooner which had slaves on board. Nolan was
the only one who could speak Portuguese, the language used by the
slavers. There were but few of the negroes. Vaughan had their handcuffs
and ankle-cuffs knocked off and put these on the rascals of the
schooner’s crew. Then Nolan told the blacks that they were free, and
that Vaughan would take them to Cape Palmas.

Now, Cape Palmas was a long way from their native land, and they said,
“Not Palmas. Take us home, take us to our own country, take us to our
own pickaninnies and our own women.” One complained that he had not
heard from home for more than six months. It was terribly hard for
Nolan, but he translated these speeches, and told the negroes Vaughan’s
answer in some fashion.

“Tell them–yes, yes, yes!” Vaughan said. “Tell them they shall go to
the Mountains of the Moon, if they will. If I sail the schooner through
the Great White Desert, they shall go home!”

And then they all fell to kissing Nolan, and wanted to rub his nose
with theirs.

As they were being rowed back to the ship, he lay in the stern sheets
and said to a young midshipman of whom he was very fond:

“Youngster, let that show you what it is to be without a family,
without a home, and without a country. And if you are ever tempted to
say a word or do a thing that shall put a bar between you and your
family, your home, and your country, pray God in His mercy to take you
that instant home to His own heaven. Stick by your family, boy; forget
you have a self, while you do everything for them. Think of your home,
boy; write, and send, and talk about it. Let it be nearer and nearer to
your thought, the farther you have to travel from it; and rush back to
it when you are free, as that poor black slave is doing now. And for
your country, boy,” and the words rattled in his throat, “and for that
flag,” and he pointed to the ship, “never dream a dream but of serving
her as she bids you, though the service carry you through a thousand
hells. No matter what happens to you, no matter who flatters you or who
abuses you, never look at another flag, never let a night pass but you
pray God to bless that flag. Remember, boy, that behind all these men
you have to do with, behind officers, and government, and people even,
there is the country herself, your country, and that you belong to her
as you belong to your own mother. Stand by her, boy, as you would stand
by your mother, if those devils there had got hold of her to-day!”

And then Nolan added, almost in a whisper, “Oh, if anybody had said so
to me when I was of your age!”

Years passed on, and Nolan’s sentence was unrevoked, though his friends
had more than once asked for a pardon.

The end came when he had been upwards of fifty years at sea, and he
asked the ship’s doctor for a visit from Captain Danforth, whom he
liked. Danforth tells us about Nolan’s last hours and calls him “dear
old Nolan,” so we know his love was returned.

The officer saw what a little shrine poor Nolan had made of his
stateroom. Up above were the stars and stripes, and around a portrait
of Washington he had painted a majestic eagle, with lightnings blazing
from his beak and his foot just clasping the whole globe, which the
wings overshadowed. Nolan said, with a sad smile, “Here, you see, I
have a country!” Over the foot of the bed was a great map of the United
States, drawn from memory, which he had there to look upon as he lay
in his berth. Quaint old names were on it, in large letters: Indiana
Territory, Mississippi Territory, and Louisiana Territory.

“Danforth,” he said, “I know I am dying. I cannot get home. Surely you
will tell me something now? Stop! Stop! Do not speak till I say what I
am sure you know, that there is not in this ship, that there is not in
America–God bless her!–a more loyal man than I. There cannot be a man
who loves the old flag or prays for it as I do. There are thirty-four
stars in it now, Danforth. I thank God for that, though I do not know
what their names are. There has never been one taken away. I thank God
for that. But tell me something–tell me everything, Danforth, before I
die!”

Captain Danforth, in writing about it afterwards says: “I felt like
a monster that I had not told him everything before. Though obeying
orders, who was I that I should have been acting the tyrant all this
time over this dear, sainted old man, who had expiated, in his whole
manhood’s life, the madness of a boy’s treason.”

“Mr. Nolan,” he said, “I will tell you everything you ask about.”

Then he told him the names of all the new states, and drew them in on
the map. He told him of the inventions–the steamboats, the railroads
and telegraphs; he tried to tell him all that had happened to the great
and growing country in fifty years. He told him about Abraham Lincoln,
who was then President–except that he could not wound his friend by
mentioning a word about the cruel Civil War which was then raging.

Nolan drank it in and enjoyed it more than we can tell. After that he
seemed to grow weary and said he would go to sleep. He bent Danforth
down and kissed him, and then said, “Look in my Bible, Captain, when I
am gone.”

Danforth went away with no thought that this was the end. But in an
hour, when the doctor went in gently, he found Nolan had breathed away
his life with a smile.

They looked in his Bible, and there was a slip of paper at the place
where he had marked the text:

“They desire a country, even a heavenly: wherefore God is not
ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a
city.”

On this slip of paper he had written:

“Bury me in the sea; it has been my home, and I love it. But will
not some one set up a stone for my memory at Fort Adams or at
Orleans, that my disgrace may not be more than I ought to bear?
Say on it:

‘In Memory of
PHILIP NOLAN
Lieutenant in the Army of the United States.

He loved his country as no other man has loved her;
but no man deserved less at her hands.’”

WHEN the story was finished the Story People did not applaud; they felt
sorry for poor Philip who had repented so bitterly.

Mary Frances felt sad, and sorry, too; as she did every time she heard
the story, for she had often heard it before.

“How Americans love their country!” said the Story King. “They must
love it as much as we love our island!”

“Indeed, they do love it,” answered Mary Frances patriotically. “I
think it’s the greatest big country in all the world!”

The Story People smiled and clapped their hands at this speech, for
they admire loyalty wherever shown.

“Yes, it is,” said the Story Queen, “and we think our island is the
greatest little country in all the world.”

“So it is! Indeed, it is! I love it next to my own!” cried Mary
Frances; and the Story People applauded again.

“There is a little poem about the Stars and Stripes that is very
popular in America,” said the Story Lady, smiling. “Now that the
stories are finished for the day, perhaps our guest will recite it for
us.”

[Illustration: YOUR FLAG AND MY FLAG]

Mary Frances blushed, and then rose in her place and recited:

Your flag and my flag,
And how it flies to-day
In your land and my land
And half a world away!

Rose-red and blood-red
The stripes forever gleam;
Snow-white and soul-white–
The good forefathers’ dream;
Sky-blue and true-blue, with stars to gleam aright–
The gloried guidon of the day; a shelter through the night.

Your flag and my flag!
And, oh, how much it holds–
Your land and my land–
Secure within its folds!
Your heart and my heart
Beat quicker at the sight;
Sun-kissed and wind-tossed–
Red and blue and white.
The one flag–the great flag–the flag for me and you–
Glorified all else beside–the red and white and blue!

Your flag and my flag!
To every star and stripe
The drums beat as hearts beat,
And fifers shrilly pipe!
Your flag and my flag–
A blessing in the sky;
Your hope and my hope–
It never hid a lie!
Home land and far land and half the world around,
Old Glory hears our glad salute and ripples to the sound.[C]

[C] From the “Trail to Boyland,” by Wilbur D. Nesbit, Copyright 1904.
Used by special permission of the publishers, The Bobbs-Merrill Company.

As Mary Frances sat down, the Story People clapped their hands
enthusiastically; and the Ready Writer handed her her copies of the
stories for the day. The copy of the poem which he had made, he kept
for themselves.

As Mary Frances and the Story Lady were going out, the Story Queen
stopped them and said:

“We shall expect you both to dinner to-night–just a little family
party, you know.”

“Oh, thank you, that will be delightful,” both replied.

Mary Frances thought ruefully of her best dress hanging uselessly in
the closet at home and wished she had it. “But it’s no use wishing,”
she thought. “It’s all so unexpected.”

However, with the help of the Story Lady, she was arrayed for the
occasion, and when she saw herself in the mirror she said, “There must
be two of us; that doesn’t look like me.”

But it was she. So when they left their apartments and went downstairs
into the dining-hall, she was in very high spirits.

Mary Frances had eaten many dinners, but never one like that. Yet,
strange to say, she doesn’t remember what she ate. But she does
remember how kind and friendly the Story King and Queen were, and
how they plied her with questions about her own country. She thinks,
perhaps, she bragged a little too much in telling of its wonders, but
she excuses herself to herself, thinking, “Well, my country is worth
bragging about, I’m sure.” During a lull in the conversation, Mary
Frances asked the King, “Won’t you tell me where all the stories come
from?”

“With pleasure,” he replied. “They come from all countries. The world
is full of people who are doing brave and noble deeds, and when we hear
of such deeds, we have them written down and pass them on.”

“Of course,” he added, “there are other people who are doing cowardly
and selfish things, but we don’t bother with them, except to punish
them as we did the pirate. We see to it that no good story is ever
lost; that is why we were so concerned about the lost story.”

“You can see,” said the Queen, “that it keeps us pretty busy.”

“Indeed, it must,” returned Mary Frances. “I think it’s very kind of
you to let me visit you.”

“Dear child,” said the Queen, “we shall make a story about it–several
stories—-”

“Yes, delightful stories,” interrupted the Story Lady, “and I shall
tell them! Oh, yes, I shall tell them!”

WHEN the Story People were all assembled, the Story Lady began:

“To-day we have only one story, ‘The Cricket on the Hearth,’ which was
first told by one of our greatest story-tellers, Charles Dickens, who
wrote ‘The Christmas Carol’ and many other stories that children love
to hear.”

_The Peerybingles_

“Heyday! The cricket’s merrier than ever to-night, I think,” said John,
stopping, in his slow way, to listen to its musical chirp, chirp, chirp!

“And it’s sure to bring us good fortune, John! It always has done so.
To have a cricket on the hearth is the luckiest thing in the world!”

That is what John Peerybingle’s little wife Dot said one stormy night
after John had come in from delivering packages and boxes, and she had
given him his tea and had put the baby to sleep. For John Peerybingle
was a local expressman; or, as they say in England, a carrier.

“The first time I heard its cheerful little note, John,” Dot continued,
“was the night you brought me home–when you brought me to my new home
here; its little mistress. Nearly a year ago. You recollect, John?”

Oh, yes. John remembered. I should think so!

“Its chirp was such a welcome to me. It seemed so full of promise
and encouragement. It seemed to say you would be kind and gentle with
me, and would not expect to find an old head on the shoulders of your
foolish little wife. I had a fear of that, John, then.”

John thoughtfully patted one of the shoulders, and then the head of his
little wife, as though to say, “No, no; he had no such expectation; he
had been quite content to take them as they were.”

“The cricket spoke the truth, John, for you have been, I am sure, the
most considerate, the most affectionate of husbands. This has been a
happy home, John; and I love the cricket for its sake.”

“Why, so do I, then,” said the carrier, “so do I, Dot.”

“I love it for the many times I have heard it,” Dot went on musing,
“and the many thoughts its harmless music has given me. Sometimes, in
the twilight, when I have felt a little down-hearted, John–before the
precious baby came to keep me company and make the house gay–when I
have thought how lonely you would be if I should die, or I should be if
you should die, its chirp, chirp, chirp, upon the hearth has filled me
with new trust and confidence. For you see, John, I was afraid, being
so much younger than you, that you might not find me at all suitable
as a wife, and that you might find it hard to learn to love me as you
would if I were older and had had more experience. I was thinking just
before you came in to-night, dear, how the cricket has cheered me at
such times; and I love it for their sake.”

“And so do I,” repeated John. “But, Dot! How you talk! I learn to
love you? I had learned that long before I brought you here to be the
cricket’s little mistress, Dot.”

She laid her hand, an instant, on his arm, and looked up at him as if
she would have told him something. Next moment, she was down upon her
knees before the basket of packages which John had brought in from his
cart. Perhaps some of them would be called for; the others he would
deliver in the morning.

“There are not many of them to-night, John. Why, what’s this round box?
Heart alive, John, it’s a wedding-cake!”

“Leave a woman to find that out,” said John admiringly. “Now, a man
would never have thought of it! But it’s my belief that if you packed
a wedding cake in a tea-chest, or in a feather bed, or in salmon-keg,
a woman would be sure to find it out directly. Yes, I called for it at
the pastry-cook’s.”

“And it weighs, I don’t know what–whole hundred weights!” cried Dot,
making a great show of trying to lift it. “Whose is it, John? Where is
it going?”

“Read the writing on the other side,” said John.

“Why, John! My goodness, John!” exclaimed Dot.

“Ah! Who’d have thought it!” John returned.

“You never mean to say,” asked Dot, sitting on the floor and shaking
her head at him, “that it’s for Gruff and Tackleton, the toy-maker!”

John nodded. Mrs. Peerybingle nodded also, fifty times at least–in
dumb and pitying amazement.

And Tilly Slowboy, the nurse-maid, and helper of all work, began to
talk in an undertone to the baby, who had awakened, as she walked to
and fro with him in her arms: “Was it for Gruffs and Tackletons, then,
and would it call at the pastry-cooks’ for wedding cakes, and did its
mothers know the boxes when its fathers brought them home;” and so on.

“And that marriage is really to come about!” said Dot, after seeing
that the baby was all right. “Why, she and I were girls at school
together, John.”

John might have been thinking of how Dot looked then, but he made no
answer.

“And he’s as old! As unlike May! Why, how many years older than you is
Gruff and Tackleton, John?”

“How many more cups of tea shall I drink at one sitting than Gruff
and Tackleton ever took in four sittings, I wonder!” replied John
good-humoredly.

But even this brought no smile to the face of his little wife. The
cricket, too, had stopped. Somehow the room was not so cheerful as it
had been. Nothing like it.

_The Strange Old Gentleman_

“So these are all the parcels, are they, John?” she asked, after a
little while; “so these are all the parcels, John?”

“That’s all,” said John. “Why–no–I–I declare–I’ve clean forgotten
the old gentleman!”

“The old gentleman?”

“In the cart,” said John. “He was asleep, down in the straw, the last
time I saw him. I’ve very nearly remembered him twice since I came in;
but he went out of my head again.”

John hastily rose and lighting a candle went out the door. “Halloa!
Yahip there! Rouse up! That’s my hearty!” he called as he made his way
to the wagon-shed.

Soon the Stranger stood, bareheaded and motionless in the middle of
the room. He had long white hair, good features, singularly bold and
well-defined for an old man. His eyes were dark and bright and smiling.
He saluted the carrier’s wife by gravely bowing.

His clothes were very quaint and old-fashioned, a long, long way behind
the time. Their color was brown, all over. In his hand he carried a
great brown club or walking-stick. He struck this upon the floor and it
fell open and became a chair on which he sat down quite composedly.

“There!” said the carrier, turning to his wife. “That’s the way I found
him, sitting by the roadside! Upright as a milestone, and almost as
deaf as one!”

“Sitting in the open air, John!”

“In the open air,” replied the carrier, “just at dusk. ‘Will you take
me along?’ he asked, and gave me eighteen pence. Then he got into the
cart. And here he is.”

“He’s going, John, I think!”

[Illustration: “IF YOU PLEASE, I WAS TO BE LEFT TILL CALLED FOR”]

Not at all. He was only going to speak.

“If you please, I was to be left till called for,” said the Stranger,
mildly. “Don’t mind me.”

With that he took a pair of spectacles from one of his large pockets,
and a book from another, and leisurely began to read. Boxer, the
carrier’s big dog, came sniffing at his legs, but he took no more
notice of Boxer than if he had been a lamb.

The carrier and his wife glanced at each other in perplexity. The
Stranger raised his head; and looking from Dot toward John, said:

“Your daughter, my good friend?”

“Wife,” said John.

“Niece?” asked the Stranger.

“Wife,” roared John.

“Indeed?” observed the Stranger. “Surely–very young!”

Dot took the baby from the couch where Tilly Slowboy had laid him. The
Stranger quietly resumed his reading; but before he had read two lines,
he interrupted his reading to say to John:

“Baby yours?”

John gave a gigantic nod, equal to an answer given through a speaking
trumpet.

“Girl?” asked the Stranger.

“Bo-o-oy!” roared John.

“Also very young, eh?”

Mrs. Peerybingle instantly spoke. “Two months and three da-ays.
Vaccinated just six weeks ago-o! Took very fine-ly! Considered by the
doctors a remarkably beautiful chi-ild! Equal to the general run of
children at five months o-ld! Takes notice of everything. May seem
impossible to you, but true.”

Here the breathless little mother, who had been shrieking these short
sentences into the old man’s ear until her face was crimson, held the
baby up before him to prove her words, while Tilly Slowboy sprang
around in cow-like gambols to amuse the infant, uttering words which
sounded like “Ketcher! Ketcher!”

“Hark!” said John. “He’s called for, sure enough. There’s some one at
the door. Open it, Tilly.”

_Caleb Plummer_

Before she could reach it, however, it was opened from the outside, for
it was a primitive sort of door with a latch that any one could lift if
he chose. In came a little, meager, thoughtful, dingy-faced man.

He seemed to have made himself a great-coat from the burlap covering
of some old box; for, when he turned to shut the door, and keep the
weather out, one could read upon the back of the garment the letters
“G & T” in large black capitals; also the word “GLASS” in smaller
capitals.

“Good-evening, John!” said the little man. “Good-evening, mum.
Good-evening, Tilly! Good-evening, unbeknown! How’s baby, mum? Boxer’s
pretty well, I hope?”

“All well and thriving, Caleb,” replied Dot. “I am sure you need only
look at the dear child, for one, to know that.”

“And I’m sure I only need look at you for another,” said Caleb; “or at
John for another; or Tilly, as far as that goes; or certainly at Boxer.”

“Busy just now, Caleb?” asked the carrier.

“Why, pretty busy, John,” he returned. “Pretty much so. There’s a lot
of demand for Noah’s Arks at present. I’d like to be able to take more
pains in making the families, but I can’t do it at the price. It would
be a satisfaction, though, to one’s mind, to make it plain which was
Shems and Hams, and which was wives. Ah, well! Have you got anything in
the parcel line for me, John?”

The carrier put his hand into the pocket of the coat he had taken off,
and brought out a tiny flower-pot, carefully wrapped in moss and tissue
paper.

“There it is!” he said, adjusting it with great care. “Not so much as a
leaf damaged. Full of buds!”

Caleb’s dull eye brightened as he took it, and thanked him.

“It was expensive, Caleb,” said the carrier. “Very dear at this season.”

“Never mind that. It would be cheap to me, whatever it cost,” returned
the little man. “Anything else, John?”

“A small box,” replied the carrier. “Here you are!”

“‘For Caleb Plummer,’” read the old man, spelling out the directions.
“‘With Cash!’ With cash, John? I don’t think it’s for me!”

“‘With Care,’” corrected the carrier, looking over his shoulder. “Where
do you make out ‘cash’?”

“Oh! To be sure!” said Caleb. “It’s all right. ‘With Care!’ Yes, yes;
that’s mine. It might have been ‘With Cash,’ if my dear boy in South
America had lived, John. You loved him like a son; didn’t you? You
needn’t say you did. I know, of course.”

He read again, “‘Caleb Plummer. With Care.’ Yes, yes; it’s all right.
It’s a box of dolls’ eyes for my daughter’s work. I wish it was her own
sight in a box, John!”

“I wish it was, or could be,” cried the carrier.

“Thankee,” said the little man. “You speak very hearty. To think that
she should never see the dolls–and them a staring at her so bold, all
day long! That’s where it cuts. What’s the cost, John,–what’s the
damage?”

“I’ll damage you,” said John, “if you ask.”

“Well, it’s like you to say that,” observed the little man. “It’s your
kind way. Let me see. I think that’s all.”

“I think not,” said the carrier. “Try again.”

“Something for our governor, eh?” asked Caleb after thinking a little
while. “To be sure. That’s what I came for; but my head’s so full of
them Noah’s Arks and things! He hasn’t been here, has he?”

“Not he,” returned the carrier. “He’s too busy, courting.”

“He’s coming, though,” said Caleb; “for he told me to keep on the near
side of the road going home, and it was ten to one he’d take me up. I’d
better go, by-the-way.”

He turned to Dot. “You couldn’t have the goodness to let me pinch
Boxer’s tail, mum, for half a moment, could you?”

“Why, Caleb! What a question!”

“Oh, never mind, mum,” said the little man. “He mightn’t like it,
perhaps. There’s a small order come in for toys–dogs that will bark;
and I wish to go as close to nature as possible for a sixpence. That’s
all. Never mind, mum.”

It happened that Boxer just at that moment began to bark with zeal.
But, as this bark meant the approach of some new visitor, Caleb,
postponing his study of dogs’ barks, shouldered the big round box
of wedding cake and said good-by. He might have spared himself the
trouble, however, for he met his employer upon the threshold.

_Tackleton_

“Oh! You are here, are you? Wait a bit. I’ll take you home!”

He turned to John. “John Peerybingle, my service to you. More of my
service to your pretty wife. Handsomer every day–and younger!”

“I should be astonished at your paying compliments, Mr. Tackleton,”
said Dot, not altogether pleasantly, “but for what I have just heard
about you–being engaged to be married.”

“You know all about it, then?”

“I have gotten myself to believe it somehow,” said Dot.

“After a hard struggle, I suppose?”

“Very.”

Tackleton, the toy merchant, was well known in the neighborhood. Many
people called him Gruff and Tackleton, the name of the firm when Gruff
was Tackleton’s partner. Although Tackleton had bought out Gruff’s
interest years before, the name still remained.

It was odd that such a man should have been a toy-maker, for he had no
interest in toys whatever. He despised them, and wouldn’t have bought
one for the world. The only toys in his shop which he could abide were
the ugly ones. Hideous, red-eyed Jacks-in-Boxes, vampire kites, and
fiery dragons really did give him some pleasure, for he saw that they
scared little children. A very pleasant person, Tackleton! Not the kind
of person you would think was going to be married, and to a young wife,
too–a beautiful young wife.

He didn’t look much like a bridegroom as he stood in the carrier’s
kitchen, with a twist in his dry face, and a screw in his body, and his
hat jerked over the bridge of his nose, and his hands tucked down into
the bottom of his pockets, and his whole sarcastic, ill-conditioned,
self–peering out of one little corner of one little eye, like the
concentrated essence of any number of ravens. But a bridegroom he was
designed to be.

“In three days’ time–next Thursday–the last day of the first month of
the year–is my wedding day,” said Tackleton.

Did I mention that he had always one eye wide open and one eye nearly
shut; and the eye nearly shut was always the expressive eye? I don’t
think I did.

“That’s my wedding-day!” said Tackleton, rattling his money in his
pocket.

“Why, that’s the anniversary of our wedding, too!” exclaimed the
carrier.

