"Where did you get that tail?" asked the farmer.
"I found it," said naughty Tom, beginning to be frightened.
"Let me see it," demanded the farmer; and when he had looked at it carefully he cried out,
"This tail belonged to my little pig, for I know very well the curl at the end of it! Tell me, you rascal, where is the pig?"
Then Tom fell in a tremble, for he knew his wickedness was discovered.
"The pig is eat, your honor," he answered.
The farmer said never a word, but his face grew black with anger, and, unbuckling the strap that was about his waist, he waved it around his head, and whack! came the strap over Tom's back.
"Ow, ow!" cried the boy, and started to run down the street.
Whack! whack! fell the strap over his shoulder, for the farmer followed at his heels half-way down the street, nor did he spare the strap until he had give Tom a good beating. And Tom was so scared that he never stopped running until he came to the end of the village, and he bawled lustily the whole way and cried out at every step as if the farmer was still a his back.
It was dark before he came back to his home, and his father was still asleep; so Tom crept into the hut and went to bed. But he had received a good lesson and never after that could the old piper induce him to steal.
When Tom showed by his actions his intention of being honest he soon got a job of work to do, and before long he was able to earn a living more easily, and a great deal more honestly, than when he stole the pig to get a dinner and suffered a severe beating as a punishment.
Tom, Tom, the piper's son Now with stealing pigs was done, He 'd work all day instead of play, And dined on tart and currant bun.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the King's horses And all the King's men Cannot put Humpty together again.
At the very top of the hay-mow in the barn, the Speckled Hen had made her nest, and each day for twelve days she had laid in it a pretty white egg. The Speckled Hen had made her nest in this out-of-the-way place so that no one would come to disturb her, as it was her intention to sit upon the eggs until they were hatched into chickens.
Each day, as she laid her eggs, she would cackle to herself; saying, "This will in time be a beautiful chick, with soft, fluffy down all over its body and bright little eyes that will look at the world in amazement. It will be one of my children, and I shall love it dearly."
She named each egg, as she laid it, by the name she should call it when a chick, the first one being "Cluckety-Cluck," and the next "Cadaw-Cut," and so on; and when she came to the twelfth egg she called it "Humpty Dumpty."
This twelfth egg was remarkably big and white and of a very pretty shape, and as the nest was now so full she laid it quite near the edge. And then the Speckled Hen, after looking proudly at her work, went off to the barnyard, clucking joyfully, in search of something to eat.
When she had gone, Cluckety-Cluck, who was in the middle of the nest and the oldest egg of all, called out, angrily,
"It 's getting crowded in this nest; move up there, some of you fellows!" And then he gave CadawCut, who was above him, a kick.
"I can't move unless the others do; they 're crowding me down!" said Cadaw-Cut; and he kicked the egg next above him. And so they continued kicking one another and rolling around in the nest until one kicked Humpty Dumpty, and as he lay on the edge of the nest he was kicked out and rolled down the hay-mow until he came to a stop near the very bottom.
Humpty did not like this very well, but he was a bright egg for one so young, and after he had recovered from his shaking up he began to look about to see where he was. The barn door was open, and he caught a glimpse of trees and hedges, and green grass with a silvery brook running through it. And he saw the waving grain and the tasselled maize and the sunshine flooding it all.
The scene was very enticing to the young egg, and Humpty at once resolved to see something of this great world before going back to the nest.
He began to make his way carefully through the hay, and was getting along fairly well when he heard a voice say,
"Where are you going?"
Humpty looked around and found he was beside a pretty little nest in which was one brown egg.
"Did you speak?" he asked.
"Yes," replied the brown egg; "I asked where you were going."
"Who are you?" enquired Humpty; "do you belong in our nest?"
"Oh, no!" answered the brown egg; "my name is Coutchie-Coulou, and the Black Bantam laid me about an hour ago."
"Oh," said Humpty proudly; "I belong to the Speckled Hen myself."
"Do you, indeed!" returned Coutchie-Coulou. "I saw her go by a little while ago, and she 's much bigger than the Black Bantam."
"Yes, and I 'm much bigger than you," replied Humpty. "But I 'm going out to see the world, and if you like to go with me I 'll take good care of you."
"Is n't it dangerous for eggs to go about all by themselves?" asked Coutchie, timidly.
"Perhaps so," answered Humpty; "but it 's dangerous in the nest, too; my brothers might have smashed me with their kicking. However, if we are careful we can't come to much harm; so come along, little one, and I 'll look after you."
Coutchie-Coulou gave him her hand while he helped her out of the nest, and together they crept over the hay until they came to the barn floor. They made for the door at once, holding each other by the hand, and soon came to the threshold, which appeared very high to them.
"We must jump," said Humpty.
"I 'm afraid!" cried Coutchie-Coulou. "And I declare! there 's my mother's voice clucking, she 's coming this way."
"Then hurry!" said Humpty. "And do not tremble so or you will get yourself all mixed up; it does n't improve eggs to shake them. We will jump but take care not to bump against me or you may break my shell. Now,—one,—two,—three!"
They held each other's hand and jumped, alighting safely in the roadway. Then, fearing their mothers would see them, Humpty ran as fast as he could go until he and Coutchie were concealed beneath a rosebush in the garden.
"I 'm afraid we 're bad eggs," gasped Coutchie, who was somewhat out of breath.
"Oh, not at all," replied Humpty; "we were laid only this morning, so we are quite fresh. But now, since we are in the world, we must start out in search of adventure. Here is a roadway beside us which will lead us somewhere or other; so come along, Coutchie-Coulou, and do not be afraid."
The brown egg meekly gave him her hand, and together they trotted along the roadway until they came to a high stone wall, which had sharp spikes upon its top. It seemed to extend for a great distance, and the eggs stopped and looked at it curiously.
"I 'd like to see what is behind that wall," said Humpty, "but I do n't think we shall be able to climb over it."
"No, indeed," answered the brown egg, "but just before us I see a little hole in the wall, near the ground; perhaps we can crawl through that."
They ran to the hole and found it was just large enough to admit them. So they squeezed through very carefully, in order not to break themselves, and soon came to the other side.
