The only persons in the house this June afternoon were the old man, Juniper the dog, and Yulee, and Bo, Robin, Benjy's grandchildren. Their father and mother had gone out for the afternoon and would not be back until after tea; the boys were at work at the other end of the farm, and so the children had been left in care of their grandfather and the servant-maids. But Benjy had gone to sleep, and the servants had taken the time to pay a visit to the next farmhouse. The children however did not notice this; they were sitting on the door-step at the back of the house, at the opposite end of the passage to where their grandfather was. They enjoyed the wind that was blowing through so pleasantly, and Yulee was reading aloud from a book to her brother Bo. Yulee was eight years old; her real name was Julia, but no one but the school mistress ever called her so. Bo, short for Robert, was two years younger and wanted to do everything that Yulee did. Wherever Yulee was, there you would be sure to find Bo. He followed her about as faithfully as a chicken does her mother, and Yulee treated him very much as a hen does its only chicken.
The book they were reading was called "The Castaways," and Bo was listening to Yulee with the greatest attention. At last, just as the great clock in the hall struck three, Yulee finished; she had skipped some of the parts, especially the hard names and Miss Keenmark's science, but she had read the book through and Bo had heard most of it.
"Bo!" said she, as she shut the book, "I'd like to be a castaway, wouldn't you? It would be so fine to live on the top of a rock and have to go up a rope ladder, and keep goats, and save the lives of Africans, and sleep in an ox-cart!"
"Oh, but the lions!" said Bo, "and the—and the—what are those big things that live in the water, and most swallowed the canoe?—you know."
"I know what you mean," said Yulee. "The hippopotamuses. I said the word all the way going to school yesterday, so as to remember it."
"I shouldn't like them," said Bo.
"Oh, but one of the men would fire right into his mouth, just as Albert did. I'll find the place;" and turning over the leaves of the book, she came to the story, and read:—"But they had not been long seated when a tremendous shock was felt; the light canoe was thrown above the water, and capsized in a moment; and Albert, who was standing at the stern of the raft, watching the boat, saw, to his great horror, the huge head of a hippopotamus raised above the water, preparing to seize the canoe with its red open mouth. Calling for aid, he seized his gun and fired in the face of the ferocious beast, which with terrific roars, dived down and disappeared."
"But who'd you have to shoot the—pippi—what is it?" asked Bo.
"The hippopotamus," said Yulee, who liked to pronounce the word; "why, of course, there must be some men wrecked with me: there's the captain, and the doctor, and carpenter, and the passengers—"
"A'n't girls ever wrecked alone?" asked Bo; Yulee thought a minute; she tried to recollect the different stories she had read about people who were cast away. "No;" she said finally, "there is always the captain, and the doctor, and the carpenter, and some of the passengers at least; and the carpenter finds his chest."
Bo had nothing to say against such a mode of shipwrecking, and Yulee continued: "But I think I'd rather be cast away on an island like Robinson Crusoe or The Little Robinson, where there was water all around, and canoes and pearls, just as it is in 'The Swiss Family.'" "Bo!" she said suddenly, "I do declare! let's be cast away on the island in the lake! We can get into the boat, you know, and be wrecked on the shore, and you can take your bow and arrows, and I'll take my tea-set and my range, and we'll build a little house, and perhaps there are some goats on the island! Wouldn't it be grand!"
Bo opened his brown eyes wide at the idea. "Well let's do it!" said he; it was enough for him that Yulee had proposed it; "I'll go right off and get my bow and arrows."
"And I'll get my tea-set and the range, and I'll take Miss Phely," said Yulee. They jumped up from the flat door-step, and ran into the house, and up stairs to the play-room. There they began collecting what they thought they should need, and Yulee very soon pounced on Miss Phely who was in the corner of the room, sitting very stiffly upon a small willow rocking chair. Miss Phely's face originally was black, but rather streaked with a doubtful colour now, as it had been washed somewhat vigorously at different times; her eyes were blue and very wide open, and her dress, which wanted a pin behind, was of spotted pink calico. Her arms she held rather stiffly away from her clothes, and her fingers were stretched as far apart as they well could be. Yulee was in a hurry, and took her up unceremoniously by the waist, but Miss Phely did not seem at all disturbed, and did not even wink or shut her fingers together.