“Ha, ha!” laughed Tackleton. “Odd! You’re just such another couple as
we will be! Just!”

At this speech, Dot was most indignant. What next would the man say? As
though her John resembled Tackleton in any particular!

“I say! A word with you,” murmured Tackleton, nudging the carrier
with his elbow, and taking him off a little way. “You’ll come to the
wedding, won’t you? We’re in the same boat, you know.”

“How in the same boat?” asked John.

“Why, you’re not so youthful as your wife, yourself,” said Tackleton,
with another nudge. “Come and spend an evening with us beforehand.”

“Why?” demanded John, astonished at this hospitality.

“Why?” returned the other. “That’s a new way to receive an invitation.
Why–for pleasure–to be sociable, you know, and all that.”

“I thought you were never sociable,” said John, in his plain way.

“As you like; what does it matter? Your company will produce a
favorable impression on Mrs. Tackleton that-will-be. You’ll say you’ll
come?”

“We have arranged to keep our wedding day at home,” said John. “We
think, you see, that home—-”

“Bah! What’s home?” cried Tackleton. “Four walls and a ceiling! Why
don’t you kill that cricket? I would! I always do! I hate their noise!
You’ll say you’ll come, to-morrow evening?”

“You kill the crickets, eh?” said John.

“Scrunch ’em, sir,” returned the other, setting his heel heavily on
the floor. “Then you won’t give us to-morrow evening? Well! Next day
you go out visiting, I know. I’ll meet you there, and bring my wife
that-is-to-be. It’ll do her good. You’re agreeable? Thankee. What’s
that?”

_Dot is Upset_

It was a loud cry from the carrier’s wife; a loud, sharp, sudden
cry, that made the room ring like a glass bell that was struck. She
had risen from her seat and stood like one transfixed by terror and
surprise. The Stranger had gone toward the fire to warm himself, but he
was quite still.

“Dot!” cried the carrier, “Darling Dot! What’s the matter?”

They were all about her in a moment. Caleb, who had been dozing on the
cake-box, in the first start, seized Tilly Slowboy by the hair, but
immediately apologized.

“Mary!” exclaimed the carrier, for Dot’s real name was Mary, Dot being
only a pet name of her husband’s. “Mary dear, are you ill? What is it?
Tell me, dear.”

But at first she could not answer. She wept bitterly, and covered her
face with her apron; then burst into a wild fit of laughter, and then
started crying again. At length she let John lead her to the fire,
where she sat down. The old man was standing there as before.

“I’m better, John,” she said. “I’m quite well. It was only a fancy,
something coming before my eyes. It’s gone, quite gone now.”

“But why did she look at the old gentleman, as if addressing him?”
thought John. “Was her mind wandering?”

“I’m glad it’s gone,” muttered Tackleton, turning the expressive eye
around the room. “I wonder where it’s gone, and what it was. Humph,
Caleb, come here! Who’s that man with the gray hair?”

“I don’t know, sir,” Caleb answered in a whisper. “Never saw him before
in all my life. He’d make a beautiful figure for a nut-cracker; quite a
new model.”

“Not ugly enough!” said Tackleton.

“Or a match-safe,” Caleb continued. “What a model! Unscrew his head to
put the matches in. Let them fall down to his neck, and take out.”

“Not half ugly enough,” said Tackleton. “Nothing in him at all. Come!
Bring that box! All right now, I hope, Mrs. Peerybingle?”

“Oh, quite right! Quite right!” said the little woman, waving him
hurriedly away. “Good-night!”

“Good-night,” said Tackleton. “Good-night, John Peerybingle! Take care
how you carry that box, Caleb. Let it fall and I’ll murder you! Dark as
pitch, and weather worse than ever, eh? Good-night!”

So, with another sharp look round the room, he went out the door,
followed by Caleb with the wedding cake on his head.

The carrier had been so much astonished by his little wife, and so
busily trying to sooth her that he had scarcely been conscious of the
Stranger’s presence until now, when he looked up and saw him standing
there, their only guest!

“He don’t belong to them, you see,” said John. “I must give him a hint
to go.”

Just at that moment the old gentleman came toward him, saying, “I
beg your pardon, friend, but since my attendant has not come and the
weather is so bad, can you, in your kindness, let me rent a bed here?”

“Yes, yes!” cried Dot. “Yes! Certainly!”

“Oh!” exclaimed the carrier, surprised by the quickness of her consent.
“Well, I don’t object; still I’m not quite sure–”

“Hush!” she interrupted. “Dear John, please.”

“Why, he’s stone deaf,” urged John.

“I know, but–” She turned to the Stranger. “Yes, sir, certainly. Yes!
Certainly!” Then to John. “I’ll make him up a bed directly, John.”

As she hurried off to do it, the fluttering way she did it was so
strange that the carrier looked after her, quite dumfounded.

“Did its mothers make up a beds then?” cried Tilly Slowboy to the baby;
“and did its hair grow brown and curly when its caps was lifted off,
and frighten it, as precious pets, a-sitting by the fire?”

“What frightened Dot, I wonder?” thought the carrier, pacing to and
fro, and half listening to Tilly’s silly chatter.

The bed was soon made ready, and the Stranger, who would not take
anything but a cup of tea, retired.

After Dot put the baby to bed, she arranged the great comfortable
fireside chair for the carrier, and filled his pipe for him. Then she
brought her little stool and, placing it beside his knee, sat down for
a cozy chat.

But the carrier fell to dreaming, and Boxer, who was stretched at his
feet, I am quite ashamed to say, snored aloud. Just then the cricket
began its song, and Dot, too, fell a-dreaming.

* * * * *

But what was that young figure of a man which remained there, singly
and alone? Why did it linger still, so near her with its arm upon the
chimney-piece, ever repeating in a whisper, “Married! and not to me!”

Continue Reading

ANN CATCHES A THIEF

AS a rule the office in which Ann Carstairs was employed did not close
until six o’clock, but at five-thirty on the December afternoon of this
story Ann found herself alone.

At four, the heads of the firm left for the day; and the billing clerk
and the stenographer, taking advantage of the absence of authority,
helped themselves to an extra half hour.

“We have a little shopping to do,” the billing clerk explained as they
passed Ann’s desk.

Before they reached the stair door, the inside salesman closed his desk
with a snap, and seized his hat and coat.

“Wait a minute, girls,” he called; “I’ll take you down to Broadway in
my machine.” As he followed them he said to Ann, “Good night, Miss
Carstairs, don’t stay late!”

A few minutes after they had gone, Mr. Bradford, the bookkeeper,
closed the safe and twirled the nickel knob gayly; “I’m off, too,” he
announced. “I’m going to leave the vault for you to close to-night,
Miss Ann.”

He shrugged himself into his overcoat and departed stiffly. He had
worked hard over his books that afternoon, and his legs and arms were
aching in unison with his head. He came back for a moment to turn off
some of the big lights.

“No use wasting electricity,” he explained. “No one will be in this
evening, and a little girl like you can’t use all this light.”

A minute later Ann heard the street door at the foot of the stairs
close with a bang, and she was left all alone in the big office.

She was not sorry to be alone. The day had been hard, and her nerves
had been near the breaking point all the afternoon. The switchboard was
Ann’s special charge, but she also took care of the odds and ends of
copy work and dictation for her busy associates. Odds and ends have a
curious way of accumulating and Ann seldom had a spare moment.

“I’m just dead tired,” she declared aloud, raising her arms above her
head in a vain effort to relieve their ache. “I’m always snowed under
with work, yet no one seems to think I have anything to do. It’s just:
‘Miss Carstairs, will you copy that for me?’ ‘I’ll give you a letter
now, Miss Carstairs, and you can run it off in your spare time.’ Spare
time! Did any one ever see me with a moment to spare? They don’t think
I amount to a row of pins, anyway. I’d just like to show them; I’d like
to let Mr. Ross see that I do amount to something.”

Mr. Ross was the senior partner of the big manufacturing plant, and
eighteen-year-old Ann admired him immensely. He was so calm, so quiet,
and yet so forceful; a splendid business man, but one whose family’s
wants and wishes were cared for before all else. Ann knew he must be an
ideal father, for he possessed all the qualities that Ann’s own father
had lacked.

Mr. Carstairs had been far from an ideal parent and had ended his
selfish, careless life just as Ann was preparing to enter college. Ann
and her mother had bravely gathered together what money remained, and
Ann started off to a business school instead.

For three months she worked feverishly night and day, and at the end
of that time, when their finances were in a precarious condition, she
left the school to enter the manufacturing firm of Ross and Hayward.
She had been there for nearly two years now, years of worry and careful
planning to make the slender salary cover growing needs.

“We have almost proved that the necessities of life are unnecessary,
so nearly have we come to getting along on next to nothing,” she had
laughingly told her mother only the evening before.

But though she joked about it, the situation was becoming serious, and
Ann had reached the place where she felt that she must steel herself to
the point of asking for more wages.

“Do people always have to ask for an increase?” she wondered.
“Everybody here treats me as if I were a child, except when it comes to
giving me work. That’s a different matter.”

Ann did not as a rule complain about the amount of work she had to do.
Instead, she was rather proud of being able to accomplish so much in
a single day. To-night, however, she was tired and all out of sorts.
She felt, too, that her looks were all against her. Curly hair and
freckles, added to a diminutive figure, gave her a decidedly childlike
appearance.

“I wish,” she declared to herself, “I wish I were tall and had straight
hair, and wrinkles around my mouth. What chance has anyone to advance
when she is short and freckled? I just must make them sit up and take
notice!”

She glanced around her with a proprietary look as she spoke. Her desk
and switchboard were in the outer office near the head of the short
flight of stairs leading from the street door, and commanded a view of
the entrance door and the stairway leading to the upper floors. At the
extreme end of the room was the entrance to the stock room, and beside
it the great iron door leading to the vault where the business records
were kept. In the dark corner by the vault door stood two tall piles of
sales books. Since the bookkeeper had turned off the extra lights, the
big office was lighted only by the globe above Ann’s head. The heavy
presses and machinery in the factory, running at full speed, shook the
building, and their roar and clatter sounded unusually loud now that
the office was quiet.

The switchboard was never very busy after half-past five, and Ann
leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes for a moment. She opened
them almost immediately with a start, suddenly aware of another
presence in the big office. The new janitor, a scraggly feather duster
in his hand, stood by her desk.

“Did you want something?” Ann asked sharply.

She did not approve of the new janitor; his hair was too long and
shaggy, his chin too stubbly, and his bushy eyebrows shaded eyelids
that drooped. His appearance was in accord with his shiftless way
of dusting and sweeping, Ann thought with disfavor. Her voice was
decidedly sharp as she asked again, “Did you want something?”

“I wanted to see the cashier,” the man answered. His drooping eyelids
gave a peculiar, leering expression to his face that filled Ann with
repulsion. Then she braced herself; no matter how afraid she was, he
must not know it.

“He has gone for the day. Come back in the morning,” she said, turning
to her typewriter to cut the conversation short. The man hesitated for
a moment, but her preoccupied air chilled him and Ann soon heard him
walk away.

At that moment a tall young woman came hurrying down the stairs from
the upper floor.

“I declare!” she cried, looking about the darkened office. “Everybody
has gone home! And Mr. Bradford has locked the safe! Now will you tell
me, Miss Carstairs, what I am going to do with all this money?”

She waved a green cardboard box in the air as she spoke, her voice
rising higher and higher in her agitation.

“I have collected eight hundred dollars on those Liberty Bond payments,
and here Mr. Bradford has locked the safe and gone home. I’m going to
the country to-night and I can’t take all this money with me.”

“Sh! Miss Benson!” Ann warned, glancing quickly at the swing door that
had not yet ceased swaying after the departing janitor. “Don’t tell any
one. Can’t you put it in the vault? Mr. Bradford left it for me to lock
to-night.”

“But,” Miss Benson objected, “something may happen to it and I am
responsible. I can’t take it with me, though. I’ll have to put it in
there, I guess.”

“See, Miss Carstairs,” she called a moment later from the depths of the
vault, “I’m putting it beside the stamp box.”

With Miss Benson’s departure the big office suddenly seemed doubly
large, and dim and empty. Ann shivered slightly, appalled by the fact
that she was alone with eight hundred dollars in cash in the open
vault. The factory machinery made such a din that none of the employees
could hear if she called for help. What would she do if the janitor had
overheard Miss Benson and should make up his mind to steal the money?
She glanced sharply at the swinging door. It was quiet now.

She reassured herself. “I’m as nervous as Miss Benson. I’ll just shut
that vault now, though, and have it over with. It is almost six o’clock
anyway.”

At that moment a call came in on the telephone, the strident whir
startling the girl with its suddenness.

“Ross and Hayward,” she answered mechanically into the receiver.

“Miss Carstairs,”–it was Mr. Ross speaking–“I left a couple of
Liberty Bonds in my desk. Please tell Bradford to put them into the
safe.”

“Mr. Bradford has gone for the day, Mr. Ross,” she answered, “but he
has left the vault for me to close; I’ll put them in.”

“All right. Put them in the stamp box; I guess they’ll be all right
there. Good night!”

Ann pulled out the plug and rose from her desk. Her rubber-soled shoes
made no noise as she crossed the room. She found the bonds face down on
Mr. Ross’s desk, and as she picked them up she could not fail to notice
the denominations. She stared at them.

“Two thousand dollars!” she whispered awestruck. “If only they were
mine!”

As she started to place them in the stamp box, its shabbiness caught
her eye. She hesitated, then laid the bonds down.

“I’ll get a new box for the stamps,” she decided, snapping off the
light as she left the vault.

Ann knew just where to find the particular box that she wanted and did
not stop to turn on the light as she entered the stockroom. She was in
the act of reaching up for the box, when the door stealthily opened.
She shrank back against the shelves as the new janitor came in. He
stopped for a moment and glanced around, then a minute later Ann heard
the snap of the electric button as the light in the vault was turned
on. She gasped in dismay. The bonds and the Liberty Loan money were all
there in plain sight! For a brief moment the girl was paralyzed with
fright. The janitor was after the money! She rushed forward. As she
paused by the open doorway of the vault she had a momentary glimpse
of the janitor with the green box in one hand, and heard the familiar
crackly paper of the bonds as he hurriedly thrust them into his pocket.
In a panic she caught the huge iron door and slammed it shut, hurriedly
throwing the big bolt in place.

“I’ve got him,” she gasped exultantly; but the words had not left her
lips before she was knocked from her feet by a sudden blow on her
shoulder. As she fell, another stunning blow came upon her head.

A minute later, so it seemed to the girl, she opened her eyes to find
Mr. Ross and his daughter, Margaret, bending over her.

“She’s coming to, now,” she could faintly hear Mr. Ross say. “Bathe her
head some more.”

Then he added jokingly, “Well, now, Miss Ann, you certainly gave us a
start. What were you trying to do?”

Ann’s head ached agonizingly. She lifted her hand to her forehead, and
felt it gingerly. A lump as large as a walnut was there just above the
temple. She became aware, now that the mist was fading from her eyes
and the ringing from her ears, that the factory was quiet. All the
noise of machinery had ceased.

“What time is it?” she asked; and then, without waiting for an answer,
“Where did you come from?”

“It is after eight. We were driving by on our way to see a friend
on the East Side, and I thought I would drop in and see if you had
remembered to lock the safe.” Mr. Ross laughed. “Fortunate for you that
I doubted your ability.”

Ann raised her head and looked about her; then she dropped it heavily
back on the improvised pillow Miss Ross had tucked under her head.

“It was that old sales book that knocked me down. It must have been on
the edge of the pile and tipped over when I slammed the door.” She felt
the bump on her head again. “I suppose I hit the wrapping desk when I
fell.”

“It wouldn’t take much to knock out a little thing like you,” Mr. Ross
laughed.

Ann opened her eyes again, a thought flashed through her mind, and she
sat bolt upright on the floor.

“Mr. Ross,” she said, “if I can prove to you that I was big enough to
save you two thousand dollars, would you think me big enough to be
given an increase in salary?”

“I surely would, Miss Carstairs!” Mr. Ross answered, becoming suddenly
grave.

Ann’s voice shook with excitement.

“Your bonds are safe in the vault, Mr. Ross, together with eight
hundred dollars that Miss Benson collected on Liberty Loan
payments–and the new janitor!”

“You’re a brave girl,” said Mr. Ross, helping her to her feet. “The
increase is yours; you have certainly earned it.”

* * * * *

“She was, indeed, a brave girl,” said the Story King, as the Story Lady
paused; “and deserved all her good fortune.”

“The next,” went on the Story Lady, smiling, “is the story of a young
man and a young woman whose only ambition in life was to help others.”

THE tropical island of Aniwa drowsed in the afternoon sunshine. Long,
lazy swells rolling in from the Pacific broke on the outlying reefs,
overflowed into the turquoise bay, and gently lapped the stretch of
sandy beach. The softest of breezes stirred the palm trees and rustled
the banana thickets.

Before the door of a low, thatched hut, nestling under a clump of
date-palms, stood a fair-haired young woman anxiously watching a canoe
which was making a perilous passage through the surf to the shelter of
the bay. When at last it slid into smooth water she breathed a sigh of
relief and went slowly down the hill toward the shore.

The craft nosed stealthily up to the beach, where a stalwart,
grave-faced white man sprang out; then the boat, propelled by the
muscular arms of two kinky-headed blacks, slipped away and vanished
around a little promontory.

“I’m glad you’re safe home, John,” the young woman cried, as the big
man came swiftly toward her. “Is all well?”

“Very far from that, Margaret,” the newcomer answered, as he reached
her side. “I’ve found a great deal of unrest throughout the island.”

“Because of the drought?”

“Yes,” he replied, and stood looking down upon her thoughtfully.

She came nearer and slipped her arm through his.

“I can see that you are anxious, John,” she said softly. “Do you fear
an uprising?”

[Illustration: BEFORE THE DOOR OF A LOW, THATCHED HUT STOOD A
FAIR-HAIRED YOUNG WOMAN]

“Margaret,” he exclaimed, as they turned and began to climb the hill to
the hut, “I should not have brought you here!”

“Oh!” she cried. “More than anything else I desired the privilege of
helping you in your work. Do you mean that I have failed? That I have
proved a burden rather than a help?”

“You know it is not that,” he replied quickly. “You have been
wonderful, dear. But I should not have allowed you to leave old
Scotland for the hardships and perils of these heathen isles.”

“It has not been easy,” she acknowledged; “but I have never once
regretted coming.”

“I thought I was doing right to bring you,” he went on; “but now–now–”

“You feel,” she interposed, “that we are in real danger?”

“We shall be if the natives rise,” he replied. “I think you should know
the truth, dear.”

Her blue eyes darkened, but there was no fear in them.

“But the people have come to feel we are their friends,” she protested.
“Some of them love us. Surely they will not harm us.”

By this time they had reached the hut. He put her gently into a
camp-chair before the door, and flung himself upon the white sand at
her feet.

“A trading-ship touched on the other side of the island yesterday,” he
told her.

“And paid for five hundred pounds’ worth of sandalwood with a barrel of
rum, I suppose,” she commented.

“They were a little more generous this time,” he replied grimly. “They
left several barrels.”

“No wonder then,” she said, “that the people are mad to-day.”

“They also left,” he continued, “in the mind of the old chief the
impression that we missionaries are responsible for the drought.”

“Oh, too bad!” she exclaimed softly.

“Yes,” he agreed. “Old Namakei informed me just now that if another
moon passes without rain the island will have no more of our God or of
us.”

“What did you answer?” she asked.

“I told him,” and he smiled, “that I would dig in the earth and reveal
a place where God’s rain is buried. He scoffed at first, but finally
agreed to come with his warriors and help with the digging.”

“But, John,” she queried, “will you really be able to dig a well on
this island?”

“Of course, I can’t be certain,” he answered; “but I’ve been studying
the soil, and it seems probable. Anyway, it’s our one chance to appease
the old chief’s ire and continue our work.”

John Gibson Paton had come out to the New Hebrides some years before,
and settled on the cannibal island of Tanna.

He had begun at once to teach the people and had succeeded in greatly
improving their condition, when a trading vessel had brought measles to
the island. An epidemic followed, and the natives died like flies.

They were so bitterly angry against those who had brought the plague
that they became suspicious of all white men, even the missionary who
had always helped them, and he was finally obliged to flee for his life.

With great difficulty he escaped to a passing ship bound for Australia.
From Australia, he went to his homeland, Scotland.

He had a wonderfully happy time on this visit among his friends and
relatives, for he was married to the pretty Scotch lassie whom he had
learned to love.

He felt that life would be very hard for her on the island of Tanna,
and he decided to go, instead, to Aniwa, where the natives were less
fierce and more intelligent. Besides, they had asked that a missionary
be sent to them.

They were very glad when he came bringing his pretty wife, and they
tried to learn all he told them.

All went well until the traders who came to the South Seas for
sandalwood and cocoanuts and the rich tropical fruits, discovered that
the natives were becoming more intelligent, and could not be cheated or
swindled so easily since the missionaries were teaching them.

So the traders made up their minds to try to turn the blacks against
Doctor Paton and his wife, and his native helpers.

They had not been able to do much until the time of the long drought,
told about at the beginning of this story. You see, they depended
almost entirely upon rain for fresh water to drink.

Never before in the memory of living men had the islands been so long
without rain. The people were terrified and ready for any outbreak.

But the young missionaries, sitting silently under the palms, realized
that the traders might so excite the natives with their talk, and with
the rum, that they might become murderers and revert to cannibalism.

“Where will you dig the well, John?” Margaret asked at length.

“On the slope over there.” He nodded toward the opposite hill. “I shall
begin work to-morrow. Chief Namakei comes an hour after sunrise.”

“If you succeed in reaching fresh water, shall we be safe?”

“Yes, and if not, I hate to think of what may happen.”

“But anyway,” she declared, “I’m sure you will find God’s rain, John.”

Weary days and nights followed; days when the doctor and his band of
native helpers dug from dawn to dark in the sandy soil; nights when the
young white people, too anxious to sleep, sat under their palm trees
and watched while the moon sank into the sea, and the volcano of Tann,
“the lighthouse of the Pacific,” flung its blazing banners high against
the heavens.

Two weeks passed and the diggers found no water. Then one day the
continued drought left the old chief’s favorite water-hole quite dry.
On the same day the side of the new well caved in.

The two troubles coming together turned the interest of Namakei to
suspicion. When the digging began again he forbade his men to take part
in the work, and, though he still watched the other toilers, his beady
eyes had the look of a hawk’s just ready to pounce upon its prey.