They were now in a most beautiful garden, with trees and bright-hued flowers in abundance and pretty fountains that shot their merry sprays far into the air. In the center of the garden was a great palace, with bright golden turrets and domes, and many windows that glistened in the sunshine like the sparkle of diamonds.
Richly dressed courtiers and charming ladies strolled through the walks, and before the palace door were a dozen prancing horses, gaily caparisoned, awaiting their riders.
It was a scene brilliant enough to fascinate anyone, and the two eggs stood spellbound while their eyes feasted upon the unusual sight.
"See!" whispered Coutchie-Coulou, "there are some birds swimming in the water yonder. Let us go and look at them, for we also may be birds someday."
"True," answered Humpty, "but we are just as likely to be omelets or angel's-food. Still, we will have a look at the birds."
So they started to cross the drive on their way to the pond, never noticing that the King and his courtiers had issued from the palace and were now coming down the drive riding upon their prancing steeds. Just as the eggs were in the middle of the drive the horses dashed by, and Humpty, greatly alarmed, ran as fast as he could for the grass.
Then he stopped and looked around, and behold! There was poor Coutchie-Coulou crushed into a shapeless mass by the hoof of one of the horses, and her golden heart was spreading itself slowly over the white gravel of the driveway!
Humpty sat down upon the grass and wept grievously, for the death of his companion was a great blow to him. And while he sobbed, a voice said to him,
"What is the matter, little egg?"
Humpty looked up, and saw a beautiful girl bending over him.
"One of the horses has stepped upon Coutchie-Coulou," he said; "and now she is dead, and I have no friend in all the world."
The girl laughed.
"Do not grieve," she said, "for eggs are but short-lived creatures at best, and Coutchie-Coulou has at least died an honorable death and saved herself from being fried in a pan or boiled in her own shell. So cheer up, little egg, and I will be your friend—at least so long as you remain fresh. A stale egg I never could abide."
"I was laid only this morning," said Humpty, drying his tears, "so you need have no fear. But do not call me 'little egg,' for I am quite large, as eggs go, and I have a name of my own."
"What is your name?" asked the Princess.
"It is Humpty Dumpty," he answered, proudly. "And now, if you will really be my friend, pray show me about the grounds, and through the palace; and take care I am not crushed."
So the Princess took Humpty in her arms and walked with him all through the grounds, letting him see the fountains and the golden fish that swam in their waters, the beds of lilies and roses, and the pools where the swans floated. Then she took him into the palace, and showed him all the gorgeous rooms, including the King's own bed-chamber and the room where stood the great ivory throne.
Humpty sighed with pleasure.
"After this," he said, "I am content to accept any fate that may befall me, for surely no egg before me ever saw so many beautiful sights."
"That is true," answered the Princess; "but now I have one more sight to show you which will be grander than all the others; for the King will be riding home shortly with all his horses and men at his back, and I will take you to the gates and let you see them pass by."
"Thank you," said Humpty.
So she carried him to the gates, and while they awaited the coming of the King the egg said,
"Put me upon the wall, Princess, for then I be able to see much better than in your arms."
"That is a good idea," she answered; "but you must be careful not to fall."
Then she sat the egg gently upon the top of the stone wall, where there was a little hollow; and Humpty was delighted, for from his elevated perch he could see much better than the Princess herself.
"Here they come!" he cried; and, sure enough, the King came riding along the road with many courtiers and soldiers and vassals following in his wake, all mounted upon the finest horses the kingdom could afford.
As they came to the gate and entered at a brisk trot, Humpty, forgetting his dangerous position, leaned eagerly over to look at them. The next instant the Princess heard a sharp crash at her side, and, looking downward, perceived poor Humpty Dumpty, who lay crushed and mangled among the sharp stones where he had fallen.
The Princess sighed, for she had taken quite a fancy to the egg; but she knew it was impossible to gather it up again or mend the matter in any way, and therefore she returned thoughtfully to the palace.
Now it happened that upon this evening several young men of the kingdom, who were all of high rank, had determined to ask the King for the hand of the Princess; so they assembled in the throne room and demanded that the King choose which of them was most worthy to marry his daughter.
The King was in a quandary, for all the suitors were wealthy and powerful, and he feared that all but the one chosen would become his enemies. Therefore he thought long upon the matter, and at last said,
"Where all are worthy it is difficult to decide which most deserves the hand of the Princess. Therefore I propose to test your wit. The one who shall ask me a riddle I cannot guess, can marry my daughter."
At this the young men looked thoughtful, and began to devise riddles that his Majesty should be unable to guess. But the King was a shrewd monarch, and each one of the riddles presented to him he guessed with ease.
Now there was one amongst the suitors whom the Princess herself favored, as was but natural. He was a slender, fair-haired youth, with dreamy blue eyes and a rosy complexion, and although he loved the Princess dearly he despaired of finding a riddle that the King could not guess.
But while he stood leaning against the wall the Princess approached him and whispered in his ear a riddle she had just thought of. Instantly his face brightened, and when the King called, "Now, Master Gracington, it is your turn," he advanced boldly to the throne.
"Speak your riddle, sir," said the King, gaily; for he thought this youth would also fail, and that he might therefore keep the Princess by his side for a time longer.
But Master Gracington, with downcast eyes, knelt before the throne and spoke in this wise:
"This is my riddle, oh King:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall All the King's horses And all the King's men Cannot put Humpty together again!"
"Read me that, sire, an' you will!"
The King thought earnestly for a long time, and he slapped his head and rubbed his ears and walked the floor in great strides; but guess the riddle he could not.
"You are a humbug, sir!" he cried out at last; "there is no answer to such a riddle."
"You are wrong, sire," answered the young man; "Humpty Dumpty was an egg."
"Why did I not think of that before!" exclaimed the King; but he gave the Princess to the young man to be his bride, and they lived happily together.
And thus did Humpty Dumpty, even in his death, repay the kindness of the fair girl who had shown him such sights as an egg seldom sees.
The Woman Who Lived in a Shoe
The Woman Who Lived in a Shoe
There was an old woman Who lived in a shoe, She had so many children She did n't know what to do; She gave them some broth Without any bread, And whipped them all soundly And sent them to bed.