The moon was full before the cave-in was repaired. The next morning the
two remaining helpers did not report for duty, and old Namakei told the
doctor that they would not come back.

“They are my prisoners,” he laughed. “If Missi Paton wish help in
finding the buried rain, let his God give it.”

“His God will give it,” the missionary replied, calmly.

And alone Doctor Paton went on with his undertaking.

Two days, three days, passed, and still no water. Namakei assumed a
more threatening attitude.

“The moon wanes!” he warned the missionary.

And then one morning when the doctor went down into the well he saw
something gleaming at his feet. He bent down, gazing with eager eyes.
It was water!

“But will it be fresh?” he asked himself, with fast-beating heart. On
so tiny an island the sea water might easily penetrate the soil.

Very slowly he dipped his finger into the now fast-rising water and
lifted it to his lips. And then suddenly he sank down in the dampness
and wept like a child. The water was fresh and pure and sweet, God’s
rain indeed.

By noonday the well was filled with the life-giving water, and from
every part of the island the natives gathered to behold the miracle of
the rain which had come up from the earth instead of down from the sky,
and to do honor to Missi Paton who had given it to them.

And when he assured them that it would always be there so long as the
island remained in the sea, and that drought would nevermore bring
suffering and distress among them, they kissed his hands in gratitude.

Never again did the evil words of the traders against their beloved
Missi have any weight with the natives of Aniwa, and never again did
they turn away from the Christian religion and the Christian God; and,
if you should visit the island to-day, you would be shown by the proud
people the well where John Gibson Paton found by faith and prayer and
labor the buried blessing so many years ago.

* * * * *

Again the Story People clapped their hands as the story ended, for they
love to hear of nothing better than a brave and an unselfish deed.

“That is a good story,” said Mary Frances.

“Yes,” said the Story King; “the stories of those who risk their lives
for others are the best of all our stories.”

“Yes,” agreed the Story Queen; “they are the best of all.”

“Now,” said the Story Lady, “we come to our fourth story.”

ON the summit of one of the heights of a wild country district along
the Rhine, there stood many years ago an old castle. In this castle
lived a beautiful maiden with her father and two elderly aunts.

Her father was a jolly old nobleman, very fond of his beer, and very
fond of hearing himself talk, too. He enjoyed his own jokes better than
anyone else, perhaps.

Even so, his dearest possession was his beautiful daughter, his only
child. He loved her as the apple of his eye, and wished to give her all
happiness.

She had little chance of being lonely, for there were always a large
number of poor relatives visiting the nobleman, and indeed they made
these visits so long that they sometimes stayed for years.

She often wondered, however, who might be living in the castle on the
heights across the valley. She could just see the outlines of the walls
and towers on clear days from the balcony outside her bedroom window.

“Father,” she said one day, “could we not ride over to that castle some
time? I’m forever dreaming stories about those who live within it.”

A heavy cloud settled over her father’s countenance.

“Never let me hear you make mention of it again, my daughter!” he
thundered.

And of course she said no more, but she spoke about it to one of her
aunts that evening.

“Dear aunt, why was my father vexed when I mentioned that castle this
morning?” she asked, pointing out of her window.

“Hush, my child,” replied her aunt. “There is a feud between the two
families.”

“A feud?” questioned the maiden. “A feud? Why, we do not even know
them! How can there be a feud?”

“It dates back to the time of our great-great-grandfathers,” her aunt
told her, “and no loyal member of this family would ever have anything
to do with a member of that family. Never mention the matter again!”
Then suddenly changing the subject, “Did you finish your embroidery
stint for to-day? How far have you worked? Let me see.”

The maiden blushed, arose, and brought a large sheet of unfinished
tapestry to her aunt, which she unfolded before her.

Her aunt put on her spectacles to examine the work.

“Wait!” she exclaimed. “I’ll call my sister.”

The other aunt was in the doorway, however, and joined her in examining
the work.

“I see a missed stitch here!” she commented.

“Ah, yes, and a loose end there!” added the other. “It is growing dark.
No knowing how many flaws we would find by daylight. To-morrow you will
do better, I hope.”

“I will try,” promised the niece.

And so the maiden grew. By the time she was eighteen, she could not
only embroider tapestries, and play a dozen airs on her guitar and
harp, but could write a short note, with not more than ten misspelled
words, and could sign her own full name without missing a letter.

These accomplishments, in that day, were considered quite a finished
education for a young lady.

On her eighteenth birthday the castle was in bustling excitement
because there was to be an affair of utmost importance. And this affair
was none other than a great family gathering to receive the intended
bridegroom of the maiden.

Her father had promised her in marriage to the son of an old nobleman,
a friend of his who lived in a distant province.

The parents had arranged all the details, and the young people were
engaged to be married without even seeing each other. The time was
appointed for the wedding, which was to take place at the home of the
maiden on her eighteenth birthday.

The bridegroom had already set out on his journey and was expected to
arrive at any moment.

The castle was in a tumult. The fair bride had been decked out with
uncommon care. Her aunts had quarreled about every article of her
dress, and while they were quarreling, she had made up her own mind
about each article she would wear. The result was that she looked as
lovely as a dream. The soft lustre of her eyes, the rose-petal hue of
her cheeks, the quick rise and fall of her bosom, showed the excitement
in her heart.

Meanwhile her aunts gave her all kinds of directions as to her behavior.

“When you first see him, my dear niece,” advised one aunt, “lower your
eyes, as becomes a modest young lady.”

“Yes,” added the other aunt, “and when you courtesy, catch your skirts,
so,” and she made a deep old-fashioned bow.

The old baron was no less busy with preparations than the others.
Having, in fact, nothing to do but wait, he worried everybody else
about every detail. He wandered from the top to the bottom of the
castle, begging everybody to be diligent, and filling everybody with
anxiety. He was naturally a bustling little man, and he buzzed about in
every hall and chamber like a blue-bottle fly on a warm summer’s day.

In the meantime, things had been gathered together for the making of
a great feast. The forests had rung with the sound of the huntsman’s
horn. The kitchen was crowded with good cheer, and the castle was a
model of ancient hospitality.

The long tables had been spread with the handsomest trenchers and
dishes within the castle. The last finishing touches had been added to
the wedding gown, the bride waited trembling with anxious expectation.
Everything was ready to receive the distinguished guest–but the guest
did not come.

Hour after hour rolled by. The sun began to set, and the baron mounted
for the eleventh time to the high tower, and strained his eyes in hope
of catching sight of the count and his attendants.

Once he thought he saw them, for there were a number of men seen
advancing slowly on horseback, but when they had nearly reached the
foot of the mountain, they suddenly struck off in a different direction.

The last rays of the sun departed. The bats began to flit by in the
twilight. The road grew dimmer and dimmer to sight, and nothing seemed
to be stirring in it except, now and then, a peasant lagging homeward
from his day’s labor.

While the old castle was in this nervous state, very different things
were happening to the bridegroom.

The young count was riding along on horseback in a jog-trot fashion
toward the bride he had never seen.

“There is no haste necessary,” he said to his attendants; “we will be
there all in good time. Let us enjoy the scenery.”

At the inn where he stopped for refreshment, he met another young
nobleman with whom he had been good friends several years before while
both were in the army.

“And which way do you travel?” asked the count’s friend.

“We go through the East pass, and upward through the mountain road,” he
replied.

“How fortunate!” exclaimed his friend. “I am going in the same
direction.”

So they agreed to travel together, and soon set off, the count leaving
word for his servants to follow and overtake him later.

“Now, tell what has happened in your life since we last met,” said the
count’s friend as their horses stepped out abreast. “Has your heart
been touched by the beauty of any maiden?”

[Illustration: ONCE HE THOUGHT HE SAW THEM]

Then the count told him about his coming wedding with a young lady he
had never seen, but who was said to be very lovely.

In this way they entered one of the loneliest and most thickly wooded
passes in the mountains.

All this happened in the days when bands of robbers lived in woods, and
when ghosts were said to haunt old castles.

As the count turned to speak to his companion, suddenly from out the
woods there sprang a small band of robbers who immediately attacked
them.

They made a brave fight, but were nearly overcome by numbers when the
count’s retinue of servants came riding up. The robbers fled at sight
of them, but not until they had given the count a dreadful wound.

He was carried back to the nearest town through which he had so
joyfully ridden such a short while before. A priest, who was also quite
a doctor, was brought to his bedside, but everyone knew that the poor
young count’s moments were few to live in this world.

He motioned his friend near, and whispered between gasping breaths,
“I–beg–you–to–go–to–the–castle–of–my–betrothed–and–tell–
why–I–did–not–keep–my–appointment.”

Then gathering strength, he added in a stronger voice, “Unless this is
done, I shall not sleep quietly in my grave!”

He spoke so solemnly that his friend gave his promise without
hesitating. This seemed to soothe him, and he closed his eyes as if in
sleep, but he soon began to talk wildly, and call for his horse, saying
he must hasten to the home of his bride, and thinking he was leaping
into the saddle, he suddenly drew his last breath.

His friend was deeply grieved. His heart was heavy within him. He
scarcely knew how to keep his promise, for he was the son of the
nobleman whose castle the maiden had been forbidden to mention; and,
because of the feud between the two families, he hated all the more to
be the bearer of such bad news. Still he thought that he would like
to see the lovely girl, and he felt that he must try to carry out the
promise he had made to his dying friend. So he made arrangements for
the poor count’s burial in the cathedral near the graves of his noble
ancestors, and set out on his journey.

It is now high time that we should return to the castle, where
everybody was hungrily awaiting the guest.

Night closed in, but still no guest arrived. The baron descended from
the high tower in despair.

“It is so dark that I can see nothing now,” he said. “There is no use
in watching longer.”

The banquet had been postponed from hour to hour. The cooks in the
kitchen were desperate. The meats were already overdone, and every one
was beginning to look as though it were a time of famine.

“We cannot delay longer,” the baron finally said. “I fear we must
proceed with the feast without our guest.”

All were seated at the table and on the point of commencing, when the
sound of a horn from outside the gate gave notice that a stranger was
approaching.

Another long blast filled the old courts of the castle with its echoes,
and was answered by the warden from the walls.

The baron hastened to receive his future son-in-law.

The drawbridge had been let down, and the stranger was before the gate.

He was a tall, gallant cavalier, mounted on a beautiful black steed.
His face was pale. He had a gleaming eye, and yet wore an air of
sadness.

The baron was a little embarrassed to think that he should come in so
simple a way without a retinue of friends and servants. He thought
that the young count did not show proper appreciation of the honor
of marrying his daughter, but he comforted himself by thinking, “He
has been so anxious to see his bride that he has hurried off without
waiting for attendants.”

“I am sorry,” began the stranger, “to break in upon you at such an
hour—-”

“Oh, pray, do not worry,” interrupted the baron, “it is as nothing,”
and he continued with a world of compliment and greeting. For, to tell
the truth, the baron was very proud of his ability to make pretty
speeches.

He kept on talking so fast that the stranger was unable to put a word
in edgewise, and by the time he paused, they had reached the inner
court of the castle.

The stranger was again about to speak when he was once more interrupted
by a group of the baron’s relatives leading forth the blushing bride.

_The Wedding Feast_

The stranger gazed on her for a moment as one entranced. It seemed as
if his whole soul beamed forth in the gaze, and rested upon her beauty.

One of the maiden aunts whispered something in her ear. She made an
effort to speak. Her moist blue eyes were timidly raised, gave a shy
glance at the stranger, and were cast again to the ground.

Her words died away, but there was a sweet smile playing about her
lips, and a soft dimpling of the cheek showed that she was pleased to
meet so charming a person.

The late hour at which the guest had arrived left no time for talk. The
stranger attempted again to tell his sad news, but the baron would not
listen, and immediately led the way to the untasted banquet.

The feast was served in the great hall of the castle. Around the walls
hung the portraits of the bride’s ancestors, and the horns and tusks of
animals they had killed in the hunt. Armor and spears, and torn banners
hung next to jaws of wolves and tusks of boars, and spears and battle
axes. A large pair of antlers hung just over the head of the youthful
bridegroom.

The stranger took but little notice of the company or of the
entertainment. He scarcely tasted the banquet, but seemed absorbed in
admiring the bride. He talked with her in a low tone that could not be
overheard. The bride’s color came and went, and she listened to him
with deep attention. Now and then she made some reply, but she was very
quiet most of the time, and when his glance was turned she looked at
him with much pleasure.

“They have fallen in love at first sight,” whispered one aunt.

“I felt that it would be so,” said the other.

The feast went on merrily, or at least noisily, for the guests were all
blessed with large appetites.

The baron told his longest and best stories. If he told anything
marvelous, his hearers were lost in astonishment. If he told anything
funny, they laughed just loud and long enough to please him greatly.

Amidst all this frolic, the stranger seemed lost in thought. His only
conversation was with the bride, and seemed to grow more and more
earnest and mysterious. Clouds began to steal over her fair face, and
the guests noticed that she trembled.

Their gayety was chilled by such actions. The song and laughter grew
less and less frequent. There were pauses in the conversation.

Dismal stories were told by several people. The baron nearly frightened
some of the ladies into hysterics with the history of the ghost
horseman that carried away the fair young woman, Lenora.

The bridegroom listened to this tale with great attention. He kept
his eye fixed on the baron, and, as the story drew to a close, began
gradually to rise from his seat, growing taller and taller, until, to
the baron’s eye, he seemed almost to tower into a giant.

The moment the tale was finished, he heaved a deep sigh, and took a
solemn farewell of the company. They were all in amazement. The baron
was perfectly thunderstruck.

“What! going to leave the castle at midnight? Why, everything is ready
for your reception; a room is ready for you if you wish to retire.”

The stranger shook his head mournfully and said: “I must lay my head in
a different place to-night.”

Then waving his farewell to the company, he stalked slowly out of the
hall.

The maiden aunts seemed turned to stone. The bride hung her head, and a
tear stole down her cheek.

The baron followed the stranger to the great court of the castle, where
the black horse stood pawing the earth and snorting with impatience.

When they reached the portal whose deep, high archway was dimly lighted
by a lantern, the stranger paused and spoke to the baron in a hollow
tone of voice.

“Now that we are alone,” said he, “I will tell you my reason for
leaving. I have an engagement in—-”

“Why,” asked the baron, “cannot you send some one in your place?”

“I must keep this engagement myself–I must go myself—-”

“Ay,” said the baron, “but not until to-morrow–to-morrow you shall
take your bride there.”

“No! No!” replied the stranger with greater solemnity. “My engagement
is with no bride. The grave awaits me! I must go back where I came
from!”

He sprang upon his black charger, dashed over the drawbridge, and the
sound of the clatter of his horse’s hoofs was lost in the whistling of
the night’s blast.

The baron watched him until out of sight, then muttered, “He must have
been a ghost!”

He returned to the hall in great bewilderment, and related what had
just passed. Two ladies fainted; others sickened with the idea of
having banqueted with a spectre.

[Illustration: A TALL FIGURE STOOD AMONG THE SHADOWS OF THE
TREES]

The company tried to guess whose ghost it might have been. Some
talked of wood-demons and others of mountain sprites, but all was dim
uncertainty and mystery.

The next morning, however, put an end to guessing, for word came of the
death of the young count on his way to the castle, and every one felt
sure that the stranger of the night before was indeed his spectre.

You can imagine how dreadful the baron felt. He shut himself up in his
rooms. His guests stayed on, for they could not think of going when he
was in such trouble, and then, too, the remnants of the feast were to
be eaten and drunk!

But the poor bride was most to be pitied. To have lost a promised
husband before she was acquainted with him! And such a husband!
Everybody wept for her.

_The Midnight Music_

On the night of the second day after, she retired to her room with one
of her aunts who insisted upon sleeping with her.

The aunt was one of the best tellers of ghost stories in all the land,
and in telling one of her longest, fell asleep in the midst of it.

The room was in a distant corner of the castle, and overlooked a small
garden. The niece lay gazing at the beams of the rising moon as they
shone on the trembling leaves of an aspen tree before the latticed
window.

The castle clock had just tolled midnight when a soft strain of music
stole up from the garden.

She rose hastily from her bed and stepped lightly to the window.

A tall figure stood among the shadows of the trees. As it raised its
head, a beam of moonlight fell on its face. In a moment she knew
him–her promised bridegroom!

A loud shriek at that moment burst upon her ear, and her aunt, who had
been awakened by the music and had followed her to the window, fell
into her arms.

When she looked again, the spectre had disappeared.

Of the two, the aunt required the more soothing. She was beside herself
with terror.

As for the young lady, she did not feel frightened. There was
something, even in the spectre of her lover, very charming.

The aunt declared she would never sleep in that room again. The niece
for once was determined to have her own way, and declared she would
not sleep in any other room. The consequence was that she had to sleep
there alone.

She begged her aunt to promise not to tell about this moonlight
visitor, for she said it was the only comfort she had in her great
disappointment, and the good old lady promised. How long she would
have kept her promise is uncertain, for she dearly loved to talk about
mysterious happenings.

She did keep it to herself for a whole week; and then, suddenly, she
did not need to keep it longer. For word was brought to the breakfast
table that the young lady was not to be found.

Her room was empty. Her bed had not been slept in. The window was open!
The bird had flown!

Nearly every one was struck speechless, when the aunt who had slept
with her, suddenly regained her speech, and wringing her hands,
shrieked out, “The goblin! the goblin! She’s carried away by the
goblin!”

In a few words, she told of the dreadful scene in the garden; and all
concluded that the spectre must have carried off his bride. Two of the
servants said they had heard the clatter of horse’s hoofs down the
mountain-side about midnight, and had no doubt it was the black charger
of the spectre.

The poor baron was inconsolable. What sorrow to have his only child,
his daughter, carried off by a goblin! How terrible to have, perhaps,
goblin grandchildren! As usual, he was completely bewildered, and all
the castle was in an uproar.

The men were ordered to take horses, and hunt in every road and path
and by-way. The baron himself had just drawn on his jack-boots and
girded on his sword, when he glanced out the window, and paused because
of what he saw.

A lady was approaching the castle on horseback. Beside her, mounted on
a black charger, was a cavalier.

She galloped up to the gate, sprang from the horse, and running into
the castle, fell at the baron’s feet.

It was his lost daughter, and her companion–the spectre bridegroom.

The baron was astonished. He looked at his daughter, then at the
spectre, and almost doubted his eyes.

The spectre was wonderfully improved in appearance. His dress was
splendid, and set off his noble figure. He was no longer pale and sad.
His face was flushed with the joy of youth.

The mystery was soon cleared up. The cavalier (for you must have known
all along he was no goblin) told the whole story–how he had met his
young friend; how they had traveled together; how the young nobleman
had met his death. He said that the sight of the beautiful young lady
had made him forget everything except the desire to be near her. At
first, when the baron would not listen to his explanation, he thought
it would do no harm to accept the situation as it was.

If the baron’s family had not had a feud with his own family, he would
have explained everything after the banquet, but he feared that, under
the circumstances, he might never see the young lady again. When the
baron had told how the fair Lenora had been carried off by the goblin,
the idea of being a goblin himself came to him. And he said that he did
not feel exactly right about doing this, but his friends had told him
to remember the old saying that “everything was fair in love.”

The baron pardoned the young couple on the spot. The festival at the
castle was continued.

Only the aunt was disappointed. She who had told so many stories about
true ghosts, was embarrassed to find the only ghost which she had
actually seen should turn out to be a real live person, but she was
so happy at having her niece back again that her embarrassment was as
nothing.

But the niece was perfectly happy in having found him a real living
person, and–since they lived happily ever after–here the story ends.

* * * * *

“And another begins,” added the Story Lady, after a slight pause.

At the Story King’s nod of approval, she proceeded.

Continue Reading

OW SIR LAUNFAL ACHIEVED THE HOLY GRAIL

In the early days of Britain there lived a noble king, Arthur, and
his brave knights of the Round Table. The king and his knights were
famous for their feats of arms, their deeds of valor, and their many
adventures. Among them none was nobler and braver than King Arthur,
until Galahad came; but Galahad surpassed them all, because he
accomplished the feat in which so many failed–he conquered himself, as
you shall hear.

Now King Arthur held his court three times a year, at Christmas, at
Easter, and at Pentecost, in the lovely town of Camelot. Here stood
Camelot Castle, with its high towers and great jousting field in the
meadow by the river, where the knights held their tournaments and
performed their feats of arms.

At these times all the brave knights of Christendom flocked to Camelot,
and the bravest were chosen to sit at the Round Table, where they
feasted, told their adventures, and planned new deeds of valor. Here
King Arthur would charge them to commit no murder, outrage, or treason;
also to be courteous and never to refuse mercy; always to defend women
and children on pain of death; and never to fight in a wrong quarrel
for law or worldly goods; and to this he pledged both old and young
every year at the high feast of Pentecost.

In the center of the great hall of the castle, with its lofty arches
and high windows, stood the Round Table. “Merlin, the magician,” so
the tale goes, “made the Round Table in token of the roundness of the
world; for all the bravest of the world, Christian and heathen, resort
to the Round Table; and when they are chosen to be of that company,
they think themselves more happy and more in honor, than if they had
gotten half the world.”

When Merlin had made this wonderful table he said that, by the knights
who sat about it, the truth of the Holy Grail should be well known.

Now, the Holy Grail was the cup which was supposed to have been used by
our Saviour at the Last Supper, and was said to have been brought into
Britain by Joseph of Arimathea. After a time, through the sin of those
who had charge of it, this holy vessel became lost, and the knights
of the Round Table sought to recover it; but only a knight who was
perfectly blameless in thought, word, and act could hope to succeed.

When Merlin was asked who was best fitted for this quest, he said that
three blameless knights should achieve it; and that one of the three
should surpass his father as much as the lion surpasses the leopard,
both in strength and boldness.

Those who heard Merlin say this, said, “Since there is to be such a
knight, you should make by your skill a seat for him to sit in.”

Merlin answered that he would do this; and so he made the Perilous
Seat, in which no man dare sit on pain of being hurt, except the knight
for whom the seat was made. This knight was Sir Galahad, of whom the
poet Tennyson writes:

“My good sword carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.”

The tales themselves are from an old book, “Le Morte d’ Arthur,”
written by Sir Thomas Malory in the fifteenth century.

_Galahad Receives the Order of Knighthood_

One day, at Pentecost, when the tables were set, ready for the
feasting to begin, there rode into the great hall of the castle a
fair gentlewoman on horseback, her horse covered with sweat and foam.
Quickly alighting, she came to King Arthur, who was surrounded by his
knights, and saluted him.

“Damsel, God bless you,” said the king.

“Sir,” said she, “show me where Sir Launcelot is.”

“There you may see him,” said the king, pointing to the knight.

She went to Sir Launcelot and said, “Sir Launcelot, I salute you and
require that you come with me.”

“What is your will with me?” asked Sir Launcelot.

“You shall soon know and understand,” she replied.

“Well,” said he, “I will gladly go with you.”

Sir Launcelot bade his squire saddle his horse and bring his armor.

The queen then came to Sir Launcelot and asked in surprise, “Will you
leave us at the high feast?”

The gentlewoman answered for him: “Madam, he shall be with you again
to-morrow at mid-day.”

So Sir Launcelot departed with the gentlewoman and rode into a great
forest till he came to an abbey. When the squire opened the gates he
entered and descended from his horse, and there met two of his cousins,
Sir Bors and Sir Lionel, who were very glad to see him.

“Sir,” said Sir Bors, “what adventure brings you here? We thought to
see you at Camelot to-morrow.”

“A gentlewoman brought me here,” said Sir Launcelot, “but I know not
the cause.”

While they were talking, twelve nuns came in, bringing with them
Galahad, a youth so handsome and well-made that scarcely in the world
might men find his match; and all the ladies wept.

“Sir,” said one of the ladies, “we bring here your son, whom we have
nourished for you; and we pray you now to make him a knight, for he
could not receive the order of knighthood from a worthier man’s hand.”

Sir Launcelot looked at the young squire and thought that, for his age,
he had never seen so fine a man.

“Is this your own desire?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied his son.

“Then you shall receive the high order of knighthood to-morrow,” said
Sir Launcelot.

Early in the morning at Galahad’s desire he made him a knight, and
said, “God make him a good man, for he is as handsome as any man that
lives.” This he did in the presence of his two cousins and the ladies
of the abbey.

“Now, fair sir,” said he, “will you come with me to the court of King
Arthur?”

“Sir,” said Sir Galahad, “I cannot go with you at this time, but
shortly I will come.”

Sir Launcelot then departed with his cousins and returned to Camelot,
and the king and queen and all the knights were exceeding glad to see
them.

_The Adventure of the Sword in the Stone_

When the king and his knights entered the great hall for the feast,
they were surprised to see on the seats about the Round Table their
names in letters of gold, which told where each one ought to sit. When
they came to the Perilous Seat, they saw letters newly-written which
said:

“Four hundred and fifty-four winters have now passed since the
birth of our Lord, and this seat ought to be filled.”

They all said, “This is a strange and a marvelous thing.”

Sir Launcelot then counted the time and said, “It seems to me this
seat ought to be filled to-day; for this is the feast of Pentecost
after the four hundred and fifty-fourth year; and, if it please all
here, let no one see these words till he arrives who ought to achieve
this adventure.”

Then they took a silken cloth and covered the letters in the Perilous
Seat, and the king ordered the dinner to be served.

“Sir,” said Sir Kay, the steward, “if you go now to dinner you will
break an old custom of your court, for you never sit down on this day
until you have seen some adventure.”

“You speak the truth,” said King Arthur, “but I was so glad to see Sir
Launcelot and his cousins that I forgot the custom.”

While they were still speaking, a squire came in and said to the king,
“Sir, I bring you marvelous tidings.”

“What are they?” he asked.

“Sir, I saw in the river below a great stone floating on the water, and
in it a sword sticking.”

“Then,” said the king, “I will see that marvel.”

The knights went with him down to the river and saw there a stone of
red marble floating, like a great millstone, and in the middle was
stuck a beautiful sword, in the handle of which were words formed of
precious stones set in gold, which said:

“Never shall man draw me out, save the one by whose side I ought
to hang, and he shall be the best knight of the world.”

When the king read the letters, he said to Sir Launcelot, “Fair sir,
this sword ought to be yours; for I am sure you are the best knight of
the world.”

“Sir,” answered Sir Launcelot soberly, “it is not my sword, nor am I
bold enough to grasp it, for it ought not to hang by my side; also,
whoever attempts to draw it and fails, will receive a wound and will
not live long after; and I am sure you must know that to-day the
adventures of the Holy Grail will begin.”

“Now, fair nephew,” said the king to Sir Gawain, “attempt it once for
me.”

“Sir,” said Sir Gawain, “I will obey your command.”

Immediately he grasped the sword by the handle, but could not stir it.

“I thank you,” said King Arthur.

“Sir Gawain,” said Sir Launcelot, “this sword will one day hurt you so
sorely that you will wish you had never put your hand to it for the
best castle of the realm.”

“Sir,” said Sir Gawain, “I might not resist my uncle’s command.”

When King Arthur heard this he was sorry, and then he bade Sir Percival
try it, who said that he would gladly, to bear Sir Gawain company.
Thereupon he took hold of the sword and drew it strongly, but he could
not even move it. After that there was no one who was bold enough to
attempt it.

“Now you may go to dinner,” said Sir Kay, “for you have seen a
marvelous adventure.”

_Sir Galahad Sits in the Perilous Seat_

The king and all the knights then returned to the castle and each
knight sat in his own place at the table, and the young men who were
not knights served them. When all were served and all the seats were
filled except the Perilous Seat, a strange thing happened; for all the
windows and doors of the castle shut by themselves; yet, for all that,
the hall was not greatly darkened.

King Arthur was the first to speak. “Fair comrades,” he said, “we have
seen marvels to-day; but methinks ere night we shall see still greater
marvels.”

Even while he was speaking, an old man came in, clothed all in white;
and none of the knights knew who he was or where he came from. With him
was a young knight in red armor, without sword or shield; but an empty
scabbard hung by his side.

“Peace be with you, gentlemen,” said the old man; then to King Arthur,
“Sir, I bring you a young knight who is of king’s lineage, and of the
kindred of Joseph of Arimathea; therefore the marvels of this court,
and of strange countries, shall be fully accomplished.”

[Illustration: IMMEDIATELY HE GRASPED THE SWORD BY THE HANDLE, BUT
COULD NOT STIR IT]

The king was truly glad to hear this, and said, “Sir, you are heartily
welcome, and the young knight with you.”

When the young knight had taken off his armor he stood in a coat of red
silk, and the old man put on his shoulder a mantle, furred with fine
ermine, and said: “Sir, follow me.”

Then he led the way to the Perilous Seat, beside which sat Sir
Launcelot; and then lifted up the cloth and found new letters which
said:

“This is the seat of Sir Galahad, the good knight.”

“Sir,” said the old man, “know well this place is yours.”

Sir Galahad sat down safely in the Perilous Seat, and then said to his
guide, “Sir, you may now go your way, for you have done as you were
commanded to do; and recommend me to my grandfather, King Pelleas, and
say that I shall come to see him as soon as I may.”

When the old man departed twenty squires met him, and they took their
horses and rode away.

The knights of the Round Table wondered greatly at Sir Galahad, because
he was so youthful, and because he dared to sit in the Perilous Seat;
and they did not know where he was from, save from God, and they said,
“This is he by whom the Holy Grail shall be achieved, for no man ever
before sat there unhurt.”

Sir Launcelot looked at his son with great joy, and Sir Bors said to
his comrades, “Upon pain of my life, this young knight shall come to
great honor.”

There was so much noise in the hall that the queen heard it, and she
had a great desire to see the knight who dared such an adventure. When
dinner was done the king rose and went to Sir Galahad’s seat and lifted
the cloth and read his name. Then he showed it to Sir Gawain and said,
“Fair nephew, now we have among us the blameless knight who will bring
honor to us all; and, upon pain of my life, he shall achieve the Holy
Grail, as Sir Launcelot has given us to understand.”

King Arthur then came to Sir Galahad and said, “Sir, you are welcome,
for you shall move many good knights to seek the Holy Grail, and you
shall achieve what no other knight has been able to accomplish.”

_Sir Galahad Wins the Sword of Balin Le Savage_

The king then took Sir Galahad by the hand, and went down to the river
to show him the adventure of the stone, and the queen and many ladies
went with them and saw the stone floating in the water.

“Sir,” said the king to him, “here is a great marvel as ever I saw, and
right good knights have attempted it and failed.”

“Sir,” answered Sir Galahad, “that is no marvel, for the adventure is
not theirs, but mine; and because of this sword I brought none with me,
for its empty scabbard hangs by my side.”

Then he grasped the sword quickly, and drew it out of the stone, and
put it into his scabbard, and said, “Now it goes better than it did
before.”

“Sir,” said the king, “a shield also God shall send you.”

“Now,” said Sir Galahad, “I have the sword that once belonged to the
good knight, Sir Balin le Savage; with this sword he slew his brother
Balan, and that was a great pity, for neither knew that he fought his
brother until wounded to death.”

With that they saw a lady on a white horse riding along the river bank
toward them. She saluted the king and queen and asked for Sir Launcelot.

“I am here, fair lady,” said Sir Launcelot.

Then she said, weeping, “Your great doings are changed since this
morning.”

“Damsel, why do you say so?” demanded Sir Launcelot.

“I say truth,” said she, “for you were to-day the best knight in the
world, but whoever said so now would be proved a liar. There is one
better than you, for you dared not grasp the sword! Therefore, I ask
you to remember that you are no longer the best knight in the world.”

“As to that,” said he, “I know well I was never the best.”

“Yes,” said the damsel, “you were, and are yet of any sinful man of
the world: and, Sir,” she said to the king, “Nacien, the hermit, sends
word of the greatest honor that ever befell king in Britain, for to-day
the Holy Grail shall appear to thee and all thy comrades of the Round
Table.”

Having thus spoken, the damsel took her leave and departed the same way
that she came.

“Now,” said the king, “I am sure that all of you who sit at the Round
Table will set out in quest of the Holy Grail, and I shall never see
you together again; therefore let us go to the meadow of Camelot and
hold a tournament, so that after your death men may say that we were
all together on this day.”

To this they all agreed, and assembled with their arms in the jousting
field. Now the king wished to prove Sir Galahad and to see what he
would do. At the king’s request he put on his armor, but would not take
a shield. Then Sir Gawain begged him to take a spear, which he did. And
the queen sat in a tower with all her ladies to see the tournament.

Then Sir Galahad took his place in the field and began to break
marvelously the spears of those who rode against him, so that men
wondered. In a short while he overthrew and unhorsed many of the good
knights of the Round Table, save two, Sir Launcelot and Sir Percival.

Then the king made Sir Galahad alight from his horse and unlace his
helmet so that Queen Guinevere might see him closely. When she saw him
she said, “Truly, he is the son of Sir Launcelot, for never did two men
more resemble each other; it is no wonder that he has great valor.”

A lady who stood by said, “Madam, ought he of right to be so good a
knight?”

[Illustration: THEN SIR GALAHAD TOOK HIS PLACE IN THE FIELD]

“Yes,” said she, “for he comes of the best knights in the world, and of
the highest lineage.”

_The Knights of the Round Table Set Out in Quest of the Holy Grail_

The king and all his knights then left the jousting field, and rode to
Camelot Church to evensong; and after that they went home to supper. At
supper, as each knight sat in his own place at the Round Table, there
arose a great storm, and the cracking and crying of the thunder was
so terrible that they thought the roof and walls of the castle were
breaking apart.

In the midst of the blast a sunbeam entered the great window, seven
times whiter than the light of day. Then every knight seemed fairer
than his comrades had ever seen him, and no one dared speak for a long
while, but all looked at each other as if they had been dumb.

Then there entered on the sunbeam the Holy Grail, but it was covered
with a white silken cloth, so that no one could see it, or who bore it.
Then the hall was filled with sweet odors, and every knight had such
meat and drink as he liked best; and when the Holy Grail had been borne
through the hall, it departed as suddenly as it came and the marvelous
light with it, but no one knew where. When they had breath to speak,
the king gave thanks.

“Certainly,” said he, “we ought greatly to thank our Lord for what he
has shown us to-day at this high feast of Pentecost.”

“Now,” said Sir Gawain, “we have been served to-day with the food we
liked best, but are sorry that we did not see the Holy Grail uncovered.
Therefore, I will here make a vow to set forth on its quest to-morrow
to be gone a year and a day, or longer if need be, and I shall not
return till I have seen it more openly than to-day. If I do not find
it, I shall return again, if it be not contrary to the will of our
Lord.”

When the knights of the Round Table heard this, the most part of them
arose and made the same vow. But King Arthur was greatly displeased,
for he well knew that they might not break their vows.

“Alas,” said he, “your vows will nearly slay me; they will rob me of
the bravest comrades and the truest knights ever seen together in any
realm; and I foresee that we shall never meet in fellowship again,
for many of you that I have loved as well as my life will die in this
quest.”

With that the tears came into his eyes, and he said, “Sir Gawain, Sir
Gawain, you have given me great sorrow, for I much doubt that my true
fellowship shall ever meet here again.”

“Ah,” said Sir Launcelot, “comfort yourself; it will bring us greater
honor than if we had died in any other quest, for of death we are sure.”

“Ah, Sir Launcelot,” said the king, “the great love I have had for
you all the days of my life makes me say such sorrowful words; for
Christian king never had so many worthy men at his table as I have had
at the Round Table to-day.”

When the queen and her gentlewomen heard these things, they were filled
with sorrow, for their knights held them in great honor and affection,
but the queen was the most sorely grieved of all.

“I marvel,” said she, “that the king will permit them to leave him.”

Thus all the court was troubled that night, and many of the ladies
desired to accompany their husbands; but an old knight arose and said
this could not be, for in so high and dangerous a service they must go
forth alone.

After a while they all went to rest, and Sir Galahad was put to bed in
the king’s own chamber. As soon as it was daylight the king arose, for
he had no sleep that night for sorrow. He went at once to Sir Gawain
and Sir Launcelot and said again, “Ah! Sir Gawain! Sir Gawain! You have
betrayed me, for my court will never be restored; but you will never be
as sorry for me as I am for you.”

With that the tears began to run down his face, and he said, “Ah!
knight, Sir Launcelot! I ask that you counsel me, for I wish this quest
to be undone, and it can be.”

“Sir,” said Sir Launcelot, “you saw yesterday that many worthy knights
were sworn to this quest, and they cannot break their vows.”

“That I know well,” said the king, “but my grief at their going is so
great that no joy will ever heal it.”

After the king had gone, the two knights ordered their squires to bring
their arms, and when they were armed they joined their comrades and all
went to the church to hear their service.

After the service was over the king took count of those who had taken
the vow to search for the Holy Grail and found that there were a
hundred and fifty, all knights of the Round Table.

When they had bidden the queen and their ladies farewell, they put on
their helmets and were ready to set forth, and there was weeping and
great sorrow. Then the queen departed to her chamber to hide her grief.
So the knights mounted their horses and rode through the streets of
Camelot, and there was much weeping of both rich and poor; and the king
turned away, for he could not speak for weeping.

After leaving the town, the men at arms rode all day, and toward
evening arrived at a castle called Vagon. The lord of the castle was
a good old man and he opened his gates and made them welcome and gave
them good cheer, and there they passed the night. In the morning they
all agreed that they should separate; so, bidding each other farewell,
they departed, and each knight took the way that pleased him best.

_Sir Galahad Finds a White Shield With a Red Cross_

Now Sir Galahad rode four days without adventure, for as yet he had no
shield. On the fourth day, toward evening, he arrived at a white abbey
where he was received with great honor. There he found two knights of
the Round Table, Sir Badgemagus and Sir Uwaine, who were delighted to
see him, and they went to supper together.

“Sirs,” said Sir Galahad, “what adventure brought you here?”

“Sir,” they answered, “we are told there is a shield in this place, and
whoever wears it about his neck will be wounded to death within three
days, or else be maimed forever.”

“Ah! Sir,” said Sir Badgemagus, “I shall wear it to-morrow and attempt
this strange adventure.”

“By my faith!” cried Sir Galahad.

“Sir,” said Sir Badgemagus, “if I do not achieve the adventure of the
shield, you shall try it, for I am sure you shall not fail.”

“Sir,” said Sir Galahad, “I agree right well to that, for I have no
shield.”

The next day when Sir Badgemagus inquired for the shield a monk led him
behind the altar, where the shield hung as white as snow, but in the
center was a red cross.

“Sir,” said the monk, “no knight ought to hang this shield about his
neck, unless he be the worthiest in the world, therefore I counsel you
to be well-advised.”

“Well,” said Sir Badgemagus, “I know I am not the worthiest knight in
the world, yet I shall attempt to wear it.”

He then took the shield and said to Sir Galahad, “If it please you, I
pray you remain here, till you know how I succeed.”

“I shall await you here,” said he.

After riding two miles, Sir Badgemagus and his squire came to a
hermit’s house, from which a goodly knight rode forth to meet him. This
knight was in white armor, horse and all, and he came as fast as his
horse might run, with his spear in rest. Sir Badgemagus ran against
him with such violence that he broke his spear upon the white knight’s
shield; but the other struck him so hard that he broke his armor,
pierced him through the shoulder and threw him from his horse.

With that the white knight alighted and took the white shield from
him, saying, “Knight, thou hast done a foolish act, for this shield
ought not be borne save by one that shall have no equal.”

Then he said to the wounded knight’s squire, “Bear this shield to the
good knight, Sir Galahad, and greet him well for me.”

“Sir,” said the squire, “what is your name?”

“Take no heed of my name,” said the white knight; “it is not for you to
know, nor any earthly man.”

“Now, fair sir,” said the squire, “tell me why this shield cannot be
borne without injury to the bearer.”

“Now, since you ask me,” said he, “this shield belongs to no man but
Sir Galahad.”

Then he set the wounded man on his horse and brought him to the
hermit’s house and laid him gently in a bed, where his wound was
dressed. There he lay a long time, and hardly escaped with his life.

“Sir Galahad,” said the squire on his return, “the knight who wounded
Sir Badgemagus sends you greeting, and bids you bear this shield, for
through it great adventures shall befall.”

“Now blessed be God and fortune,” said Sir Galahad.

He then put on his armor, mounted his horse, hung the shield about his
neck and commended them to God. Sir Uwaine said that if it pleased him
he would accompany him.

“Sir,” said Sir Galahad, “that cannot be, for I must ride alone.”

After awhile he came to the hermit’s house, where he met the white
knight and saluted him courteously.

“Sir,” said he, “this shield must have seen many marvelous things.”

[Illustration: A MONK LED HIM BEHIND THE ALTAR WHERE THE SHIELD
HUNG WHITE AS SNOW, BUT IN THE CENTER WAS A RED CROSS]

“Sir,” said the knight, “the legend says that, thirty years after the
crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea, the gentle knight who took down our
Lord from the cross, departed from Jerusalem and his people with him,
and came to a city called Sarras. Now, Evelake, the king of Sarras,
had a war against the Saracens. Joseph told the king that he would be
defeated and slain unless he gave up his belief of the old law and
believed in the new.

“He then showed him the right belief, to which he agreed with all his
heart, and this white shield was made for Evelake in the name of Him
who died on the cross. After he had overcome his enemies with the help
of this shield, he was baptized and, for the most part, all the people
of the city.

“Soon after this Joseph departed from Sarras and Evelake with him;
and, so the tale goes, Joseph carried the holy vessel and Evelake the
shield, till, by good fortune, they came into the land of Britain.

“In due time Joseph lay on his death-bed and Evelake was full of sorrow
and said, ‘For thy love I left my country; now, since thou art going
out of the world, leave me some token of remembrance.’

“‘I will do that gladly,’ said Joseph; ‘bring me the shield.’

“Now Joseph made a cross on this shield with his own blood, and said,
‘Now you may know that I love you, for when you see this cross you
shall think of me, for it shall always be as clear as it is now; and no
man shall bear this shield without injury, except the good knight, Sir
Galahad, who shall do many marvelous things.’

“Now know, Sir Galahad, that this is the day set for you to have this
shield.” When he had thus spoken the white knight vanished from his
sight.

_Sir Launcelot and Sir Percival Attack Sir Galahad_

Thus equipped with a shield, Sir Galahad set out on his quest; and,
after many adventures, found himself in a vast forest. There he saw Sir
Launcelot and Sir Percival riding along, but neither knew him, for he
had newly disguised himself.

Sir Launcelot, his father, at once put his spear in rest and rode at
his son, Sir Galahad, who struck so hard in his own defense that he
threw both horse and man. Then he drew his sword to defend himself
against Sir Percival who now attacked him. He dealt him such a blow
that it broke his cap of steel; and, if the sword had not swerved, Sir
Percival might have been slain. As it was, he fell out of his saddle.

These encounters took place near the hermitage of a lady who was a
recluse. When she saw Sir Galahad ride she said, “God be with you, the
best knight of the world.”

Then she cried aloud, so that Sir Launcelot and Sir Percival might
hear, “Ah! certainly, if those two knights had known thee as well as I
do, they would not have dared the encounter.”

When Sir Galahad heard her say this, he was much afraid of being known;
so he put spurs to his horse and rode away at a great pace. Then both
knights knew that it was Sir Galahad, and quickly mounted their horses
and rode after him, but he was soon out of their sight, and they turned
back with heavy hearts.

“Let us make inquiry of yonder recluse,” said Sir Percival.

“Do as you please,” said Sir Launcelot; and then rode headlong, keeping
no path, but as wild adventure led him, and was soon lost in the depths
of the forest.

But Sir Percival went to the door of the recluse, who asked what he
wished.

“Madam,” he replied, “I am a knight of King Arthur’s court, Sir
Percival de Galis. Do you know the knight with the white shield?”

When the recluse heard his name she was exceeding glad, for she greatly
loved him, as she had a right to do, for she was an aunt of his whom he
had never seen.

“Sir,” said she, “why would you know?”

“Truly, madam,” said he, “that I may fight with him, for I am ashamed
of my defeat.”

“Ah! Sir Percival,” said she, “I see that you have a great will to be
slain as your father was through recklessness.”

“Madam,” said he, “it seems by your words that you know me.”

“Yes,” said she, “I ought to know you, for I am your aunt.”

Then Sir Percival wept, when he knew who she was.

“Ah! fair nephew,” said she, “when have you heard from your mother?”

“Truly,” said he, “not in a great while, but I often dream of her in my
sleep.”

“Fair nephew,” said she, “your mother is dead; for after you set out on
this quest, she fell into such sorrow that she soon died.”

“Now may God have mercy on her soul,” said he sadly, “for I was sorely
afraid of it; but we must all change our life. Now, tell me, fair aunt,
was that knight he who bore the red arms at Pentecost?”

“That is he,” said his aunt; “he is without equal, for he works by
miracle, and cannot be overcome by the hands of any earthly man.”