A long time ago there lived a woman who had four daughters, and these in time grew up and married and went to live in different parts of the country. And the woman, after that, lived all alone, and said to herself, "I have done my duty to the world, and now shall rest quietly for the balance of my life. When one has raised a family of four children and has married them all happily, she is surely entitled to pass her remaining days in peace and comfort."
She lived in a peculiar little house, that looked something like this picture.
It was not like most of the houses you see, but the old woman had it built herself, and liked it, and so it did not matter to her how odd it was. It stood upon the top of a little hill, and there was a garden at the back and a pretty green lawn in front, with white gravel paths and many beds of bright colored flowers.
The old woman was very happy and contented there until one day she received a letter saying that her daughter Hannah was dead and had sent her family of five children to their grandmother to be taken care of.
This misfortune ruined all the old woman's dreams of quiet; but the next day the children arrived—three boys and two girls—and she made the best of it and gave them the beds her own daughters had once occupied, and her own cot as well; and she made a bed for herself on the parlor sofa.
The youngsters were like all other children, and got into mischief once in awhile; but the old woman had much experience with children and managed to keep them in order very well, while they quickly learned to obey her, and generally did as they were bid.
But scarcely had she succeeded in getting them settled in their new home when Margaret, another of her daughters, died, and sent four more children to her mother to be taken care of.
The old woman scarcely knew where to keep this new flock that had come to her fold, for the house was already full; but she thought the matter over and finally decided she must build an addition to her house.
So she hired a carpenter and built what is called a "lean-to" at the right of her cottage, making it just big enough to accommodate the four new members of her family. When it was completed her house looked very much as it does in this picture.
She put four little cots in her new part of the house, and then she sighed contentedly, and said, "Now all the babies are taken care of and will be comfortable until they grow up." Of course it was much more difficult to manage nine small children than five; and they often led each other into mischief, so that the flower beds began to be trampled upon and the green grass to be worn under the constant tread of little feet, and the furniture to show a good many scratches and bruises.
But the old woman continued to look after them, as well as she was able, until Sarah, her third daughter, also died, and three more children were sent to their grandmother to be brought up.
The old woman was nearly distracted when she heard of this new addition to her family, but she did not give way to despair. She sent for the carpenter again, and had him build another addition to her house, as the picture shows.
Then she put three new cots in the new part for the babies to sleep in, and when they arrived they were just as cozy and comfortable as peas in a pod.
The grandmother was a lively old woman for one of her years, but she found her time now fully occupied in cooking the meals for her twelve small grandchildren, and mending their clothes, and washing their faces, and undressing them at night and dressing them in the morning. There was just a dozen of babies now, and when you consider they were about the same age you will realize what a large family the old woman had, and how fully her time was occupied in caring for them all.
And now, to make the matter worse, her fourth daughter, who had been named Abigail, suddenly took sick and died, and she also had four small children that must be cared for in some way.
The old woman, having taken the other twelve, could not well refuse to adopt these little orphans also.
"I may as well have sixteen as a dozen," she said, with a sigh; "they will drive me crazy some day, anyhow, so a few more will not matter at all!"
Once more she sent for the carpenter, and bade him build a third addition to the house; and when it was completed she added four more cots to the dozen that were already in use. The house presented a very queer appearance now, but she did not mind that so long as the babies were comfortable.
"I shall not have to build again," she said; "and that is one satisfaction. I have now no more daughters to die and leave me their children, and therefore I must make up my mind to do the best I can with the sixteen that have already been inflicted upon me in my old age."
It was not long before all the grass about the house was trodden down, and the white gravel of the walks all thrown at the birds, and the flower beds trampled into shapeless masses by thirty-two little feet that ran about from morn till night. But the old woman did not complain at this; her time was too much taken up with the babies for her to miss the grass and the flowers.
It cost so much money to clothe them that she decided to dress them all alike, so that they looked like the children of a regular orphan asylum. And it cost so much to feed them that she was obliged to give them the plainest food; so there was bread-and-milk for breakfast and milk-and-bread for dinner and bread-and-broth for supper. But it was a good and wholesome diet, and the children thrived and grew fat upon it.
One day a stranger came along the road, and when he saw the old woman's house he began to laugh.
"What are you laughing at, sir?" asked the grandmother, who was sitting upon her doorsteps engaged in mending sixteen pairs of stockings.
"At your house," the stranger replied; "it looks for all the world like a big shoe!"
"A shoe!" she said, in surprise.
"Why, yes. The chimneys are shoe-straps, and the steps are the heel, and all those additions make the foot of the shoe."
"Never mind," said the woman; "it may be a shoe, but it is full of babies, and that makes it differ from most other shoes."
But the Stranger went on to the village and told all he met that he had seen an old woman who lived in a shoe; and soon people came from all parts of the country to look at the queer house, and they usually went away laughing.
The old woman did not mind this at all; she was too busy to be angry. Some of the children were always getting bumped heads or bruised shins, or falling down and hurting themselves, and these had to be comforted. And some were naughty and had to be whipped; and some were dirty and had to be washed; and some were good and had to be kissed. It was "Gran'ma, do this!" and "Gran'ma, do that!" from morning to night, so that the poor grandmother was nearly distracted. The only peace she ever got was when they were all safely tucked in their little cots and were sound asleep; for then, at least, she was free from worry and had a chance to gather her scattered wits.
"There are so many children," she said one day to the baker-man, "that I often really do n't know what to do!"
"If they were mine, ma'am," he replied, "I 'd send them to the poor-house, or else they 'd send me to the madhouse."
Some of the children heard him say this, and they resolved to play him a trick in return for his ill-natured speech.
The baker-man came every day to the shoe-house, and brought two great baskets of bread in his arms for the children to eat with their milk and their broth.
So one day, when the old woman had gone to the town to buy shoes, the children all painted their faces, to look as Indians do when they are on the warpath; and they caught the roosters and the turkey-cock and pulled feathers from their tails to stick in their hair. And then the boys made wooden tomahawks for the girls and bows-and-arrows for their own use, and then all sixteen went out and hid in the bushes near the top of the hill.