“Now, madam,” said he, “since I know this I will never have to do with
Sir Galahad except by way of kindness. Tell me how I may find him, for
I would much love his company.”

“Fair nephew,” said she, “you must ride to the castle of Goothe, where
his first cousin lives, and there you may lodge for the night. If you
get no word of him there, ride straight to the castle of Carbonek where
the crippled king lives and there you will hear tidings.”

Sir Percival left his aunt sorrowing, and rode till evensong when he
heard a clock strike. Then he came upon a castle closed in with high
walls and deep ditches, and knocked at the gate, but could get no word
of Sir Galahad. There he passed the night, and in the morning departed
and rode till the hour of noon.

In a valley he overtook a company of about twenty men at arms who bore
a dead knight upon a hearse. When they saw Sir Percival they asked him
who he was.

“A knight of King Arthur’s court,” he answered.

Then they cried all at once, “Kill him!”

Straightway Sir Percival struck the first to the ground and his horse
upon him. Then seven of them at once ran at him and threw him and slew
his horse.

Now, had not the good knight, Sir Galahad, happened by adventure in
those parts, they would have killed or captured Sir Percival instantly.
But when he saw so many knights attacking one man, he cried, “Spare
that knight’s life!”

With that he charged the twenty men at arms as fast as his horse might
drive with spear in rest, and hurled the foremost horse and man to the
ground. When his spear was broken he seized his sword and struck out
right and left, so that it was a marvel to see. At every blow he cut
one down or wounded him, so that the rest became frightened and fled
into a thick forest and Sir Galahad followed hard after them.

When Sir Percival saw him chase them so, he knew it was Sir Galahad and
wept with rage, for his horse was dead. He ran after him afoot, crying
for him to stop while he thanked him.

But Sir Galahad rode fast after the knights he was chasing and was soon
out of sight. And as fast as he could Sir Percival went after him on
foot, crying, but could not overtake him.

_The Adventure of the Gentlewoman, the Mysterious Ship, and the Sword
of the Strange Belt_

Now, says the tale, when Sir Galahad had rescued Sir Percival, he
went into a vast forest, where he rode many journeys and found many
adventures.

One day, after many weary hours on horseback, as night was falling, he
arrived at a lonely hermitage and knocked. The good man was very glad
to welcome a knight-errant and to hear his tales, and so they talked
till late. Soon after they had gone to rest, there was a knocking at
the door.

When the hermit asked who was there, a voice said, “I am a gentlewoman
who would speak with the knight that is with you.”

Then the good man awoke Sir Galahad and bade him arise and speak with
the gentlewoman, who, said he, “seems to have great need of you.” So
Sir Galahad arose and asked her wish.

“Sir Galahad,” said she, “I wish you to arm yourself, mount your horse
and follow me, and I will show you within three days the highest
adventure that any knight ever saw.”

Sir Galahad took his arms at once, mounted his horse, commended himself
to God, and bade the gentlewoman go and he would follow where she
wished.

The damsel rode as fast as her horse would gallop that night and all
the next day till they came within reach of the sea. Toward night they
halted at a castle that was enclosed with running water and high walls.
Here Sir Galahad had great welcome, for the lady of the castle was the
damsel’s lady.

When he was unarmed the damsel said to the lady, “Madam, shall we lodge
here to-night?”

“No,” said she, “but only till he has dined and slept a little.”

So he ate and slept till the maid called him, and then armed himself
by torchlight. When the maid and he were both mounted they left the
castle and rode till they reached the seaside. There they found in the
darkness a ship awaiting them, and two voices cried from on shipboard,
“Welcome, Sir Galahad; we have long waited for you.”

When he heard these words, he asked them who they were.

“Sir,” said the damsel, “Leave your horse here and I shall leave mine.”

When they entered the ship he was welcomed with great joy by those
whose voices he had heard, who were none other than Sir Bors and Sir
Percival, and he was exceeding glad of their company. As soon as they
were on board the wind arose and drove them through the sea. After a
while morning dawned and Sir Galahad took off his helmet and his sword
and asked his comrades where the ship was from.

“Truly,” said they, “you know as well as we, but of God’s grace.”

[Illustration: THE DAMSEL RODE AS FAST AS HER HORSE WOULD GALLOP
THAT NIGHT AND ALL THE NEXT DAY TILL THEY CAME IN SIGHT OF THE
SEA]

Then they told of their adventures since they last parted and of their
great temptations.

“Truly,” said Sir Galahad, “you are much indebted to God for escaping
great dangers; and had it not been for this gentlewoman, I should
not have come here; for I never thought to find you in this strange
country.”

“Ah, Sir Galahad,” said Sir Bors, “if your father, Sir Launcelot, were
here, it seems to me we should lack nothing.”

“That may not be,” said he, “except it please our Lord.”

Now, neither Sir Percival nor Sir Bors knew the gentlewoman, for she
was veiled. By this time the ship was far distant from the land of
Britain, and, by chance, had arrived between two great rocks which were
exceeding dangerous. Neither could they land, for there was a great
whirlpool of the sea. After buffeting about, they escaped the danger
and came into a calmer sea, and there saw another ship at anchor to
which they might go in safety.

“Let us go there,” said the gentlewoman, “and we shall see adventures,
if our Lord wills.”

When they came alongside, they found a fine ship, but no one appeared
to be on board. On the stern they read these strange and dreadful words:

“Whoever enters this ship must be steadfast in his belief, for I
am faith; therefore, beware, for if thou fail, I shall not help
thee.”

Then the gentlewoman asked, “Do you know who I am?”

“Truly,” said Sir Percival, “I do not know you.”

“Know well,” said she, “I am your sister, the daughter of King
Pellinore; therefore you are the man in the world I most like. If you
are not in perfect belief and enter the ship, you will perish, for it
will suffer no sin in it.”

Now, when Sir Percival knew she was his sister, he was very glad and
said, “Fair sister, I shall enter therein, for if I be worthless, or an
untrue knight, there shall I perish.”

Without further parley Sir Galahad stepped on board the strange ship,
followed by the gentlewoman, Sir Bors, and Sir Percival.

The fittings were so rich and perfect that they wondered, for they had
never seen the like. In the cabin in the midst of the ship there stood
a beautiful bed with a coverlet of fine silk, and on it at the foot lay
a great sword of marvelous beauty, which was drawn out of its scabbard
half a foot and more, as if one had tried to draw it and could not.

“Here is a mystery,” cried Sir Percival, “I shall attempt to handle the
sword.” So he tried to grasp it; but, try as he might, he could not.

“Now, by my faith,” said he, “I have failed.”

Sir Bors also set his hand to the sword and failed. Sir Galahad looked
at it more closely, and saw on it letters as red as blood which said:

“Let him who would draw me from my scabbard see that he be bolder
than other men, for whoso draweth me shall not escape injury to
his body, or wounding unto death.”

“By my faith,” said Sir Galahad, “I would like to draw this sword out
of its scabbard, but the penalty is so great that I shall not try it.”

“Sir,” said the gentlewoman, “know that all men are warned against
drawing this sword, save you.”

As they looked closer they saw that the sword-belt was made of hempen
cord of such poor account that it did not seem strong enough to bear
so heavy a weight. The scabbard was of serpent’s skin and on it were
letters of gold and silver which said:

“Whoever bears me as I ought to be borne should be bolder than
other men; for the body of him by whose side I ought to hang
shall not suffer shame while he wears this belt, and no one
shall dare change this belt except a maid who is a king’s
daughter.”

“Sir,” said the gentlewoman to Sir Galahad, “there was a king called
Pelleas, the maimed king, who, while he was able to ride, strongly
supported Christendom and the holy church. Upon a day he hunted in a
wood, which bordered the sea, and at last he lost his hounds and his
knights, and found this ship. When he saw the letters he entered, for
he was right perfect in his life; here he found this sword and drew
it out as far as you now see. With that, there entered a spear and
wounded him in both his thighs. His wounds have never healed and never
shall until we come to him. Thus,” said she, “was not Pelleas, your
grandfather, maimed for his boldness?”

“By my faith!” said Sir Galahad.

Then, as they stood looking at the bed in wonder, Sir Percival lifted
the coverlet and found a writing which told of the ship, by whom it was
made and how it came there, but that does not belong to this tale.

“Now,” said Sir Galahad, “where shall we find the maid who shall make a
belt strong enough to carry this sword?”

“Fair sir,” said Sir Percival’s sister, “do not fear, for I shall show
you a belt fit for such a sword.”

She then opened a box and took out a belt, wrought with golden threads,
and set with precious stones, and a rich buckle of gold.

“Lo! sirs,” said she, “here is a belt that ought to bear this sword;
for the greatest part of it is woven of my own hair, which I loved
full well when I was a woman of the world; but as soon as I knew this
adventure was appointed to me, I clipped off my hair and made this
belt.”

“We are truly grateful,” said Sir Bors, “for without your help, we
should have endured much suffering.”

The gentlewoman then put the new belt on the sword.

“Now,” said the three knights, “what is the name of the sword and what
shall we call it?”

“Truly,” said she, “the Sword of the Strange Belt.”

They then said to Sir Galahad, “We pray you to gird yourself with the
sword, which hath been so long desired in the land of Britain.”

“Now let me begin,” said Sir Galahad, “to grip this sword to give you
courage; but know that it belongs to me no more than it does to you.”

He then gripped it with his fingers and drew it forth, and Sir
Percival’s sister girded him with the sword.

“Now I care not if I die,” said she, “for I have made thee now the
worthiest knight in the world.”

“Fair damsel,” said Sir Galahad, “you have done so much, that I shall
be your knight all the days of my life.”

_The Gentlewoman Risks Her Life for Another_

When they had achieved the adventure of the mysterious sword, they
returned to their own ship, and the wind arose and drove them out to
sea at a great pace. All that day and night they went before the south
wind, and on the morrow came to the borders of Scotland where they were
forced to land, for they were without food. Here, after leaving the
ship, they were attacked by wicked knights because they were of King
Arthur’s court, and had many other adventures, which are no part of
this tale.

Then on a day all heard a voice which said:

“Sir Galahad, thou hast well avenged me on God’s enemies, now hasten to
the maimed king that he may receive his health, for which he has waited
so long.”

On the way they came to a castle which belonged to a gentlewoman who
had lain for many years under a strange malady which no doctor could
cure. But an old man had said, “If she were anointed with the blood of
a maid who is a king’s daughter, she would recover her health.”

“Now,” said Sir Percival’s sister, when she heard this, “fair knights,
I foresee that this gentlewoman will die, unless she have part of my
blood.”

Straightway the knights opposed her and Sir Galahad said, “Certainly,
if ye bleed so much ye will die.”

“Truly,” said she, “if I die to heal her, I shall have great honor and
soul’s health, and I shall do it to-morrow;” and nothing they said
could change her.

The next day, after they had heard service, Sir Percival’s sister bade
them bring the sick lady.

Then said she, “Who shall let my blood?”

So they brought a doctor who did as she desired; but she bled so much
that the dish was full, and no one could stop it.

Then she said to the sick lady, “Madam, if I come by my death to make
you well, for God’s love pray for me.”

With that she fell into a swoon. Sir Galahad, Sir Percival, and Sir
Bors quickly lifted her up and tried to staunch her blood; but she had
bled so much that she could not live.

When she awoke out of her swoon she said, “Fair brother, Sir Percival,
I must die for the healing of this lady; so I require that you bury
me not in this country, but as soon as I am dead take me down to the
sea, put me in a boat and let me go as adventure will lead me; and as
soon as you three come to the city of Sarras, there to achieve the Holy
Grail, you shall find me arrived under a tower, and there bury me in
the spiritual place. For there Sir Galahad shall be buried, and you
also, my brother, in the same place.”

When Sir Percival heard these words he promised her, weeping, and her
soul departed from the body. As they knelt beside her they again heard
a voice which said, “To-morrow early you three shall separate from each
other till the adventure bring you to the maimed king.”

The same day the sick lady was healed, but she sorrowed exceedingly for
the death of the maiden.

Sir Percival wrote a letter telling how his sister had helped them
in strange adventures and put it in her right hand. Then the knights
carried her to the sea and laid her in a boat and covered her with
silk, and the wind arose and drove the boat from the land, and they all
watched it till it was lost to their sight.

Then they returned to the castle and forthwith there fell a sudden
tempest of thunder, lightning and rain that shook the earth, and
evensong was passed ere the tempest ceased.

On the morrow the three knights separated and each went his own way.

_Sir Galahad Meets a Knight in White Armor_

The story says that after Sir Launcelot rode into the forest after Sir
Galahad and was lost, he escaped many perils, but at last came to the
water of Morteise as the night was falling. Not knowing what to do, he
lay down to sleep and await what adventure God would send him.

When he was asleep he heard a voice in a dream which said, “Launcelot,
rise up, take thine armor and enter the first ship thou shalt find.”

When he heard these words he rose up and set out toward the sea. By
good fortune he found a ship which was without sail and oars, and he
saw no one.

As soon as he was on shipboard he was filled with joy such as he had
never felt before, and in this joy he lay down and slept till daylight.

When he awoke he was astonished to see there a fair bed in which lay a
dead gentlewoman. As he looked he saw in her right hand Sir Percival’s
letter, which told who she was and what she had achieved.

There Sir Launcelot spent some days, not knowing what to do. One night
as he was sitting on the shore, he heard a horseman coming that way and
waited to see what would happen. The rider, who seemed to be a knight,
rode to where the ship was, alighted, and went on board.

Sir Launcelot went toward him and said, “Sir, you are welcome.”

The other returned his salute and asked his name, “for,” said he, “my
heart goes out to you.”

“Truly,” said Sir Launcelot, “my name is Sir Launcelot of the Lake.”

“Sir,” said the other, “then you are welcome, for you were the
beginning of me in this world.”

“Ah! Are you Sir Galahad?”

“Yes, in truth.” With that Sir Galahad leaped to the shore, kneeled
down and asked Sir Launcelot’s blessing, and then took off his helmet
and kissed him.

With great joy they told of the marvels and adventures that had
happened to them since they left the court. Sir Galahad told of the
high honor of Sir Percival’s sister, that she was the best maid living,
and that her death was a great pity. When Sir Launcelot heard how the
marvelous sword was gotten, he asked to see it, and kissed the hilt and
the scabbard.

“Truly,” said he, “I never heard of such high and strange adventures
before.”

So Sir Launcelot and Sir Galahad spent many days together in the ship,
and served God daily and nightly with all their power; and often the
ship carried them to far islands where they met with many strange and
perilous adventures.

Upon a Monday it happened that they landed at the edge of a forest
which was by the sea. Standing by a cross of stone they saw a knight
on horseback, armed all in white, who held by his right hand a white
horse. He came to the ship, saluted the two knights and said, “Sir
Galahad, you have been with your father long enough; leap upon this
horse and ride where adventure shall lead in quest of the Holy Grail.”

Sir Galahad turned to his father and kissed him full courteously and
said, “Father, I do not know that I shall see you again till I find the
Holy Grail.”

“I pray you,” said Sir Launcelot, “that you will pray our Father in
heaven to keep me in his service.”

Sir Galahad mounted his horse and then they all heard a voice that
said, “Think to do well, for the one shall never see the other till the
dreadful day of doom.”

“Now, my son, Sir Galahad,” said Sir Launcelot, “since we shall never
see each other again, I pray the high Father of heaven to preserve both
you and me.”

“Sir,” said Sir Galahad, “no prayer avails so much as yours.” So
saying, he rode into the forest and his father saw him no more.

The knight in white armor then vanished as he came, and Sir Launcelot
returned to the ship, and the wind arose and drove him many days across
the sea to a distant land. Soon after that he left the ship, which kept
on its lonely journey, until at last it arrived at the city of Sarras
with its fair burden.

Now Sir Launcelot began to long for the realm of Britain which he had
not seen for a year and more. So, commending himself to God, he rode
through many countries and came at last to Camelot.

Here he found King Arthur and Queen Guinevere; but many of the knights
of the Round Table were missing, for already more than half of them
had been slain. However, Sir Gawain, Sir Ector, and Sir Lionel had
returned, and many others who had failed in their quest of the Holy
Grail.

All the court was exceedingly glad to see Sir Launcelot, who told of
his adventures since he had departed; and also those of Sir Galahad,
Sir Percival, and Sir Bors, which he knew by the letter of the dead
gentlewoman, and from Sir Galahad himself.

“Now, would God,” said the king, “that all three were here.”

“That cannot be,” said Sir Launcelot, “for two of them you shall never
see, but one of them shall come again.”

_Sir Galahad Achieves His Quest, and Bears the Holy Grail Across the
Sea_

Now after Sir Galahad bade his father farewell and entered the forest,
he rode many journeys in vain. At last he found his way out of the
forest and rode five days toward the castle of the maimed king; and
ever Sir Percival followed after till he overtook him, and they went on
in company. At a crossroads they met Sir Bors who was riding alone, and
so to their great joy the three knights were together again.

“In more than a year and half,” said Sir Bors, “I have not slept ten
times in a bed, only in wild forests and mountains; but God was always
with me.”

Thus they rode a long time till they came to the castle of Carbonek,
where lived Pelleas, the maimed king, who was the grandfather of Sir
Galahad.

When they entered the castle hall, a bed was brought in whereon lay the
good old man they had come so far to see. King Pelleas was very happy,
for he knew that the quest of the Holy Grail was about to be achieved.

“Sir Galahad,” said he, lifting up his head, “you are welcome, for I
have long prayed for your coming, but now I trust that my suffering
shall be allayed.”

Eliazar, King Pelleas’ son, then brought the broken sword with which
Joseph was wounded in the thigh after he came to Britain. Sir Bors took
the two pieces and tried to force them together again, but he could
not. Then Sir Percival tried, but he had no more power than Sir Bors.

“Now it is your turn,” said they to Sir Galahad, “for if an earthly man
can achieve it, you can.”

Sir Galahad then took the pieces and set them together, and the sword
seemed as if it had just been forged and never broken. When they
recovered from their astonishment they gave the sword to Sir Bors, for
he was a good knight and a worthy man.

A little before evening a strange thing happened; the sword became
wondrously heated so that no one could handle it, and a voice was heard
which said, “They that ought not to sit at the table of our Lord arise,
for now shall true knights be fed.”

So all went out save King Pelleas and his son and a maid who was his
niece, and the three knights; and a table of silver was before them
with the holy vessel, covered with a cloth of silk.

With that they saw nine knights all armed come in at the hall door, who
took off their armor and said to Sir Galahad, “Sir, we have ridden hard
to be with you at this table.”

“You are welcome,” said he, “but whence come you?”

Three of them said they were from Gaul, three from Ireland, and three
from Denmark.

Upon that a voice said, “Let those among you who are not in quest of
the Holy Grail depart.” So King Pelleas and his son and niece departed.

As the knights sat waiting, it seemed to them that there appeared a man
from heaven, before the table on which the Holy Grail was, and they saw
letters in his forehead which said:

“This is Joseph, the first bishop of Christendom, whom our Lord
rescued in the city of Sarras.”

With him were angels who bore a spear which bled marvelously.

Then the knights wondered, for Joseph had died more than three hundred
years before.

“Oh, knights,” said he, “wonder not, for at one time I was an earthly
man. Now shall ye have such food as never knights tasted.”

When he had said this, he and the angels vanished, and they sat there
in great dread. Then they looked and saw, as it were, another man enter
who said:

“My knights and my servants who are come out of this earthly life, ye
shall now see a part of my secrets and my hidden things.” Then he took
the holy vessel and proffered it to Sir Galahad, who kneeled down and
partook; and so after him all the knights.

“Galahad,” said he, “dost thou know what I hold in my hands?”

“Nay,” said Sir Galahad, “unless ye tell me.”

“This,” said he, “is the holy vessel in which I ate the Last Supper,
but thou hast not seen it openly as thou shalt see it in the city of
Sarras; therefore, thou must go hence, and bear this vessel with thee.
This night it shall depart from the realm of Britain to be seen no
more, for it is not honored as it ought to be by the people of this
land, who are turned to evil living. Therefore, go to-morrow down to
the sea where you shall find a ship ready; and with you take the sword
with the strange belt, and Sir Bors and Sir Percival. Also I will that
ye take the blood of the spear and anoint the maimed king, and he shall
have his health.”

Then he gave them his blessing and vanished away. Sir Galahad went at
once to the spear which lay on the table and touched the blood with his
fingers and came to his grandfather, the maimed king, and anointed him.
Immediately he stood upon his feet a whole man, and gave thanks for his
healing.

That same night, about midnight, they heard a voice that said, “Go ye
hence as I bade you.”

“Lord, we thank thee,” said they; “now may we prove ourselves worthy.”

In all haste they took their armor, ready to depart. Now, the three
knights of Gaul were great gentlemen, and Sir Galahad said to them:
“If you come to King Arthur’s court I pray you salute my father, Sir
Launcelot, and all the company of the Round Table,” and they promised
to do so.

Sir Galahad, Sir Percival, and Sir Bors then departed and rode three
days, till they came to the seashore and found their ship. When they
went on board they saw the table of silver and the Holy Grail covered
with a cloth of red silk, and were exceeding glad to have them in their
keeping.

Now, on the voyage Sir Galahad spent a long time in prayer, asking that
he might pass out of this world; he prayed so earnestly that at last a
voice said to him, “Galahad, thou shalt have thy request.”

Sir Percival heard this and asked him why he prayed for such things.

“That shall I tell you,” said he. “The other day when we saw part of
our adventures of the Holy Grail, I was filled with such joy as I
supposed no earthly man could feel; therefore, I know well that when my
body is dead, my soul shall have the great joy of heaven.”

Then he lay down and slept a great while, and when he awoke he saw
before him the city of Sarras; and as they were about to land they saw
the ship in which Sir Percival had put his sister.

“Truly,” said Sir Percival, “well has my sister kept her word.”

They first took out of their ship the table of silver and the holy
vessel, and Sir Percival and Sir Bors went before, and Sir Galahad
behind. At the city gate they saw a crooked old man. Then Sir Galahad
called him and bade him help bear the heavy table.

“Truly,” said the old man, “for ten years I have not been able to walk
without crutches.”

“Care not,” said Sir Galahad. “Rise up and show thy good will.”

On getting up he found himself whole as he ever was; so he ran and took
hold with Sir Galahad. At once the report spread that a cripple had
been cured by a strange knight that had entered the city.

The three knights then returned to the water and brought Sir Percival’s
sister into the spiritual place, and buried her richly as a king’s
daughter ought to be.