By and by the baker-man came slowly up the path with a basket of bread on either arm; and just as he reached the bushes there sounded in his ears a most unearthly war-whoop. Then a flight of arrows came from the bushes, and although they were blunt and could do him no harm they rattled all over his body; and one hit his nose, and another his chin, while several stuck fast in the loaves of bread.
Altogether, the baker-man was terribly frightened; and when all the sixteen small Indians rushed from the bushes and flourished their tomahawks, he took to his heels and ran down the hill as fast as he could go!
When the grandmother returned she asked,
"Where is the bread for your supper?"
The children looked at one another in surprise, for they had forgotten all about the bread. And then one of them confessed, and told her the whole story of how they had frightened the baker-man for saying he would send them to the poor-house.
"You are sixteen very naughty children!" exclaimed the old woman; "and for punishment you must eat your broth without any bread, and afterwards each one shall have a sound whipping and be sent to bed."
Then all the children began to cry at once, and there was such an uproar that their grandmother had to put cotton in her ears that she might not lose her hearing.
But she kept her promise, and made them eat their broth without any bread; for, indeed, there was no bread to give them.
Then she stood them in a row and undressed them, and as she put the nightdress on each one she gave it a sound whipping and sent it to bed.
They cried some, of course, but they knew very well they deserved the punishment, and it was not long before all of them were sound asleep.
They took care not to play any more tricks on the baker-man, and as they grew older they were naturally much better behaved.
Before many years the boys were old enough to work for the neighboring farmers, and that made the woman's family a good deal smaller. And then the girls grew up and married, and found homes of their own, so that all the children were in time well provided for.
But not one of them forgot the kind grandmother who had taken such good care of them, and often they tell their children of the days when they lived with the old woman in a shoe and frightened the baker-man almost into fits with their wooden tomahawks.
Little Miss Muffet
Little Miss Muffet
Little Miss Muffet Sat on a tuffet, Eating of curds and whey. There came a great spider And sat down beside her And frightened Miss Muffet away.
Little Miss Muffet's father was a big banker in a big city, and he had so much money that the house he lived in was almost as beautiful as a king's palace. It was built of granite and marble, and richly furnished with every luxury that money can buy. There was an army of servants about the house, and many of them had no other duties than to wait upon Miss Muffet, for the little girl was an only child and therefore a personage of great importance. She had a maid to dress her hair and a maid to bathe her, a maid to serve her at a table and a maid to tie her shoe-strings, and several maids beside And then there was Nurse Holloweg to look after all the maids and see they did their tasks properly.
The child's father spent his days at his office and his evenings at his club; her mother was a leader in society, and therefore fully engaged from morning till night and from night till morn; so that Little Miss Muffet seldom saw her parents and scarce knew them when she did see them.
I have never known by what name she was christened. Perhaps she did not know herself, for everyone had called her "Miss Muffet" since she could remember. The servants spoke of her respectfully as Miss Muffet. Mrs. Muffet would say, at times, "By the way, Nurse, how is Miss Muffet getting along?" And Mr. Muffet, when he met his little daughter by chance on the walk or in the hallway, would stop and look at her gravely and say, "So this is Miss Muffet. Well, how are you feeling, little one?" And then, without heeding her answer, he would walk away.
Perhaps you think that Miss Muffet, surrounded by every luxury and with a dozen servants to wait upon her, was happy and contented; but such was not the case. She wanted to run and romp, but they told her it was unladylike; she wished to play with other children, but none were rich enough to be proper associates for her; she longed to dig in the dirt in the garden, but Nurse Holloweg was shocked at the very thought. So Miss Muffet became sullen and irritable, and scolded everyone about her, and lived a very unhappy life. And her food was too rich and gave her dyspepsia, so that she grew thin and pale and did not sleep well at night.
One afternoon her mother, who happened to be at home for an hour, suddenly thought of her little daughter; so she rang the bell and asked for Nurse Holloweg.
"How is Miss Muffet, Nurse?" enquired the lady.
"Very badly, ma'am," was the reply.
"Badly! What do you mean? Is she ill?"
"She 's far from well, ma'am," answered the Nurse, "and seems to be getting worse every day."
"Well," replied the lady; "you must have the doctor to see her; and do n't forget to let me know what he says. That is all, Nurse."
She turned to her novel again, and the Nurse walked away and sent a servant for the doctor. That great man, when he came, shook his head solemnly and said,
"She must have a change. Take her away into the country as soon as possible."
"And very good advice it was, too," remarked the Nurse to one of the maids; "for I feel as if I needed a change myself."
When she reported the matter to Mrs. Muffet the mother answered,
"Very well; I will see Mr. Muffet and have him write out a cheque."
And so it was that a week later Little Miss Muffet went to the country, or rather to a small town where there was a summer hotel that had been highly recommended to Nurse Holloweg; and with her went the string of maids and a wagon-load of boxes and trunks.
The morning after their arrival the little girl asked to go out upon the lawn.
"Well," replied Nurse Holloweg, "Sarah can take you out for half an hour. But remember you are not to run and get heated, for that will ruin your complexion; and you must not speak to any of the common children you meet, for your mother would object; and you must not get your shoes dusty nor your dress soiled, nor disobey Sarah in any way."
Little Miss Muffet went out in a very angry and sulky mood.
"What 's the use of being in the country," she thought, "if I must act just as I did in the city? I hate Nurse Holloweg, and Sarah, and all the rest of them! and if I dared I 'd just—just run away."
Indeed, a few minutes later, when Sarah had fallen asleep upon a bench under a big shade tree, Miss Muffet decided she would really run away for once in her life, and see how it seemed.
There was a pretty lane near by, running between shady trees far out into the country, and, stealing softly away from Sarah's side, the little girl ran as fast as she could go, and never stopped until she was all out of breath.
While she rested and wondered what she could do next, a farmer came along, driving an empty cart.
"I 'll catch on behind," said Miss Muffet, gleefully, "just as I 've seen the boys do in the city. Won't it be fun!"