When the king of the city, who was called Estorause, saw the three
comrades he asked them who they were and what they brought upon the
table of silver, and they told him the truth of the Holy Grail. Now the
king was a tyrant of heathen birth, and he took them and put them in
prison in a deep hole.

At the year’s end King Estorause fell sick and knew that he would die;
then he sent for the three knights and asked pardon for what he had
done, and they forgave him freely, and so he died.

When the king was dead all the city was disheartened and knew not who
might be their king. As they were in council there came a voice that
bade them choose the youngest of the three knights. So they made Sir
Galahad king with the assent of all the people of the city.

His first act was to have made a chest of gold and precious stones to
cover the holy vessel, and every morning the three comrades came to the
palace where it was kept and said their devotions.

_The Passing of Sir Galahad, The End of Sir Percival, and the Return of
Sir Bors to Camelot_

Now, after Sir Galahad had been king a year, the three friends rose
early, as was their custom, and came to the palace and saw the holy
vessel and a man kneeling there, who had about him a great company of
angels.

He called Sir Galahad and said, “Come forth, good and faithful servant,
and thou shalt see what thou hast much desired to see.”

Then Sir Galahad began to tremble greatly, for he knew his time had
come.

“Now,” said the good man, “knowest thou who I am?”

“Nay,” said Sir Galahad.

“I am Joseph of Arimathea, whom our Lord sent here to bear thee
fellowship; for thou art like me more than any other in two things. One
is, thou hast seen the Holy Grail; and the other is, thou hast been a
blameless knight as I am.”

When he had said these words, Sir Galahad went to Sir Percival and Sir
Bors and kissed them and commended them to God, and said, “Salute me to
my father, Sir Launcelot, as soon as ye see him and bid him remember
this unstable world.”

He then kneeled before the table and prayed, and suddenly his soul
departed and a great company of angels bore his soul up to heaven. And
his two friends saw a hand take the holy vessel and bear it up to
heaven. Since then no man has ever been so bold as to say that he had
seen the Holy Grail.

* * * * *

When Sir Percival and Sir Bors saw Sir Galahad dead, they sorrowed as
much as ever did two men, and if they had not been good men they might
easily have fallen into despair; and the people of the city sorrowed
with them.

As soon as Sir Galahad was buried, Sir Percival retired to a hermitage
outside the city and Sir Bors was always with him. Thus Sir Percival
lived a year and two months, and then passed out of this world, and Sir
Bors buried him by his sister and Sir Galahad in the spiritual place.

Now, when Sir Bors saw that he was alone in a far country, as far away
as Babylon, he took his armor and departed from Sarras and entered a
ship, and so at last came to the realm of Britain and to Camelot where
King Arthur was. On his return there was great rejoicing at the court,
for they thought that he was dead, he had been so long out of the
country.

Then King Arthur sent for the best clerks to make a chronicle of the
adventures of the good knights. Sir Bors told of Sir Percival and his
sister, and of Sir Galahad and the Holy Grail. Sir Launcelot told what
he had seen; and all the tales were written in great books and put in
the armory at Salisbury.

Sir Bors said to Sir Launcelot, “Sir Galahad, your son, saluted you
by me, and after you, King Arthur and all the court, and so did Sir
Percival; for I buried them with mine own hands in the far city of
Sarras. Also, Sir Launcelot, Sir Galahad bids you remember this
unstable world, as ye promised when ye were together more than half a
year.”

“That is true,” said Sir Launcelot; “now I trust to God his prayer
shall avail me.”

Then Sir Launcelot put his arms about Sir Bors and said, “Gentle
cousin, you are welcome to me, and all that ever I may do for you and
yours, you shall find me ready at all times, while I have life, and
this I promise you faithfully, and never to fail you: and know well,
gentle cousin, Sir Bors, that you and I will never separate while our
lives shall last.”

“Sir,” said he, “I will as ye will.”

* * * * *

“Sir Galahad was not the only knight who found the Holy Grail,” added
the Story Lady after a pause.

“But I thought from the story,” said Mary Frances, “that Sir Galahad
and his two comrades were the only ones who were permitted to find it.”

“No, there were others,” said the Story Lady. “Your own American poet,
James Russell Lowell, tells of another, Sir Launfal, who found the
Grail in a place he had never thought to look.”

The Story People listened eagerly, for they liked the tale of Sir
Galahad so much that they were ready for more; so the Story Lady told
the tale of a fourth knight who succeeded.

ONCE upon a time there was a young knight, Sir Launfal, who had read of
the success of Sir Galahad, and of the failure of many of the knights
of the Round Table. This made him very eager to try his fortune; so he
vowed that some day he too would set out in quest of the Holy Grail.

Now, Sir Launfal lived in a cold gray castle in the North Country,
whose gates were never opened save to knights or ladies of high degree,
who were as proud and haughty as himself.

One beautiful June day, Sir Launfal was in the happy mood which often
comes to people after the passing of a cold, bleak winter; a day when
it seems easy for the grass to be green, the sky to be blue, and the
heart to be brave.

On this lovely day Sir Launfal remembered his vow and called his
squire, and said, “Bring me my best armor and my golden spurs and get
my horse ready, for to-morrow I shall set out over land and sea in
quest of the Holy Grail.”

When the squire brought his shining armor, the knight put it on, and
said to himself, “I will never sleep in a bed nor lay my head on a soft
pillow till I have performed my vow.”

With that he lay down in the tall grasses by the brook, his golden
spurs by his side, to think and plan what he would do. Slowly his
eyelids closed; slowly sleep came upon him and he dreamed, and this was
his dream.

It is summer. The crows flap their wings and fly by twos and threes
overhead in the deep blue sky. The cattle stand in the shallow brook,
and the water runs along with a sweet gurgling music. The little
birds sing in the branches of the trees as if trying to burst their
throats telling of the joy of living. Even the leaves seem to sing on
the trees, the earth is so beautiful and gay. But the castle stands
encircled by its high walls and deep ditch full of water, proud,
haughty and forbidding, untouched by the loveliness round about it.

The drawbridge drops over the water with a surly clang, and through the
dark arch across the bridge springs a charger, bearing Sir Launfal,
dressed in his gilded armor which gleams brightly in the sun. He is
setting forth wherever adventure may lead him in quest of the Holy
Grail.

Just as he passes out, he is aware of a beggar who sits crouching
by the dark gate. The beggar is a leper; he holds out his hands and
begs an alms. The sight of so much misery fills the young knight with
loathing, but he scornfully tosses him a piece of gold and rides on.

Strange to say, the beggar leaves the gold on the ground and says,
“Better turn away empty from the rich man’s door, and take the poor
man’s crust and his blessing, than such a worthless gift as that.”

Now the scene changes; it is winter. There are no leaves on the bushes
and trees. The bare boughs rattle shudderingly as the winds sweep
through them. The brook is frozen over and the cattle are huddled in
their stalls. A single crow sits high up in a tree-top in the wintry
sunlight, and the cold snow covers the ground.

At the castle gate stands a bent old man, worn out and frail. The
wind rustles through his wiry gray hair, and blows through his ragged
clothing. He peers eagerly through the window slits at the joyous scene
within, for it is Christmas time, and then turns away.

[Illustration: SLOWLY SLEEP CAME UPON HIM AND HE DREAMED]

The bent old man is Sir Launfal. After many weary years he has returned
to his castle disappointed, for he has not found the Holy Grail, and
another heir who thinks him long dead rules in his place. He sinks
down by the gate and his mind wanders. He sees again the scenes of the
desert, the camels as they pass over the hot sands, the vain search of
the caravan for water, and then the slender necklace of grass about the
little spring as it leaps and laughs in the shade.

Suddenly he hears a voice. “For Christ’s sweet sake I beg an alms.”

Sir Launfal is startled and looks around him. There at his side he sees
the leper cowering, more wretched, more miserable, more loathsome than
before. But he does not look at him in scorn this time. Instead, he
says, “I will share with you the little that I have, for in giving to
you I shall be giving to Him who has given so much for me.”

So he divides his crust of coarse bread and gives half to the beggar,
and he goes to the brook, breaks open the ice, and gives him a drink of
water from his wooden bowl.

Then suddenly a light shines round about the place, and the leper no
longer crouches at his side, but stands a glorified figure who says:

“Lo, it is I, be not afraid!
In many climes, without avail,
Thou hast spent thy life for the Holy Grail;
Behold, it is here–this cup which thou
Did’st fill at the streamlet for me but now;
This crust is my body broken for thee,
This water His blood that died on the tree.

* * * * *

Not what we give, but what we share,
For the gift without the giver is bare;
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three,
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and me.”

Sir Launfal awoke, sat up and rubbed his eyes, and looked about him.
Here were the tall grasses, the brook, the cattle, just as he had left
them when he went to sleep and dreamed. He was not in rags and tatters,
but was a young knight clad in gleaming armor, his spurs at his feet.
It was not winter, but a beautiful June day, with birds flying about,
singing songs of gladness, and cattle browsing in the meadows.

Sir Launfal quickly arose and made his way into the great hall of the
castle where every one met him with surprise.

“Why, sir knight,” said his sister, “we thought by now you would be far
on your journey in quest of the Holy Grail.”

“I have found it,” cried Sir Launfal, “here at my castle gate!”

Then he laid aside his arms and said to his squire, “Hang these idle
weapons upon the walls and let the spiders weave their webs about them.
Whoever would find the Holy Grail must wear another sort of armor–the
armor of unselfish kindness.”

Now, the castle gates stand wide open and those in need are as welcome
there as the birds in the elm-tree’s branches. No matter what the
weather outside, it is summer in the castle the year round, for hearts
are happy in giving and sharing the great blessings there bestowed; and
the happiest of all is the good knight himself.

* * * * *

“So you see, Sir Launfal found the Holy Grail, and he did something
even better,” said the Story Lady as she finished the tale; “he showed
others how to find it.”

WHEN all the Story People were assembled, the Story King in his place,
Mary Frances in the blue velvet chair beside the Story Queen, the Ready
Writer with pen upraised, the Story Lady began:

“To-day we have six short stories. The first is about a school boy
named Bob, and how he conquered his worst enemies.”

* * * * *

_Bob’s Three Foes_

Thud! thud! thud! “Hit him in the eye!” “Knock the pipe out of his
mouth!” “Ha! ha! there goes his nose! I hit him that time!”

These dreadful sounds seemed to say that some barbarous piece of
cruelty was going on; but the victim was only a snow-man, which the
boys of Strappington School had set up in their playground. Truth to
tell, the snow-man did not like it much, but boys cannot be expected to
understand the feelings of a snow-man, so he bore it very patiently,
and when one snowball came in each eye, and a third in his mouth, he
never spoke a word or flinched a muscle.

But how was the schoolmaster to know that it was only a snow-man? And
what was more natural than that he should peep over the playground
wall to see what was going on? And how was little Ralph Ruddy to know
that the schoolmaster was there? And how was he to know that the
snowball which was meant for the snow-man’s pipe would land itself on
the schoolmaster’s nose? Oh, the horror that seized upon the school at
that dire event! and the dead silence that reigned in that playground!
For those were the good old times of long ago when anything that went
wrong was set right with a birch rod. Little Ralph Ruddy knew only too
well what was coming when the angry schoolmaster ordered him into the
schoolroom.

The snow-man, of course, was left in the playground all alone. He saw
the boys troop indoors and heard some angry words and some cries of
pain and saw poor little Ralph thrust into the cold playground, and
heard the door slam behind him, and stared without once turning his
head or blinking his eyes, while the little fellow sat on the snowy
doorstep, with a knuckle screwed into each eye; and indeed the good
snow-man himself felt half inclined to cry, only the tears froze inside
before they got out of his eyes. So he couldn’t.

When the bell rang at four o’clock, the boys came out, and among them
Bob Hardy, the son of a poor farm laborer.

“A cruel shame I call it,” muttered Bob, “to whip a little chap like
that, and then shut him out in the cold. I told him Ralph Ruddy never
meant to do it, and then he caned me as well. A real brute I call him,
and I’ll pay him out, too. I declare I’ll break his bedroom windows
this very night, and let him try how he likes the winter wind!”

And Bob meant to do it, too. He climbed out of the cottage window when
all were asleep, and made his way down to the schoolhouse by moonlight,
with a pocketfull of stones, and climbed the wall of the playground,
and stood there all ready to open fire, when a voice startled him, a
sort of shivering whisper.

“Better not, Bob! Better wait a bit!” said the voice.

Bob dropped the stone and looked about, but there was no one near
except the snow-man shining weirdly in the pale moonlight. However, the
words, whoever spoke them, set Bob a thinking, and instead of breaking
the schoolmaster’s windows, he went home again and got into bed.

That was in January, and when January was done February came, as
happens in most years. February brought good fortune–at least Bob’s
mother said so, for she got a job as charwoman at the squire’s, for
which she was well paid.

It did not turn out so very well, though, after all, for the butler
said she stole a silver spoon, and told the squire so; and if the
butler could have proved what he said, the squire would have sent her
to prison; only he could not, so she got off, and Bob’s mother declared
that she had no doubt the butler took the spoon himself.

“All right,” said Bob to himself, “I’ll try the strength of my new
oaken stick across that butler’s back.”

And he meant it, too, for that very evening he shouldered his cudgel
and tramped away to the big house. And when he got there the door stood
wide open, so in he walked.

Now there hung in the hall the portrait of a queer old lady in a stiff
frill and a long waist, and an old-fashioned hoop petticoat; and when
Bob entered the house what should this old lady do but shake her head
at him! To be sure there was only a flickering lamp in the entry, and
Bob thought at first it must have been the dim light and his own fancy,
so he went striding through the hall with his cudgel in his hand.

“Better not, Bob!” said the old lady. “Better wait a bit!”

“Why, they won’t let me do anything!” grumbled Bob; but he went home
without thrashing the butler, all the same.

That was in February, you know. Well, when February was done, March
came, and with it came greater ill-fortune than ever; for Bob’s father
was driving his master’s horse and cart to market, when, what should
jump out of the ditch but old Nanny Jones’s donkey, an ugly beast at
the best of times, and enough to frighten any horse; but what must the
brute do on this occasion but set up a terrific braying, which sent
Farmer Thornycroft’s new horse nearly out of his wits, so that he
backed the cart and all that was in it–including Bob’s father–into
the ditch. A pretty sight they looked there, for the horse was sitting
where the driver ought to be, and Bob’s father was seated, much against
his wish, in a large basket full of eggs, with his legs sticking out
one side and his head the other.

Of course Farmer Thornycroft did not like to lose his eggs–who
would?–for even the most obliging hens cannot be persuaded to lay an
extra number in order to make up for those that are broken; but for
all that Farmer Thornycroft had no right to lay all the blame on Bob’s
father, and stop two shillings out of his week’s wage. So Bob’s father
protested, and that made Farmer Thornycroft angry, and then, since fire
kindles fire, Bob’s father grew angry too, and called the farmer a
cruel brute; so the farmer dismissed him, and gave him no wages at all.

We can hardly be surprised that when Bob heard of all this he felt a
trifle out of sorts, but the desire for vengeance which he felt could
hardly be justified. He went pelting over the fields, and all the way
he went he muttered to himself:

“A cruel shame I call it, but I’ll pay him out; I mean to let his sheep
out of the pen, and then I will just go and tell him that I’ve done it.”

Now, the field just before you come to Farmer Thornycroft’s sheep-pen
was sown with spring wheat, and they had put up a scarecrow there
to frighten the birds away. The scarecrow was very much down in the
world–his coat had no buttons and his hat had no brim, and his
trousers had only a leg and a half–his well-to-do relations in the
tailors’ windows would not have cared to meet him in the street at
all. But even the ragged and unfortunate have their feelings, and the
scarecrow was truly sorry to see Bob scouring across the field in such
a temper; so just as Bob passed him, he flapped out at him with one
sleeve, and the boy turned sharply round to see who it was.

“Only a scarecrow,” said he, “blown about by the wind,” and went on
his way. But as he went, strange to say, he heard, or thought he heard,
a voice call after him, “Better not, Bob! Better wait a bit!”

So Bob went home again and never let the sheep astray after all, but he
thought it very hard that he might not punish either the schoolmaster,
or the butler, or the farmer.

_Father Pan’s Revenge_

Now the folk that hide behind the shadows thought well of Bob for his
self-restraint, and they determined that they would work for him and
make all straight again; so when Bob went down to the river side next
day, and took out his knife to cut some reeds for “whistle-pipes,”
Father Pan breathed upon the reeds and enchanted them.

“What a breeze!” exclaimed Bob; but he knew nothing at all of what had
in reality happened.

Bob finished his pan-pipes, and trudged along and whistled on them to
his heart’s content. When he got to the village he was surprised to
see a little girl begin to dance to his tune, and then another little
girl, and then another. Bob was so astonished that he left off playing
and stood looking at them, open-mouthed, with wonder; but so soon as
ever he left off playing, the little girls ceased to dance; and as soon
as they had recovered their breath they began to beg him not to play
again, for the whistle-pipes, they were sure, must be bewitched.

“Ho! ho!” cried Bob, “here’s a pretty game; I’ll just give the
schoolmaster a turn. Come, that will not do him any harm, at any rate!”

Strange to say, at that very moment the schoolmaster came along the
street.

“Toot! toot! toot! tweedle, tweedle, toot!” went the pan-pipes, and
away went the schoolmaster’s legs, cutting such capers as the world
never looked upon before. Gayly trudged Bob along the street, and gayly
danced the schoolmaster. The people looked out of their windows and
laughed, and the poor schoolmaster begged Bob to leave off playing.

“No, no,” answered Bob; “I saw you make poor little Ralph Ruddy dance
with pain. It is your turn now.”

Just then the squire’s butler came down the street. Of course he was
much puzzled to see the schoolmaster dancing to the sound of a boy’s
whistle, but he was presently more surprised to find himself doing the
very same thing. He tried with all his might to retain his stately
gait; but it was all of no use, his legs flew up in spite of himself,
and away he went behind the schoolmaster, following Bob all through the
village.

The best sight was still to come; for the tyrannical Farmer Thornycroft
was just then walking home from market in a great heat, with a big
sample of corn in each of his side-pockets, and turning suddenly round
a corner, went right into the middle of the strange procession and
caught the infection in a moment. Up flew his great fat legs, and away
he went, pitching and tossing, and jumping and twirling, and jigging up
and down like an elephant in a fit.

How the people laughed, to be sure, standing in their doorways and
viewing this odd trio! It was good for them that they did not come
too near, or they would have been seized with the fit as well. The
schoolmaster was nearly fainting, the butler was in despair, and the
perspiration poured down the farmer’s face; but that mattered not to
Bob; he had promised himself to take them for a dance all round the
village, and he did it; and, at length, when he had completed the tour,
he stopped for just one minute, and asked the schoolmaster whether he
would beg Ralph Ruddy’s pardon, and the schoolmaster said he would if
only Bob would leave off playing. Then he asked the farmer if he would
take his father back and pay him his wages, and the farmer said he
would; and finally he asked the butler if he would give up the spoon
that he had stolen, and confess to the squire that Bob’s mother had
nothing to do with it, but the butler said, “Oh, no, indeed!”

[Illustration: AWAY WENT THE SCHOOLMASTER’S LEGS, CUTTING SUCH CAPERS
AS THE WORLD NEVER LOOKED UPON BEFORE]

So Bob began to play again, and they all began to dance again, till
at last the schoolmaster and the farmer both punched the butler until
he promised; and then Bob left off playing. The three poor men went
home in a terrible plight; and the schoolmaster begged little Ralph’s
pardon, and the butler cleared the stain from Bob’s mother’s character,
and Bob’s father went back to work, and Farmer Thornycroft soon
afterwards took Bob on too, and he made the best farm-boy that ever
lived.

* * * * *

The Story Lady rested a minute while the Story People were laughing
and talking about what they had heard. As she began again, there was
instant silence.

“The next story,” she said, “is that of a brave girl who lived in the
work-a-day world.”

Continue Reading

GLOOMY GUS AND THE CHRISTMAS CAT

THERE was once a little girl, who had a dear little room, all her own,
which was full of treasures, and was as lovely as love could make it.

You never could imagine, no matter how you tried, a room more beautiful
than hers; for it was white and shining from the snowy floor to the
ceiling, which looked as if it might have been made of a fleecy cloud.
The curtains at the windows were like the petals of a lily, and the
little bed was like swan’s down.

There were white pansies, too, that bloomed in the windows, and a dove
whose voice was sweet as music; and among her treasures she had a
string of pearls which she was to wear about her neck when the king of
the country sent for her, as he had promised to do some day.

This string of pearls grew longer and more beautiful as the little girl
grew older, for a new pearl was given her as soon as she waked up each
morning; and every one was a gift from this king, who bade her keep
them fair.

Her mother helped her to take care of them and of all the other
beautiful things in her room. Every morning, after the new pearl was
slipped on the string, they would set the room in order; and every
evening they would look over the treasures and enjoy them together,
while they carefully wiped away any specks of dust that had gotten in
during the day and made the room less lovely.

There were several doors and windows, which the little girl could open
and shut just as she pleased, in this room; but there was one door
which was always open, and that was the one which led into her mother’s
room.

No matter what Little Daughter was doing, she was happier if her mother
was near; and, although she sometimes ran away into her own room and
played by herself, she always bounded out at her mother’s first call,
and sprang into her mother’s arms, gladder than ever to be with her
because she had been away.

Now one day when the little girl was playing alone, she had a visitor
who came in without knocking and who seemed, at first, very much out
of place in the shining white room, for he was a goblin and as black
as a lump of coal. He had not been there more than a very few minutes,
however, before nearly everything in the room began to look more like
him and less like driven snow; and although the little girl thought
that he was very strange and ugly when she first saw him, she soon grew
used to him, and found him an entertaining playfellow.

She wanted to call her mother to see him; but he said:

“Oh! no; we are having such a nice time together, and she’s busy, you
know.”

So the little girl did not call; and the mother, who was making a dress
of fine lace for her darling, did not dream that a goblin was in the
little white room.

The goblin did not make any noise, you know, for he tiptoed all the
time, as if he were afraid; and if he heard a sound he would jump. But
he was a merry goblin, and he amused the little girl so much that she
did not notice the change in her dear room.

The curtains grew dingy, the floor dusty, and the ceiling looked as if
it might have been made of a rain cloud; but the child played on, and
got out all her treasures to show to her visitor.

The pansies drooped and faded, the white dove hid its head beneath its
wing and moaned; and the last pearl on the precious string grew dark
when the goblin touched it with his smutty fingers.

“Oh, dear me,” said the little girl when she saw this, “I must call my
mother; for these are the pearls that I must wear to the king’s court
when he sends for me.”

“Never mind,” said the goblin, “we can wash it, and if it isn’t just as
white as before, what difference does it make about one pearl?”

“But mother says that they all must be as fair as the morning,”
insisted the little girl, ready to cry. “And what will she say when she
sees this one?”

“You shut the door, then,” said the goblin, pointing to the door that
had never been closed, “and I’ll wash the pearl.”

So the little girl ran to close the door, and the goblin began to rub
the pearl; but it only seemed to grow darker. Now the door had been
open so long that it was hard to move, and it creaked on its hinges
as the little girl tried to close it. When the mother heard this she
looked up to see what was the matter. She had been thinking about the
dress which she was making; but when she saw the closing door, her
heart stood still with fear; for she knew that if it once closed tight
she might never be able to open it again.

She dropped her fine laces and ran towards the door, calling, “Little
Daughter! Little Daughter! Where are you?” and she reached out her
hands to stop the door.

But as soon as the little girl heard that loving voice she answered:

“Mother! Oh, Mother! I need you so! My pearl is turning black and
everything is wrong!” and, flinging the door wide open, she ran into
her mother’s arms.

When the two went together into the little room, the goblin had gone.
The pansies now bloomed again, and the white dove cooed in peace;
but there was much work for the mother and daughter, and they rubbed
and scrubbed and washed and swept and dusted, till the room was
so beautiful that you would not have known that a goblin had been
there–except for the one pearl which was a little blue always, even
when the king was ready for Little Daughter to come to his court,
although that was not until she was a very old woman.

As for the door, it was never closed again; for Little Daughter and her
mother put two golden hearts against it and nothing in this world could
have shut it then.

* * * * *

As the story ended, the Story Lady paused while the clock ticked twice,
and then said, “Next we will have a funny story about a silver teapot.”

“I SEE it, I see it!” cried Tom eagerly, balancing himself perilously
over the well-curb. “It’s down at the bottom!”

“Did you suppose it would float?” asked Bess, with a touch of scorn in
her tones.

“Let me see,” cried Bob, pushing forward.

“You clear out,” said Archie; “you’re to blame for dropping it in;
you’d better go before you tumble in yourself, you little goose.”

Archie’s broken arm felt very stiff to-day, and his temper was slightly
damaged, too. All four children gathered around the well, at the bottom
of which lay the silver teapot, like truth, bright and shining, but
apparently not to be recovered by mortals.

Mr. Bradley had gone to the village, and the children were determined
to get the silver teapot up before his return, for as yet they had not
thought it necessary to mention its disappearance, and Mr. Bradley was
not the man to notice its absence.

“Of course, if it was lost we should have to tell,” Bess had said to
her brother; “but as long as we know where it is, and that it’s safe,
there’s no need to say anything about it.”

“Well, what’s to be done?” asked Archie. “I can’t go after it, with my
broken arm.”

“Now I suppose we will hear of nothing but your broken arm for a month,
and you’ll shirk everything for it. ‘I can’t study ’cause my arm’s
broken; I can’t go errands ’cause my arm’s broken; I can’t go to church
’cause my arm’s broken;’ that will be your whine, Archie; but don’t try
your dodges on me, for I won’t stand it. If it really hurts you, I’m
sorry, and I’ll lick any fellow that touches you till you get well
again, but none of your humbug. Of course you can’t go down the well;
you couldn’t if your arm wasn’t broken.” This was from Tom.

Meanwhile Bess had gone to the house for a long fishing-pole, and soon
returned carrying it.

“We’ll fasten a hook to the end of it, and fish the teapot up,” said
she.

“Ho, ho! Do you suppose it will bite like a fish?” laughed Tom.

“No, I do not, Tom Bradley. But I suppose if I tie a string to the
pole, and fasten an iron hook to one end, with a stone to keep it down,
that I can wiggle it round in the water till the hook catches in the
handle, and then we can drag it up; that’s what I suppose,” answered
Bess, preparing to carry out her design.

“There’s something in that, Bess; you’re not so stupid as you look.
Give me the pole and let me try.”

“No, go and get one for yourself.”

“Where will I find the hook?”

“In the smoke-house, where I got mine.”

“Oh, get me one, too,” cried Bob.

“And me one, too,” cried Archie.

Before half an hour had passed, the four children, all armed with
fishing-poles, were intently wiggling in the water, catching their
hooks in the stones by the side of the well, entangling their lines,
digging their elbows into each other’s sides, in their frantic attempts
to pull their hooks loose; scolding, pushing, and getting generally
excited.

Every few moments Tom would pull Bess back by her sun-bonnet, and save
her from tumbling over in her eagerness; but so far from being grateful
to her deliverer, Bess resented the treatment indignantly.

“Stop jerking my head so,” she cried.

“You’ll be in, in a minute; you’d have been in then if I hadn’t jerked
you,” answered Tom.

“Well, what if I had! Let me alone. If I go in, that’s my own lookout.”

“Your own look in, you mean. My gracious, wouldn’t you astonish the
toads down there! But you’d get your face clean.”

“Now, Tom, you let me be; I ’most had it that time!”

“So you’ve said forty times. This is all humbug; I’m going down on the
rope for it.”

“Oh, no, Tom, please don’t. Indeed, you’ll be drowned; the rope will
break; you’ll kill yourself; you’ll catch cold,” cried Bess, in alarm.
She could fight Tom all day long, when in the mood for it; but to see
him deliberately rush into danger, or to contemplate the fact that a
hair of his precious head might be hurt, was more than our intrepid
Bess could bear.

“Pooh! girl! coward!” retorted thankless Tom, pointing the finger of
scorn at his sister. “Who’s afraid of what? Stand back, small boys, I’m
going in,” and Tom began to divest himself of his jacket.

“You’ll poison the water,” suggested Archie.

“It will be so cold,” moaned Bob. But nobody took any notice of Bob; he
was treated with great contempt, and much hustled, as the author of the
mischief. All felt that if Tom came to grief, Bob would be answerable.

“I’ll scream for a hundred years without stopping, Tom,” cried Bess
wildly. “You shan’t go down, you shan’t; I’ll call some one. Murray!
Peter! Maggie! O-o-o-o-o-o-o-me! O-o-o-oh, o-o-o-o-o-me!”

“Stop screaming, and help,” said Tom, who had his shirt sleeves rolled
up to the elbow, and his pantaloons to his knee–why, no one but Tom
could tell. “Now do you three hold on tight to this bucket; don’t let
go for a moment; pull away as hard as you can when I tell you to. Now
for it!”

And without more ado, Tom clung to the other rope with his hands, and
twisted his feet around the bucket handle.

“Hold on tight, and let me down easy,” said Tom, and the three
children clung desperately to their rope, and lowered him little by
little. Long experience in rescuing cats from a watery grave in the
well had taught the children how to manage the ropes and buckets; but
they had not calculated on the fact that Tom would be heavier than a
cat; and it was with red faces and straining muscles that they dragged
away on their rope. However, they were able to keep Tom steady, and
he, clinging with one hand to his rope, and pushing himself away from
the sides of the well with the other, made his dangerous descent as
successfully as though his coadjutors had been gifted with Samson’s
strength. A sudden splash and shiver told them he had reached the
water, and a shout of triumph declared that the teapot was rescued.

As Tom shouted, all three children let go the rope and rushed to the
side of the well to look at the victorious hero.

It was a most fortunate circumstance that the water in the well was
low, and that Tom, plunged suddenly to the bottom by this unexpected
movement, was able, after much scrambling, to stand upright with his
head out of water; otherwise the earthly career of Thomas Bradley would
have been brought to a sudden and untimely end.

As it was, he stood in the cold water up to his shoulders, clinging
still to the rope, holding the teapot with one hand, and wildly
vociferating to his admiring audience whose heads hung over the
well-curb, and their faces, as seen in this position by Tom, looked
like those of grinning fiends.

“What made you let go?” roared Tom, and his voice sounded hollow and
unnatural as it resounded from the depths of his cool and shady retreat.

“Oh, Tom, have you got it? Have you really? Ain’t it cold? Are you
hurt? Were you scared? Is the teapot broken?” were a few of the
questions that came faintly to him from above and sounded very unlike
angel whispers to the diver for teapots, who stood first on one leg,
then on the other, to prevent equal cramp in both.

“Draw me up! You silly children! You goose of a Bess! Why don’t you
draw me up?”

“We’re so tired?” called down Archie. “I helped to lower you with only
one arm, but I can’t drag any more. My arm’s broken.”

“Bess! draw me up, I tell you!” screamed Tom from below.

“I will, Tom; I’m going to,” answered Bess, who now reached up and
recovered the bucket, that had flown with a jerk to the top of the
well-roof when it had been so suddenly abandoned.

But all the united efforts of Bess and Bob and Archie’s left arm
could not raise Tom. After a desperate tug he was raised an inch, and
suddenly lowered again. The result was a splash, a scramble below,
and Tom’s voice sputtering incoherent invectives. Again and again
the children tugged, and again and again Tom splashed, scrambled and
sputtered.

At last a red, anxious face looked down to him, and Bessie’s voice,
choked with tears, called out:

“Oh, Tom, do hold on till I call Maggie; we can’t get you up.”

Away ran Bess to call help, followed by Archie; but Bob, whose ideas on
some points were as yet but feebly developed, seized one of the long
poles, and began to poke at his brother with it, under the impression
that some good would come of these unaided efforts.

“Bob, be done! You’ll put my eye out!” cried poor Tom, desperately, as
the swinging iron hook circled around his head.

“Catch hold! Catch hold!” cried Bob, getting excited as he saw how near
he came to grappling his brother.

“Just let me get up once, and I’ll catch hold,” muttered Tom,
wrathfully; then, raising his voice, he yelled as loud as he could for
help. “Pete! P-e-e-e-e-ter! P-e-e-e-e-e-e-ter!”

But Peter was a mile away, and consequently could not hear. Maggie had
improved the occasion of her master’s absence to visit her friend and
neighbor, Miss Flaherty, for half an hour; and Kate, summoned from her
baking, came to the rescue, but only assisted by wringing her hands and
wailing.

[Illustration: BUT ALL THE UNITED EFFORTS OF BESS AND BOB AND
ARCHIE’S LEFT ARM COULD NOT RAISE TOM]

“Och, he’s lost wid the cold! Shure an’ he’ll get his death now! Arrah,
what childer yez arre!”

“Take hold of the rope and pull,” cried Bess.

“I couldn’t rise him; shure an’ I’d only pull him up be snaps, and
dhrop him again,” said Kate, who showed a lamentable want of confidence
in her own abilities.

“Oh, do something!” cried Bess, now almost beside herself with fear;
“do something, Kate. Oh, where is Murray?”

“Garn for a load o’ wood, and won’t be home till night,” answered Kate.

“Oh, Tom, can’t you shinny up the rope?” called down Bess.

“No. I’m too stiff now with cold; besides, I couldn’t do it anyway,”
moaned the captive Tom, who looked like a Triton blowing on a
conch-shell, as he stood with uplifted teapot. He seemed to think the
teapot should be kept dry at all hazards, and wearied his arm to keep
it above water.

“I’ll run next door and call Mr. Wilson,” said Bess, more hopefully,
and started on this errand, while Kate, suddenly inspired, rushed
to the kitchen sink, where stood the iron pump, connected by a pipe
with the well, and began to pump vigorously, apparently with the
anticipation of seeing Tom ooze through the spout, for which purpose,
and to make the matter surer, she removed the filter.

As Bess ran she was suddenly stopped at the gate by the sight of a
carriage which had just driven up, and out of which now stepped Aunt
Maria and Aunt Maria’s husband, Uncle Daniel. These were the very
grimmest and grandest of all the relations. When they came to see
mamma, Bess had always to sit perfectly still on a chair, answer very
politely, have her very best dress on, her hair parted directly in
the middle and be intensely proper. As for the boys, they suffered
the torture by soap and water, and endured their new jackets, could
not whittle, nor whistle, nor wrestle, and were sustained under these
tribulations only by the expectation of a very good dinner and a
“bully” dessert!

The white-and-gold china always came out on these occasions, the best
double-damask tablecloth and napkins, the heaviest silver forks and
spoons, the silver salt-cellars, and–oh, agony of agonies!–the silver
teapot!

For one awful moment Bess stood stunned. Then her anxiety for Tom
overcame every other consideration, and before Aunt Maria could say,
“How do you do, Elizabeth?” she had caught her uncle by his august
coat-tail and in a piteous voice besought him to come and pull on the
rope.

“Pull on a rope, Elizabeth!” said Uncle Daniel in mild astonishment.
“Why should I pull on a rope, my dear?” and Aunt Maria murmured, “Very
astonishing thing for a child to say.”

“Oh, come quick! Hurry faster! Tom’s down in the well!” cried Bess,
with freely flowing tears.

“Tom down a well! And how did he get there?”

Uncle Daniel never hurried, and required a reason, always, for the hope
that was in his friends.

“He went down for the teapot,” sobbed Bess, “the silver teapot, and we
can’t pull him up again; and he’s all cramped with cold. Oh, do hurry!”

“The silver teapot down the well; my mother’s silver teapot! Daniel,
didn’t I always say that Mary Bradley should never have had that
teapot? This must be looked into.”

And with dignified strides Aunt Maria marched to the well.

Tom’s teeth by this time were chattering so that he fully expected
they would all drop out, and the three fishers were so completely
demoralized by their fears as to be speechless.

Uncle Daniel was a slow man. He leisurely looked down at Tom, then
up at the wheel, then at the rope, and calmly remarked, “All new, I
see.” Then he slowly took off his coat, and as slowly carried it into
the house, stopped to give an order to his coachman, who had driven
around to the stable, and came with measured pace to where the three
frightened children stood listening to Aunt Maria, who was doing her
duty by them strictly and fully.

Uncle Daniel then took hold of the rope, gave a long, strong, calm
pull, and in an instant, Tom, “dripping with coolness, arose from the
well.”

* * * * *

As soon as they had stopped laughing, the story teller said:

“I will now tell you a Christmas story of the Great Northwest.”

THE Canadian miner was the first of the men to finish “washing up,” on
his return from the mine.

“Where’s Barbara?” he asked, tossing his towel at a peg.

“She has a little cold and I put her to bed,” replied Mrs. St. Clair.

The anxiety in the mother’s voice kept him from asking any more
questions. He followed the other men in to supper.

“It seems lonesome without Barbara,” said McGill, the mining engineer.

The rough men had made a pet of the laughing, blue-eyed little girl,
and they missed her. She had slipped into their lives so quietly that
they did not realize how much they looked forward to seeing her at
the end of the day. And Barbara returned their love. A mining camp is
hardly the place for a child, but Barbara’s father was dead, and her
mother became the cook at the Little Bear Mine.

After supper the men sat in a grave, silent circle before the great
open fireplace. There seemed to be nothing to talk about. Other
evenings these big, rough men had had Barbara to romp with, all except
Gloomy Gus.

But then Gloomy Gus never showed any interest in anything. He was
a big, gruff Swede, whose name appeared on the company’s books as
Gustavus Schwarstun. To the men, however, he was “Gloomy Gus.”

“This will give me a chance to finish her snowshoes,” the Canadian
finally said, with an assumed air of gayety. “Christmas is almost here.”

He went to the bunk room and returned with a pair of small snowshoes he
was making.

Every one of the men was making Barbara a present–every one but Gloomy
Gus. McGill eyed him sharply.

The big Swede did something which at another time would have met with
a roar of laughter; but not a man smiled when he pulled a ball of red
yarn and a half-knitted mitten out of his pocket.

“I learned how to do it in the old country,” he said as he busied his
rough, calloused fingers with the crude pine knitting needles he had
made. He had unraveled the sleeve of a new red sweater to get the yarn
he needed.

The men found it hard to work that evening, and trooped off to their
bunks earlier than usual.

McGill remained. He went down the hall to Mrs. St. Clair’s room, where
a light was still burning, and tapped gently.

“I’m going to put a cot in the mess room and sleep in there to-night,”
he told her. “You may need me.”

It was after midnight when she called him. McGill found the little
patient’s fever high. He listened to Barbara’s labored breathing and
counted her pulse.

When he looked up, he found Mrs. St. Clair watching him anxiously. He
knew from her eyes that she shared his fear–the fear that Barbara
might have pneumonia. McGill had helped the doctor fight several cases
of the disease in those mountains. They had generally been losing
fights, but he set to work.

The big, hobnailed boots of the men fell softly on the rough floors as
their wearers slipped in for breakfast. They had prepared it themselves
and ate it silently. During the meal McGill came in. He looked worried
and did not eat. After they had finished the men waited for him to
speak.

“It’s pneumonia,” he said briefly.

That was all. Soon the men slipped off quietly to the mine, and McGill
went back to Barbara.

By night Barbara was delirious.

“It looks bad,” McGill admitted to the men. “She is fretting over that
cat.”

When Barbara came to the Little Bear Mine, she had brought with her a
small Maltese kitten, her dearest possession. The death of the little
kitten a week before had been the greatest tragedy in her young life.

After supper the men tried to work on their presents, but somehow the
work dragged. The hours passed, but the men did not leave the mess
room. Toward midnight McGill came out to them. “Mrs. St. Clair says you
had better come in now if you want to see her. She’s–she’s going!”

The whole crew, from mucker to foreman, tiptoed down the hall–all
except Gus. He didn’t seem to notice that they went.

Into the sick room they filed and stood in a little embarrassed group
by the door. Barbara tossed fretfully on the bed, her eyes glowing with
unnatural brightness.

“I want a kitty, Santa Claus! I want my kitty!” she wailed feebly.

The Canadian miner, tears rolling down his cheeks, left the room. The
others followed.

Gus was still in his place by the fire when they returned.

“I can’t stand it to see her begging for that kitten,” said the
Canadian. “I would risk my life to get one for her. I’d try to get to
Telluride, if I thought I could get back in time to do any good.”

A minute afterwards Gus got up slowly and went out to the bunk room.

But Gus did not stop there long. He drew on an extra sweater, rubber
coat and furs, snatched his skis and pole, and slipped from the house.

It was after midnight. The thermometer registered way below zero. The
wind swirled down from the mountain tops with the lash of a gale. But
Gus did not mind the storm; a master of the ski, he swung down the
trail with a speed that mocked the wind at his back.

Telluride, the nearest town, was thirteen miles away, the only route
leading there being over a zigzag pack trail. From the mine this trail
descends the crest of a ridge until it strikes the edge of the canyon,
staggers back and forth down the steep face of the canyon, then for the
rest of the way meekly follows the river.

It is only a pack trail, narrow and dangerous at best. During the
summer a line of burros or donkeys winds along it, bringing down ore
from the mine and carrying back provisions. But when winter sets in,
the trail becomes very dangerous, and the zigzags have caused the death
of many prospectors who have stayed too late in the mountains, or taken
the trail too early in the spring.

Gus had little difficulty down the first part of the trail. In an hour
he reached the zigzags. They were covered with hanging masses of snow
that threatened with every blast to go grinding down the wall of the
canyon.

By his pole Gus held himself on to the side of the canyon, moving
cautiously across hanging drifts. He made his way only by grim,
desperate effort.

At the end of thirty minutes of hard struggle he stood half-way down
the trail. Then a savage blast tore a pile of clinging snow from the
top and drove it at him. Gus saw it start, gathering speed and bulk as
it came. The whole mountain side began to move. Tons of hard-packed
snow were slipping, and he was directly in their path. There was no way
of dodging the avalanche–he must outrace it.

There was no time to zigzag back and forth down the side of the canyon;
he had to take as direct a route as the avalanche. He threw his pole
from his grasp and shot ahead of the oncoming mass of snow. Death was
behind him. Before him rocks jutted out to trip him, and jump-offs
endangered his course.

[Illustration: HE SWUNG DOWN THE TRAIL WITH A SPEED THAT MOCKED THE
WIND AT HIS BACK]

But he rode his skis with reckless abandon, leaping, twisting, dodging
down the slope. Behind him crashed the snow. He was veering to the left
to escape its path.

A leap brought him to the bottom of the canyon. But before he could
glide to safety, a mass of snow at the side of the slide caught and
hurled him before it, bruised and half buried.

A desperate struggle freed him. His skis were broken, his muscles were
bruised and twisted.

It was half-past three when he reached the outskirts of the town.
Mounting the steps of the first house, he rained heavy blows upon the
door. The owner stuck his head out of a window. “Who’s there?” he asked.

“Give me a cat!” Gus ordered in a rough voice.

“Are you crazy?” yelled the enraged man at the window.

“I’ve got to have a cat! I’m from the Little Bear! Cook’s little girl
is sick–pneumonia! She’s goin’ to die if we don’t get her a cat!”

“From the Little Bear? Over the zigzags? Impossible!”

“Give me a cat or I’ll break your door in!”

Presently a light glimmered through the night and a hastily clad man
joined Gus. A search of the neighborhood produced a cat and fresh skis.
In half an hour Gus was on the trail back.

At the mine the men had not gone to their bunks that night. They
huddled before the fireplace, awaiting the dreaded news. McGill slipped
by now and then on some errand.

The night dragged through, and Christmas dawned.

Christmas! This was the first time they had planned a real Christmas
since they left their homes years ago. But now the heart had been taken
out of the day.

They sat down to a listless breakfast. McGill came in.

“She’s still fighting. She’s got to win or lose pretty soon,” he said.

They did not go to the mine that morning. It was the first Christmas
the Little Bear Mine had not run.

At ten o’clock McGill came in to report.

“Boys, I can’t stand it any longer. She’s wearing her strength away
fretting for that cat. I’m not sure that a cat would really quiet her,
and I hardly believe any living man can make it to Telluride, but I’m
going to try.”

“No, you’re not,” said the Canadian. “She needs you here. Besides,
you’re worn out. I’ll get the cat.”

“We’ll draw for it,” said the men.

“No use. Gus and I are the only two good enough on skis to have a
fighting chance.”

“Gus! That brute hasn’t got the heart of a mine mule! He wouldn’t go at
the point of a gun! Where is he? I haven’t seen him since last night,”
stormed the foreman.

Silently the men watched the Canadian prepare for the trail. They were
rough men, who held life cheaply, but not one of them believed a man
had a chance to make the trail and return safely.

Suddenly the door opened and Gus staggered in. He tried to cross the
room, but his worn-out muscles refused to act, and he sank to the floor.