So she ran and caught on the end of the cart, and actually climbed into it, falling all in a heap upon the straw that lay upon the bottom. But it did n't hurt her at all, and the next minute the farmer whipped up his horses, and they went trotting along the lane, carrying Miss Muffet farther and farther away from hated Nurse Holloweg and the dreadful maids.
She looked around upon the green fields and the waving grain, and drew in deep breaths of the fresh country air, and was happy for almost the first time in her little life. By and by she lay back upon the straw and fell asleep; and the farmer, who did not know she was in his cart, drove on for many miles, until at last he stopped at a small wooden farmhouse, and jumped to the ground.
A woman came to the door to greet him, and he said to her.
"Well, mother, we 're home again, you see."
"So I see," she answered; "but did you bring my groceries?"
"Yes," he replied, as he began to unharness the horses; "they are in the cart."
So she came to the cart and looked within, and saw Miss Muffet, who was still asleep.
"Where did you get the little girl?" asked the farmer's wife, in surprise.
"What little girl?" asked he.
"The one in the cart."
He came to the cart and looked in, and was as surprised as his wife.
"She must have climbed into the cart when I left the town," he said; "but waken her, wife, and we will hear what she has to say."
So the farmer's wife shook the girl by the arm, and Miss Muffet sat up in the cart and rubbed her eyes and wondered where she was.
"How came you in my cart?" asked the farmer.
"I caught on behind, and climbed in," answered the girl.
"What is your name, and where do you live?" enquired the farmer's wife.
"My name is Miss Muffet, and I live in a big city,—but where, I do not know."
And that was all she could tell them, so the woman said at last,
"We must keep her till some one comes to claim her, and she can earn her living by helping me make the cheeses."
"That will be nice," said Miss Muffet, with a laugh, "for Nurse Holloweg never lets me do anything, and I should like to help somebody do something."
So they led her into the house, where the farmer's wife wondered at the fine texture of her dress and admired the golden chain that hung around her neck.
"Some one will surely come for her," the woman said to her husband, "for she is richly dressed and must belong to a family of some importance."
Nevertheless, when they had eaten dinner, for which Little Miss Muffet had a wonderful appetite, the woman took her into the dairy and told her how she could assist her in curdling the milk and preparing it for the cheese-press.
"Why, it 's really fun to work," said the girl, at first, "and I should like to live here always. I do hope Nurse Holloweg will not find me."
After a time, however, she grew weary, and wanted to rest; but the woman had not yet finished her cheese-making, so she bade the girl keep at her tasks.
"It 's time enough to rest when the work is done," she said, "and if you stay with me you must earn your board. No one is allowed to idle in this house."
So Little Miss Muffet, though she felt like crying and was very tired, kept at her work until at length all was finished and the last cheese was in the press.
"Now," said the farmer's wife, "since you have worked so well I shall give you a dish of curds and whey for your supper, and you may go out into the orchard and eat it under the shade of the trees."
Little Miss Muffet had never eaten curds and whey before, and did not know how they tasted; but she was very hungry, so she took the dish and went into the orchard.
She first looked around for a place to sit down, and finally discovered a little grassy mound, which is called a tuffet in the country, and seated herself upon it. Then she tasted the curds and whey and found them very good.
But while she was eating she chanced to look down at her feet, and there was a great black spider coming straight towards her. The girl had never seen such an enormous and hideous-looking spider before, and she was so frightened that she gave a scream and tipped backward off the tuffet, spilling the curds and whey all over her dress as she did so. This frightened her more than ever, and as soon as she could get upon her feet she scampered away to the farmhouse as fast as she could go, crying bitterly as she ran.
The farmer's wife tried to comfort her, and Miss Muffet, between her sobs, said she had seen "the awfulest, biggest, blackest spider in all the world!"
This made the woman laugh, for she was not afraid of spiders.
Soon after they heard a sound of wheels upon the road and a handsome carriage came dashing up to the gate.
"Has anyone seen a little girl who has run away?" asked Nurse Holloweg, leaning out of the carriage.
"Oh, yes" answered Little Miss Muffet; "here I am, Nurse. And she ran out and jumped into the carriage, for she was very glad to get back again to those who would care for her and not ask her to work making cheeses."
When they were driving back to the town the Nurse said,
"You must promise me, Miss Muffet, never to run away again. You have frightened me nearly into hysterics, and had you been lost your mother would have been quite disappointed."
The little girl was silent for a time; then she answered,
"I will promise not to run away if you will let me play as other children do. But if you do not allow me to run and romp and dig in the ground, I shall keep running away, no matter how many horrid spiders come to frighten me!"
And Nurse Holloweg, who had really been much alarmed at so nearly losing her precious charge, thought it wise to agree to Miss Muffet's terms.
She kept her word, too, and when Little Miss Muffet went back to her home in the city her cheeks were as red as roses and her eyes sparkled with health. And she grew, in time, to be a beautiful young lady, and as healthy and robust as she was beautiful. Seeing which, the doctor put an extra large fee in his bill for advising that the little girl be taken to the country; and Mr. Muffet paid it without a word of protest.
Even after Miss Muffet grew up and was married she never forgot the day that she ran away, nor the curds and whey she ate for her supper, nor the great spider that frightened her away from the tuffet.
Three Wise Men of Gotham
Three Wise Men of Gotham
Three Wise Men of Gotham Went to sea in a bowl. If the bowl had been stronger My tale had been longer.
There lived in the great city of Gotham, over against the north gate, a man who possessed a very wise aspect, but very little else. He was tall and lean, and had a fine large head, bald and smooth upon the top, with a circle of white hair behind the ears. His beard was pure white, and reached to his waist; his eyes were small, dark, and so piercing that they seemed to read your every thought. His eyebrows were very heavy, and as white as his beard. He dressed in a long black mantle with a girdle corded about the middle, and he walked slowly and majestically, and talked no more than he was obliged to.
When this man passed down the street with his stately tread the people all removed their hats and bowed to him with great reverence, saying within themselves,
"He is very wise, this great man; he is a second Socrates."
And soon this was the only name he was called by, and everyone in Gotham knew him as "Socrates."
To be sure this man was not really wise. Had they realized the truth, not one he met but knew more than Socrates; but his venerable appearance certainly betokened great wisdom, and no one appeared to remember that things are seldom what they seem.
Socrates would strut about with bowed head and arms clasped behind him, and think:
"My! how wise these people take me to be. Everyone admires my beautiful beard. When I look into their faces they drop their eyes. I am, in truth, a wonderful man, and if I say nothing they will believe I am full of wisdom. Ah, here comes the schoolmaster; I shall frown heavily and refuse to notice him, for then he also will be deceived and think I am pondering upon matters of great import." Really, the one wise thing about this Socrates was his ability to keep quiet. For, saying no word, it was impossible he should betray his ignorance.
Singularly enough, over by the south gate of Gotham there dwelt another wise man, of much the same appearance as Socrates. His white beard was a trifle longer and he had lost his left eye, which was covered by a black patch; but in all other ways his person betokened as much wisdom as that of the other.
He did not walk about, being lazy and preferring his ease; but he lived in a little cottage with one room, where the people came to consult him in regard to all their troubles.
They had named him Sophocles, and when anything went wrong they would say,
"Let us go and consult Sophocles, for he is very wise and will tell us what to do."
Thus one man, who had sued his neighbor in the courts, became worried over the outcome of the matter and came to consult the wise man.
"Tell me, O Sophocles!" he said, as he dropped a piece of money upon a plate, "shall I win my lawsuit or not?"
Sophocles appeared to ponder for a moment, and then he looked at his questioner with his one eye and replied,
"If it is not decided against you, you will certainly win your suit."
And the man was content, and went away feeling that his money had been well invested.
At another time the mother of a pair of baby twins came to him in great trouble.
"O most wise Sophocles!" she said, "I am in despair! For my little twin girls are just alike, and I have lost the ribbon that I placed on one that I might be able to tell them apart. Therefore I cannot determine which is Amelia and which is Ophelia, and as the priest has christened them by their proper names it would be a sin to call them wrongly."
"Cannot the priest tell?" asked the wise man.
"No one can tell," answered the woman; "neither the priest nor their father nor myself, for they are just alike. And they are yet too young to remember their own names. Therefore your great wisdom is our only resource."
"Bring them to me," commanded Sophocles.
And when they were brought he looked at them attentively and said,
"This is Ophelia and this Amelia. Now tie a red ribbon about Ophelia's wrist and put a blue ribbon on Amelia, and so long as they wear them you will not be troubled to tell them apart."
Everyone marvelled greatly that Sophocles should know the children better than their own mother, but he said to himself,
"Since no no [both nos in original] one can prove that I am wrong I am sure to be right;" and thus he maintained his reputation for wisdom.
In a little side street near the center of Gotham lived an old woman named Deborah Smith. Her home was a wretched little hut, for she was poor, and supported herself and her husband by begging in the streets. Her husband was a lazy, short, fat old man, who lay upon a ragged blanket in the hut all day and refused to work.
"One beggar in the family is enough," he used to grumble, when his wife upbraided him, "and I am really too tired to work. So let me alone, my Deborah, as I am about to take another nap."
Nothing she could say would arouse him to action, and she finally allowed him to do as he pleased.
But one day she met Socrates walking in the street, and after watching him for a time made up her mind he was nothing more than a fool. Other people certainly thought him wise, but she was a shrewd old woman, and could see well enough that he merely looked wise. The next day she went to the south of the city to beg, and there she heard of Sophocles. When the people repeated his wise sayings she thought:
"Here is another fool, for anyone could tell as much as this man does."
Still, she went to see Sophocles, and, dropping a penny upon his plate, she asked,
"Tell me, O wise man, how shall I drive my husband to work?"
"By starving him," answered Sophocles; "if you refuse to feed him he must find a way to feed himself."
"That is true," she thought, as she went away; "but any fool could have told me that. This wise man is a fraud; even my husband is as wise as he."
Then she stopped short and slapped her hand against her forehead.
"Why," she cried, "I will make a Wise Man of Perry, my husband, and then he can earn money without working!"
So she went to her husband and said,
"Get up, Perry Smith, and wash yourself; for I am going to make a Wise Man of you."
"I won't," he replied.
"You will," she declared, "for it is the easiest way to earn money I have ever discovered."
Then she took a stick and beat him so fiercely that at last he got up, and agreed to do as she said.
She washed his long beard until it was as white as snow, and she shaved his head to make him look bald and venerable. Then she brought him a flowing black robe with a girdle at the middle; and when he was dressed, he looked fully as wise as either Socrates or Sophocles.
"You must have a new name," she said, "for no one will ever believe that Perry Smith is a Wise Man. So I shall hereafter call you Pericles, the Wisest Man of Gotham!"
She then led him into the streets, and to all they met she declared,
"This is Pericles, the wisest man in the world."
"What does he know?" they asked.
"Everything, and much else," she replied.
Then came a carter, and putting a piece of money in the hand of Pericles, he enquired,
"Pray tell me of your wisdom what is wrong with my mare?"
"How should I know?" asked Pericles.
"I thought you knew everything," returned the carter, in surprise.
"I do," declared Pericles; "but you have not told me what her symptoms are."
"She refuses to eat anything," said the carter.
"Then she is not hungry," returned Pericles; "for neither man nor beast will refuse to eat when hungry."
And the people who heard him whispered together and said,
"Surely this is a wise man, for he has told the carter what is wrong with his mare."
After a few days the fame of Pericles' sayings came to the ears of both Socrates and Sophocles, and they resolved to see him, for each feared he would prove more wise than they were, knowing themselves to be arrant humbugs. So one morning the three wise men met together outside the hut of Pericles, and they sat themselves down upon stools, facing each other, while a great crowd of people gathered around to hear the words of wisdom that dropped from their lips.
But for a time all three were silent, and regarded one another anxiously, for each feared he might betray himself.
Finally Sophocles winked his one eye at the others and said, in a grave voice,
"The earth is flat; for, were it round, as some fools say, all the people would slide off the surface."
Then the people, who had listened eagerly, clapped their hands together and murmured,
"Sophocles is wisest of all. What he says is truth."
This provoked Socrates greatly, for he felt his reputation was in danger; so he said with a frown,
"The world is shallow, like a dish; were it flat the water would all run over the edges, and we should have no oceans."