The men sprang to him, laid him on a cot, pulled off his furs, and
unbuttoned his coat. Underneath the coat was an old sack. One of
the men gave it a shake. Out on the floor rolled a half-frozen,
half-smothered kitten. It told the story; it told them that Gus was a
hero.

The next morning when consciousness returned to Gus, the men carried
his cot into Barbara’s room. On the bed he could see a little figure,
frail and worn, but sleeping the restful sleep of exhaustion. One
little arm was outside the covers, hugging up closely a fluff of a
kitten. Beside the bed, he saw the mother, smiling happily through her
tears, for she knew that Barbara would get well.

AT the end of the story the Story Lady paused a moment, and then said:
“We will now leave the cold and snowy world and come back to our warm
and pleasant Fairyland and to the story of Patty and her Pitcher.”

“This is the delightful surprise I spoke of,” said the Story Queen to
Mary Frances. “Just watch the magic circle.”

Mary Frances noticed a large circle drawn on the carpet, about which
all the Story People were grouped.

“You are going to hear the story and see it acted at the same time. The
Story Lady will control the action with her voice.”

_In the Magic Circle_

Mary Frances sat listening entranced to the voice of the Story Lady. It
flowed on and on like sweet music, now rising, now falling, filling the
ear with charming sound, and the imagination with a perfect picture of
the story she was telling.

The story began:

“The most charming little girl in her native village was Patty–”

At the words a little girl, Patty, not much bigger than Tiny of
Tinytown sprang up in the circle with her little home and the village
all about her.

“The pigeons flew down–to coo around her–”

And they flew down and cooed.

“The chickens fed from her hand–”

And the chickens came running.

“The cat rolled over her feet and purred–”

And the cat did it.

“The steady old dog, Bluff, cut his liveliest capers–”

And Bluff did it.

As the story fell from the Story Lady’s lips there was instant
obedience in the village of the magic circle. The characters obeyed the
voice instantly, just as the feet of children dancing obey the music of
the piano. So the story flowed on–the acting kept pace with the voice
and did everything the words said.

Mary Frances sat spellbound, for she had never seen anything so
beautiful as the way in which that wonderful voice brought every player
and every action to her ears and eyes at the same time.

This is the story. If you keep your eyes on the magic circle you can
see it as Mary Frances saw it–through the veil of words.

* * * * *

_The Wonderful Pitcher_

The most charming little girl in her native village, was Patty; at
least, so all the neighbors said, and what everybody says ought to have
some truth in it.

Patty deserved their kind words, for she loved everybody and
everything, and in return she was loved by all who knew her. The
pigeons flew down from their little house to coo around her; the
chickens fed from her hand; the cat rolled over her feet and purred
with pleasure; and even the steady old dog, Bluff, put himself to the
trouble of cutting his liveliest capers to attract her attention.

Patty was always busy, too, about something. When she was no higher
than your knee, she used to bustle about and do little things in the
handiest manner; and as for sewing, she was the pattern child at the
dame’s school, where her sampler was hung upon the wall, as a guide to
the other children.

She lived in a little cottage with her parents, who were now old and
very poor, and depended upon their little daughter for many things
which they were too feeble to do for themselves. One of her daily
duties was to go to the spring for water.

She would dip her pitcher into the clear, bright liquid, and sing her
sweet little songs, with a voice that made every one who passed that
way stop to listen with delight.

Upon one of her journeys to the spring, occurred the great event of her
life, of which I am now about to tell you.

Patty had filled her pitcher at the spring, and was carrying it home
with some little difficulty, for it was quite heavy when filled. When
almost in sight of her cottage, she saw a poor, old, travel-worn woman
sitting by the wayside, as if overcome by the fatigue of a long journey.

She sat upon the trunk of a fallen tree; her face was as brown as a
nut, and covered with a complete network of wrinkles, while her dim
eyes looked dull and sunken. At her back was tied a bundle which seemed
quite large enough for a strong man to carry.

She watched Patty as she came near, and cast eager eyes upon the water
in the pitcher, which seemed so cool and tempting; and after looking at
Patty’s rosy, good-natured face, she asked for some water.

“Dear little child,” said she in a feeble voice, “give me a drink from
your pitcher, for I am very old, and faint, and weary.”

“To be sure, mother, and welcome,” said Patty, sweetly, as she raised
up the pitcher so that the old woman could drink.

Long and eagerly did the poor creature drink of the delicious water; so
long, indeed, that Patty was much surprised at her extreme thirst.

“Thank you, my darling. Heaven will reward you for your kindness,” said
the old woman.

“Oh, you are quite welcome, mother,” said Patty again, shouldering her
pitcher, and going cheerfully on her way, singing in the lightness
of her heart, at the pleasure of having relieved the poor woman’s
distress.

But she had not gone far before she was overtaken by a large dog, who
seemed to be bound upon a long journey; for he was covered with dust,
his eyes were bloodshot, and his parched tongue hung from his mouth to
catch the cool air.

“Poor fellow,” said Patty, in a kind voice.

The dog turned around at the words, and stopped to look at her. She
held out her hand, and he came nearer. She then set down her pitcher
to caress him, but he strove eagerly to reach the pitcher which his
instinct told him contained water. Patty understood his wants, and held
the pitcher to the poor dog so that he could drink with comfort.

He lapped and lapped, until she began to think he would never leave
off. At last, he looked up into her face, and licked her hand in
gratitude; then, after bounding and gamboling about to show how
refreshed he was, trotted on his way.

Patty now looked into her pitcher and found that it was more than half
empty, so that she must take all her journey over again; for it was of
no use going home with a pitcher but half full.

As she rose, she saw some hare-bells by the side of the road which
appeared to be in a very drooping, dusty state, so she at once poured
over them all the water that remained in the pitcher.

Then, with her pitcher once more upon her shoulder, she turned her
steps again toward the spring, without a single regret at the double
work she had to do. She traveled blithely on over the dusty road,
cheering the way with her sweet songs, and soon arrived once more at
the margin of the spring.

Resting for a few minutes in the shade, she gazed sleepily at the
bubbling water, and all kinds of fanciful thoughts passed through her
mind. She was just dropping off into a little nap, when she thought she
heard some one call her by name. It was a sweet little voice, and Patty
could hardly distinguish it from the tinkling of the spring.

She rose quickly to her feet, and looked in every direction for the
owner of the voice, but in vain; till suddenly casting eyes upon the
spring, she saw, to her amazement, a dear little face looking up at her
from the water; and presently there stood before her one of the most
beautiful little creatures Patty had ever seen.

She balanced lightly upon the surface of the rippling water, where she
seemed to stand with the same ease as Patty did upon the land, and was
really no higher than the pitcher.

“So, Patty,” said she, “so you have come back again, my dear?”

“Yes, Madam,” replied Patty, who, to say the truth, felt somewhat
alarmed; “yes, Madam, because I—-”

“I know all about it,” said the fairy, for it was a fairy, you know;
“and it is because I do know, that you see me here, for I am now come
to make you a useful present.”

“A present!” said Patty, with a pleased surprise.

“Yes, and such a one,” replied the fairy, “as will be a lasting reward
for your goodness of heart toward others, and your little care for
yourself. You blush because you do not remember the many kind things
you have done, and I am the more pleased to see that you think I am
giving you unmerited praise.

“That you think so little of all the kind actions which are the
ornament of your life, assures me of the purity of your motives; for it
is our duty to forget the good we do to others, and to remember only
the good that others do to us. You have always done so, my dear Patty.

“To reward you, I will place a spell upon your pitcher, which will
always be full of water or milk, as you may desire. It will also be
able to move and work whenever you wish it, and will always prove your
firm friend in any trouble.

“If it should, by any mishap, be parted from you, it will easily, by
its magic powers, be able to find you; and in whatever position you
may happen to be, you will always find it by your side, as adviser and
friend; so put your pitcher on the ground, and look into it.”

[Illustration: SHE THEN TOUCHED THE PITCHER WITH HER WAND]

Patty did so, and to her surprise, saw the bright water gradually
rising until the pitcher was full to the brim. When she saw it was full
she tried to lift it, but found it too heavy for her strength.

“You need not trouble yourself to carry it,” said the fairy, smiling;
“it will save you all further trouble on that score.”

She then touched the pitcher with her wand, when to Patty’s greater
surprise, two very well-formed legs grew out of the bottom, and a pair
of neat little arms appeared at the top of the vessel, which, as soon
as it was firm on its legs, made a very polite bow to Patty as its
future mistress.

“Now, Patty,” said the fairy, “follow your pitcher, and you cannot
possibly go wrong;” and as she finished speaking, she gradually faded
away, and at last broke into a thousand sparkling drops, which mingled
with the bubbling stream, and were soon borne away on its bosom.

Patty rubbed her eyes as if to make sure that she was awake; for the
whole thing seemed to her like a wonderful dream. She coughed aloud,
and at last began to pinch herself until she found it painful, when she
finally concluded that she must be really awake. But more convincing
than all, there stood the saucy brown pitcher firmly upon its sturdy
green legs, with its toes turned out in the politest manner of the day,
and its little fists planted in its sides in a style that was very
business-like indeed.

“Quite ready to start, mistress,” said a little voice that made Patty
jump, for the fairy had not told her that the pitcher could speak; but
screwing up courage, she said: “Come on, then, Pitcher,” and set the
example by starting off into a run.

And didn’t the pitcher follow her in good earnest! Indeed, it ran so
fast that it soon overtook her, and not only that, but it ran beyond
her, long before she got half-way home.

But the most surprising thing was that, although it hopped along with
the most wonderful strides and jumps over the rough places in its path,
it did not spill one single drop of water in its progress. This puzzled
Patty, who, with her utmost care, could never avoid wetting her dress
whenever she had tried to run with the pitcher, even half full.

“What will people think when we get into the village?” thought Patty,
as she looked at her strange companion; “I’m sure they will be
frightened, and what will father and mother say when they see what I
have brought home with me?”

“Do not trouble yourself about that,” said the pitcher, who seemed to
know her thoughts; “your parents will soon get accustomed to me, and be
much pleased when they see how handy I am, for you do not yet know half
of my good qualities.”

As he was speaking, they came to a very high stile. “Shall I help you
over?” said Patty, thinking of his short legs.

“Oh, dear, no,” said the pitcher; “see how little I need it.” And,
so saying, he skipped over the stile in the most graceful manner. As
he did so, a dog who was passing put his tail between his legs, and
after two or three very weak barks, scurried off in evident fright and
surprise.

A man was at the same time coming along the road with a slow and
pompous walk–for he was the squire of the village–who, upon seeing
the strange pitcher clear the stile, was rendered almost speechless
with amazement; but as soon as he saw the little legs speeding toward
him, he uttered one loud exclamation of terror, and fled!

His hat flew one way, his cane another, and his cloak mounted into the
air like wings. Being very fat, however, he had not gone far before his
legs failed him, and he lay kicking in a furze bush, roaring for help.
Patty could not help laughing at the sight, but the pitcher, trotting
on with the greatest unconcern, soon reached the cottage door to the
astonishment of Patty’s parents.

The pitcher walked quietly into the cottage, and sat down in a corner,
tucking its legs carefully under it, so that no one could see them. The
neighbors, therefore, who had been alarmed at the squire’s account of
his fright and disaster, and came to the cottage in crowds, only saw a
pitcher, such as they all had at home, and put the old squire down as
being a little bit out of his mind.

Patty was awakened next morning by hearing a noise below, as if someone
was very busy with the furniture. She heard the chairs pushed about,
and presently the handle of a pail klink down as plain as could be. So
she put on her clothes and crept down stairs. She peeped cautiously
through the red curtains at the bottom, and there, to her wondering
surprise, she saw, what do you think?–not any thieves, but the
astonishing pitcher; and what do you think it was doing? Why, it was
mopping up the red tiles of the floor as handily as if it had never
done anything else all the days of its life; and more wonderful still,
the fire was made, and was burning brightly upon the hearth!

We can imagine a pitcher of water washing the floor, but we cannot
imagine it doing anything else with a fire except putting it out. But,
no! the fire was lighted, the kettle was on, and there it was, merrily
singing a little song about breakfast being nearly ready.

“Good morning, dear mistress,” said the pitcher, cheerfully; “you need
not trouble yourself to do anything but grow and improve your mind; for
from henceforth you will have but little labor to do, as I am here to
do it for you.”

You may suppose that Patty was well pleased to hear this, for she was
now growing to be a tall girl, and felt a great desire to improve
herself with books, which as yet she had had very little time to do,
having been so much taken up with her household cares.

When Patty was left alone in the evening with the pitcher, she told him
how much she was obliged to him for all he had done, and how much she
wished to learn; but did not know what to do for books, as she had read
the few she already possessed, many times over.

“Oh, I can soon help you there,” said the pitcher, “for you have only
to wish, and I will yield you as much milk as you desire. You can
then make butter and cheese, and go sell them at the market town; buy
as many books as you like, and have something left for other purposes
besides.”

No sooner said than done. Patty set out all the pans she had, and all
she could borrow from her kind neighbors, and as fast as they came the
pitcher ran about and filled them; so that she soon had plenty of cream
for her butter and cheese.

She had only to ask, and a good neighbor lent her a churn, while the
pitcher furnished a pair of arms to do the churning, and such butter
was produced as had not been seen in the village for many a day. You
may suppose that Patty was pleased; and as for her dear old parents,
they hardly knew what to make of it all.

The same good neighbor lent her a gentle horse and some baskets; and
early one lovely morning, she started for the market-town, to which the
pleased pitcher pointed out the way. He did not go with her, as he said
the people of the town were not accustomed to see brown pitchers with
legs, so he should stay at home and see about making the cheese.

Patty rode cheerfully on her way, looking as happy and handsome as
the best farmer’s daughter of them all–so everybody in the market
said–and she soon sold all her butter at the very best prices of the
day.

And so Patty went on thriving, and doing good to every one in need,
until in course of time, she grew into a beautiful and lovable young
woman, living in comfort with her old parents in one of the prettiest
cottages in the village.

Every one said that she deserved her good fortune; no one envied her;
she was loved by young and old; so, as you may well believe, she was
happy as the day is long.

_The Well-dressed Stranger_

And now, a wonderful thing came to pass, which changed the whole course
of Patty’s simple and contented life. One evening, she was standing
in her garden, feeding her pigeons, when a well-dressed stranger
approached the gate. After looking at her with admiration for a moment,
he bowed gracefully, at the same time removing his plumed hat, and, in
the politest manner, inquired the way to the next town.

Patty answered him pleasantly, and as she spoke, the music of her voice
and the charming modesty of her manner seemed to strike the young man
with surprise and pleasure.

He looked at her intently for a moment, which made Patty’s eyes seek
the ground in blushing confusion; then bowing again with greater
respect than before, he proceeded slowly on his way, often looking back
for another glimpse of sweet Patty.

And now, as you probably guess, the handsome young stranger came again
and again, although he knew his way very well indeed between the
village and the neighboring town. At last she found that it was the way
to her heart he was seeking. He told her parents that he was rich, and
wished to have a wife of whom every one spoke well. He did not care how
poor she might be, so that she loved him; since he had wealth enough
for both, and could choose to marry when and where he pleased.

You must not suppose, however, that Patty fell into the arms of the
young stranger at once. He coaxed her a great deal before she consented
to be his wife; as she wanted to make sure that he was as upright in
character as he was handsome in appearance.

The parents smiled as they looked upon the ardent and handsome lover,
whom, however, they did not think a bit too good for their darling
Patty; and so, in as short a time as was possible, they were happily
married.

Now the stranger who had married Patty was a prince in disguise; and
the pretty cottage-girl became a great princess, surrounded with all
the splendor of her high station!

Did Patty now forget her early home and her old friend, the pitcher?
No, she did not, for the pitcher went with her; but her parents wished
to end their days in the peaceful village where they were born. In the
splendid state in which she now lived, the pitcher was as useful to her
as before, though in a different way. When the poor came to the palace
gate, he gave them bread and nourishing soup for their families, for
which they daily blessed the kind princess who relieved their wants.
So you see the pitcher, although now not called upon to work, still
continued, in the name of his mistress, to do good to all around.

_Patty in Trouble_

But, alas! the best of us cannot escape from envious hearts and wicked
tongues, and so it befell with Patty. Her dream of happiness was short.
Many of the wicked courtiers envied her the love of the people, to whom
Patty was endeared by her gentle kindness; and they whispered slanders
into the ears of the prince, her husband, who at last, I am sorry to
say, was weak enough to listen to them; for they aroused his fears by
telling him that she was trying to bribe the people by her charities to
rebel against him.

They also said that she was served by evil spirits, and pointed to the
good and innocent pitcher as a proof of their wicked tales. Alas for
human weakness! The prince at last became convinced of her guilt; and
although his heart ached, he had her put into one of the dungeons of
the palace; and there poor Patty was left to mourn over the too easy
belief of her husband in her guilt.

She did not, however, mourn long, for as night came on, the prison door
gently opened, and there, to her great delight, she saw the faithful
pitcher, with a bunch of keys in his hand.

“Come,” said he, “let us return to your peaceful home, and show your
husband that it is his heart and not his riches that you covet. He will
come back to reason and repentance when he finds he has lost you.”

Poor Patty followed him in deep grief; but they had not gone far in
their flight, when she perceived with alarm, that they were followed by
a band of soldiers. She screamed with fright.

[Illustration: “BE NOT ALARMED, DEAR MISTRESS,” SAID THE
PITCHER]

_The Pitcher to the Rescue_

“Be not alarmed, dear mistress,” said the pitcher; “I will soon stop
their pursuit.” So saying, he bent over the side of a rock and poured
out a cataract of water through the valley in which the soldiers were
marching.

Soon the water swelled into huge waves, which swept the soldiers from
their path, and compelled them to save their lives by swimming to the
nearest land, when, wet and dispirited, they soon returned to their
master, the foolish prince.

That night Patty slept once more beneath the sheltering roof of her
parents, who, as you may suppose, received their darling with open arms.

She once more found herself in her beloved garden, and the flowers, as
you may believe, were often watered with her tears. It was but natural
that her thoughts should wander to the home of her husband, and that
she should grieve over his cruelty in return for her pure and ardent
love. Hope, however, whispered to her, in the midst of her tears, that
he would yet learn how false the stories were that had caused not only
her unhappiness, but his also. The pitcher, too, was always at her side
to give her comfort in her silent sorrow.

And thus days and weeks rolled on, but no news or messenger reached
her from her husband. Had he entirely abandoned her? Or did he believe
her to have been swept by the torrent that had so nearly drowned his
soldiers, who were too busy looking out for their own safety to notice
what had become of her?

She hoped that it was so, as that in a measure would excuse him; and
even now, he might be mourning her as lost to him forever! For surely,
she thought, long ere this the evil tongues must have appeared to him
in their true light.

One morning, she rose earlier than usual. She was restless and could
not sleep. The pure air was cool and refreshing to her fevered brow.
Looking sadly around her, she saw the dear old pitcher trimming the
flowers just like an experienced gardener.

“Good morning, dear mistress,” said he, rubbing his hands cheerfully;
“you are up betimes to-day, for the sun has hardly yet peeped into the
valley. I am glad you are so early afoot. As you see, I am taking extra
care with the garden, for I expect visitors to-day!”

“Visitors?” said Patty with an inquiring look.

“Yes, visitors,” said the pitcher, from whose mouth issued a low,
chuckling laugh; “I can distinctly hear footsteps in the distance, and
they are coming this way. Listen! they are now near enough for mortal
ears to hear!”

And so they were; nearer and nearer they came. Presently the figure
of a traveler, with a hood over his face, came in sight. He stopped a
moment, threw back his hood, and stood, struck with amazement; for it
was the prince, her husband, who believed her to be dead–drowned in
the valley, after she had escaped from prison!

“This,” said the pitcher, “is the visitor I expected. Believing you to
be dead, he has wandered in many lands to cure his grief; and at last
ventured to this quiet cottage to see once more the spot where he first
had the good fortune to meet you. He has bitterly grieved over the sin
he has committed in believing you guilty of coveting his riches, when
he alone was all your riches and your delight.

“That you are still alive, is the reward for his sincere repentance.
He finds you in your parents’ home where he saw you first, regretting
nothing of your past life, except the loss of the husband you love so
well.”

The faithful pitcher here ceased speaking. The prince rushed forward
with a cry of delight, and knelt at Patty’s feet and begged her
forgiveness.

The pitcher, like a discreet friend, placed her hand in his, and went
into the cottage.

The prince now happy in his love, which had increased a hundred fold,
wished at once to return to his palace; and desired to send forward a
messenger, so that he might bring back his recovered wife in triumph.
The pitcher, upon this, came out and joined them.

“Prince,” said he, “spare yourself this trouble. I am here to render
a last service to my mistress. Since your sincere love now leaves
nothing for her to desire, the fairy who appointed me to reward her
for the greatest of human virtues–self-denial, now recalls me to her
water-palace.”

Behold! As he ceased speaking, jets of sparkling water rose high in the
air from his mouth, until the valley was filled by a lovely lake, upon
which floated a gilded barge, manned by stout rowers in the prince’s
livery, and gay with flags of all colors.

Patty then took an affectionate leave of her parents, and she and
her husband stepped into the barge. Still the water flowed from the
pitcher’s mouth, until the lake grew into a mighty river, down which
they floated until they came in sight of their beautiful home, standing
high upon the rocks which bordered the stream.

Hundreds of flags floated from the towers, and booming cannon sent
forth a noisy welcome. Crowds of rejoicing people stood to receive
their beloved mistress, whose kindness had long ago endeared her to
their grateful hearts; and, when at length they landed, the people
rushed forward–happy if they even succeeded in kissing the hem of her
garment.

After that Patty lived many years in peace and prosperity; but the
magic pitcher was seen no more, for Patty was happy, and its loving
task was done.

* * * * *

As the Story Lady ceased speaking, the actors vanished from the magic
circle into thin air.

“Oh, I wish I could learn to tell stories like that!” exclaimed Mary
Frances.

“You can,” said the Story King, heartily; “for you have come to the
home of good story-tellers.”

“Yes, you can, my dear, because you love stories,” said the Story Queen.

“And for that reason you will always be young,” added the Story King;
“for good story-tellers never grow old.”

“It seems too good to be true; the Story Lady is so wonderful,”
returned Mary Frances.

This outspoken admiration pleased the Story People very much, for they
were very proud of their Story Lady.

Now the Ready Writer folded the copies of the five stories; stepped up
with a funny little bow and handed them to their guest as before; and
that was the end of the Second Day.

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