Then the people applauded more loudly than before, and cried,
"Socrates is right the is wisest of all."
Pericles, at this, shifted uneasily upon his stool, for he knew he must dispute the matter boldly or his fame would depart from him. Therefore he said, with grave deliberation,
"You are wrong, my friends. The world is hollow, like the shell of a cocoanut, and we are all inside the shell. The sky above us is the roof, and if you go out upon the ocean you will come to a place, no matter in which direction you go, where the sky and the water meet. I know this is true, for I have been to sea."
The people cheered loudly at this, and said,
"Long live Pericles, the wisest of the wise men!"
"I shall hold I am right," protested Sophocles, "until Pericles and Socrates prove that I am wrong."
"That is fair enough," said the people.
"And I also shall hold myself to be right until they prove me wrong," declared Socrates, firmly.
"I know I am right," said Pericles, "for you cannot prove me wrong."
"We can take a boat and sail over the sea," remarked Socrates, "and when we come to the edge we will know the truth. Will you go?"
"Yes," answered Sophocles; and Pericles, because he did not dare refuse, said "Yes" also.
Then they went to the shore of the sea, and the people followed them. There was no boat to be found anywhere, for the fishers were all away upon the water; but there was a big wooden bowl lying upon the shore, which the fishermen used to carry their fish to market in.
"This will do," said Pericles, who, because he weighed the most, was the greatest fool of the three.
So the wise men all sat within the bowl, with their feet together, and the people pushed them out into the water.
The tide caught the bowl and floated it out to sea, and before long the wise men were beyond sight of land.
They were all greatly frightened, for the bowl was old and cracked, and the water leaked slowly through until their feet were covered. They clung to the edge with their hands and looked at one another with white faces. Said Pericles,
"I was a fool to come to sea in this bowl."
"Ah," remarked Socrates, "if you are a fool, as you confess, then you cannot be a wise man."
"No," answered Pericles, "but I 'll soon be a dead man."
"I also was a fool," said Sophocles, who was weeping from his one eye and trembling all over, "for if I had stayed upon land I would not have been drowned."
"Since you both acknowledge it," sighed Socrates, "I will confess that I also am a fool, and have always been one; but I looked so wise the people insisted I must know everything!"
"Yes, yes," Sophocles groaned, "the people have murdered us!"
"My only regret," said Pericles, "is that my wife is not with me. If only she were here"—
He did not finish what he was saying, for just then the bowl broke in two. And the people are still waiting for the three wise men to come back to them.
Little Bun Rabbit
Little Bun Rabbit
"Oh, Little Bun Rabbit, so soft and so shy, Say, what do you see with your big, round eye?" "On Christmas we rabbits," says Bunny so shy, "Keep watch to see Santa go galloping by."
Little Dorothy had passed all the few years of her life in the country, and being the only child upon the farm she was allowed to roam about the meadows and woods as she pleased. On the bright summer mornings Dorothy's mother would tie a sun-bonnet under the girl's chin, and then she romped away to the fields to amuse herself in her own way.
She came to know every flower that grew, and to call them by name, and she always stepped very carefully to avoid treading on them, for Dorothy was a kind-hearted child and did not like to crush the pretty flowers that bloomed in her path. And she was also very fond of all the animals, and learned to know them well, and even to understand their language, which very few people can do. And the animals loved Dorothy in turn, for the word passed around amongst them that she could be trusted to do them no harm. For the horse, whose soft nose Dorothy often gently stroked, told the cow of her kindness, and the cow told the dog, and the dog told the cat, and the cat told her black kitten, and the black kitten told the rabbit when one day they met in the turnip patch.
Therefore when the rabbit, which is the most timid of all animals and the most difficult to get acquainted with, looked out of a small bush at the edge of the wood one day and saw Dorothy standing a little way off, he did not scamper away, as is his custom, but sat very still and met the gaze of her sweet eyes boldly, although perhaps his heart beat a little faster than usual.
Dorothy herself was afraid she might frighten him away, so she kept very quiet for a time, leaning silently against a tree and smiling encouragement at her timorous companion until the rabbit became reassured and blinked his big eyes at her thoughtfully. For he was as much interested in the little girl as she in him, since it was the first time he had dared to meet a person face to face.
Finally Dorothy ventured to speak, so she asked, very softly and slowly,
"Oh, Little Bun Rabbit, so soft and so shy, Say, what do you see with your big, round eye?"
"Many things," answered the rabbit, who was pleased to hear the girl speak in his own language; "in summer-time I see the clover-leaves that I love to feed upon and the cabbages at the end of the farmer's garden. I see the cool bushes where I can hide from my enemies, and I see the dogs and the men long before they can see me, or know that I am near, and therefore I am able to keep out of their way."
"Is that the reason your eyes are so big?" asked Dorothy.
"I suppose so," returned the rabbit; "you see we have only our eyes and our ears and our legs to defend ourselves with. We cannot fight, but we can always run away, and that is a much better way to save our lives than by fighting."
"Where is your home, bunny?" enquired the girl.
"I live in the ground, far down in a cool, pleasant hole I have dug in the midst of the forest. At the bottom of the hole is the nicest little room you can imagine, and there I have made a soft bed to rest in at night. When I meet an enemy I run to my hole and jump in, and there I stay until all danger is over."
"You have told me what you see in summer," continued Dorothy, who was greatly interested in the rabbit's account of himself, "but what do you see in the winter?"
"In winter we rabbits," said Bunny so shy, "Keep watch to see Santa go galloping by."
"And do you ever see him?" asked the girl, eagerly.
"Oh, yes; every winter. I am not afraid of him, nor of his reindeer. And it is such fun to see him come dashing along, cracking his whip and calling out cheerily to his reindeer, who are able to run even swifter than we rabbits. And Santa Claus, when he sees me, always gives me a nod and a smile, and then I look after him and his big load of toys which he is carrying to the children, until he has galloped away out of sight. I like to see the toys, for they are so bright and pretty, and every year there is something new amongst them. Once I visited Santa, and saw him make the toys."
"Oh, tell me about it!" pleaded Dorothy.
"It was one morning after Christmas," said the rabbit, who seemed to enjoy talking, now that he had overcome his fear of Dorothy, "and I was sitting by the road-side when Santa Claus came riding back in his empty sleigh. He does not come home quite so fast as he goes, and when he saw me he stopped for a word.
"'You look very pretty this morning, Bun Rabbit,' he said, in his jolly way; 'I think the babies would love to have you to play with.'
"'I do n't doubt it, your honor,' I answered; 'but they 'd soon kill me with handling, even if they did not scare me to death; for babies are very rough with their playthings.'
"'That is true,' replied Santa Claus; 'and yet you are so soft and pretty it is a pity the babies can't have you. Still, as they would abuse a live rabbit I think I shall make them some toy rabbits, which they cannot hurt; so if you will jump into my sleigh with me and ride home to my castle for a few days, I 'll see if I can't make some toy rabbits just like you."
"Of course I consented, for we all like to please old Santa, and a minute later I had jumped into the sleigh beside him and we were dashing away at full speed toward his castle. I enjoyed the ride very much, but I enjoyed the castle far more; for it was one of the loveliest places you could imagine. It stood on the top of a high mountain and is built of gold and silver bricks, and the windows are pure diamond crystals. The rooms are big and high, and there is a soft carpet upon every floor and many strange things scattered around to amuse one. Santa Claus lives there all alone, except for old Mother Hubbard, who cooks the meals for him; and her cupboard is never bare now, I can promise you! At the top of the castle there is one big room, and that is Santa's work-shop, where he makes the toys. On one side is his work-bench, with plenty of saws and hammers and jack-knives; and on another side is the paint-bench, with paints of every color and brushes of every size and shape. And in other places are great shelves, where the toys are put to dry and keep new and bright until Christmas comes and it is time to load them all into his sleigh.
"After Mother Hubbard had given me a good dinner, and I had eaten some of the most delicious clover I have ever tasted, Santa took me up into his work-room and sat me upon the table.
"'If I can only make rabbits half as nice as you are,' he said, 'the little ones will be delighted.' Then he lit a big pipe and began to smoke, and soon he took a roll of soft fur from a shelf in a corner and commenced to cut it out in the shape of a rabbit. He smoked and whistled all the time he was working, and he talked to me in such a jolly way that I sat perfectly still and allowed him to measure my ears and my legs so that he could cut the fur into the proper form.
"'Why, I 've got your nose too long, Bunny,' he said once; and so he snipped a little off the fur he was cutting, so that the toy rabbit's nose should be like mine. And again he said, 'Good gracious! the ears are too short entirely!' So he had to get a needle and thread and sew on more fur to the ears, so that they might be the right size. But after a time it was all finished, and then he stuffed the fur full of sawdust and sewed it up neatly; after which he put in some glass eyes that made the toy rabbit look wonderfully life-like. When it was all done he put it on the table beside me, and at first I did n't know whether I was the live rabbit or the toy rabbit, we were so much alike.
"'It 's a very good job,' said Santa, nodding his head at us pleasantly; 'and I shall have to make a lot of these rabbits, for the little children are sure to be greatly pleased with them.'
"So he immediately began to make another, and this time he cut the fur just the right size, so that it was even better than the first rabbit.
"'I must put a squeak in it,' said Santa.
"So he took a box of squeaks from a shelf and put one into the rabbit before he sewed it up. When it was all finished he pressed the toy rabbit with his thumb, and it squeaked so naturally that I jumped off the table, fearing at first the new rabbit was alive. Old Santa laughed merrily at this, and I soon recovered from my fright and was pleased to think the babies were to have such pretty playthings.
"'After this,' said Santa Claus, 'I can make rabbits without having you for a pattern; but if you like you may stay a few days longer in my castle and amuse yourself."
"I thanked him and decided to stay. So for several days I watched him making all kinds of toys, and I wondered to see how quickly he made them, and how many new things he invented.
"'I almost wish I was a child,' I said to him one day, 'for then I too could have playthings.'
"'Ah, you can run about all day, in summer and in winter, and enjoy yourself in your own way,' said Santa; 'but the poor little children are obliged to stay in the house in the winter and on rainy days in the summer, and then they must have toys to amuse them and keep them contented."
"I knew this was true, so I only said, admiringly, 'You must be the quickest and the best workman in all the world, Santa.'
"'I suppose I am,' he answered; 'but then, you see, I have been making toys for hundreds of years, and I make so many it is no wonder I am skillful. And now, if you are ready to go home, I 'll hitch up the reindeer and take you back again.'
"'Oh, no,' said I, 'I prefer to run by myself, for I can easily find the way and I want to see the country.'
"'If that is the case,' replied Santa, 'I must give you a magic collar to wear, so that you will come to no harm.'
"So, after Mother Hubbard had given me a good meal of turnips and sliced cabbage, Santa Claus put the magic collar around my neck and I started for home. I took my time on the journey, for I knew nothing could harm me, and I saw a good many strange sights before I got back to this place again."
"But what became of the magic collar?" asked Dorothy, who had listened with breathless interest to the rabbit's story.
"After I got home," replied the rabbit, "the collar disappeared from around my neck, and I knew Santa had called it back to himself again. He did not give it to me, you see; he merely let me take it on my journey to protect me. The next Christmas, when I watched by the road-side to see Santa, I was pleased to notice a great many of the toy rabbits sticking out of the loaded sleigh. The babies must have liked them, too, for every year since I have seen them amongst the toys.
"Santa never forgets me, and every time he passes he calls out, in his jolly voice,
"'A merry Christmas to you, Bun Rabbit! The babies still love you dearly.'"
The Rabbit paused, and Dorothy was just about to ask another question when Bunny raised his head and seemed to hear something coming.
"What is it?" enquired the girl.
"It 's the farmer's big shepherd dog," answered the Rabbit, "and I must be going before he sees me, or I shall shall [both shalls in original] have to run for my life. So good bye, Dorothy; I hope we shall meet again, and then I will gladly tell you more of my adventures."
The next instant he had sprung into the wood, and all that Dorothy could see of him was a gray streak darting in and out amongst the trees.