They hurried down stairs and out by the front door, passing on tip-toe by their grandfather, Old Benjy Robin, who slept soundly in his chair, with his cane between his knees and the bandanna thrown over his head to keep away the flies. Even Juniper, the dog, never woke up, though Yulee was strongly tempted to add him to the party of castaways. They passed through the garden gate, and crossing the road walked through the pasture, down the path that led to the shore of Clearwater. There, tied to a stake, was their father's flat-bottomed boat, with keel-boats near by. Yulee chose the flat-bottomed boat, and they proceeded to put on board their various stores.
First, and head foremost, Miss Phely was deposited upon one of the seats; if her head had been less hard it must have disliked the wooden pillow that it was knocked down upon. After her came the box of cups and saucers, tea-pot, sugar-bowl and creamer; then some of Miss Phely's clothes, in case a change were desirable; a little Shaker basket, never before used, which Yulee said was for berries; the bow and arrows; a pail for the goats' milk; a tin pump with a trough attached to it; little Bo carrying a pop-gun which was too valuable to be suffered out of his hands; and lastly, Yulee holding in one hand "The Castaways," to refer to in case of need, and in the other the most precious thing of all to her—a little complete leaden range with places for every thing, which had been given her for a present on her last birth-day, and in which it had ever since been her secret but firm determination to build a real fire. The range was altogether too valuable to be laid on the seat like Miss Phely, so Yulee kept it in her hands; and she had not forgotten either—prudent Yulee! to bring some matches wrapped up in a piece of newspaper, and which she kept her eyes on constantly, as they lay in the range, expecting every moment to see them start a-fire; indeed, they kept her very uneasy. However, everything was now aboard.
"Here, Bo," said she, "you sit down there, side of Miss Phely, and don't let her tumble overboard, and I'll go and untie the rope." Bo began to be a little frightened, but he had faith in Yulee, and Yulee had great faith in herself. When she had untied the end of the rope that was in the boat—and very hard work she found it—she said:
"Now we're off, Bo! are you all ready?"
"Yes," said Bo.
"No; you must say, 'aye aye, sir!'" said Yulee.
"But you a'n't sir," said Bo.
"Yes I am," said Yulee, "I'm the Captain;" and she took her seat in the middle of the boat, where she said the Captain always sat. "This ship is the Little Madras, Bo," said she. "Where's 'The Castaways'? I'll read about it." So she read how all the party, after their first shipwreck in the Madras, had embarked again in the ship's long boat, which the Captain called the Little Madras.
"Are there any of those big animals here? you know that long name," asked Bo.
"Hippopotamuses?" said Yulee, promptly, delighted at the opportunity of using the word. "Oh, no! there are no hippopotamuses in Clearwater; the hippopotamuses only live in Africa."
"You never saw one, did you?" said Bo, who didn't like to use the word.
"No," said Yulee. "I never saw a hippopotamus, but I've seen an elephant in the menagerie and I guess it's something like it. There's a picture of one in the Castaways," and she showed it to Bo.
While they were talking, the wind and the current had been gently drifting the boat away from the shore; they were quite a distance from the stake now, and really going toward the island, which lay in the lake not very far off. They had never been there for their father said there was nothing to see on it; but Yulee was very certain in her own mind that there was something on the island very wonderful. She had made up a great many stories about it, which she had told over to herself so often that she believed them as much as if some one else had told them to her. She was sure that there were goats there at any rate and possibly a parrot; and she was ready to believe in a cave, and perhaps even a small mountain with a rope ladder up to the top like the one in "the Castaways," though she rather thought she would have seen that if there had been one, from the shore. The island could not be seen from the house, nor from the boat-landing; it was round a curve in the lake.
The boat followed the current which led it slowly toward the island, and Yulee was in ecstacies as they neared the shore. She sat in the bows of the boat looking eagerly toward the island and trying to make out a good place for a cave. But the land looked rather unpromising; it was low, rising but little above the water, and covered with grass, a few low bushes and one clump of trees. The boat did not seem able to get much nearer the island, after it was within a few yards of it, and even appeared to be drifting away. Yulee noticed this and began to be alarmed lest they should not be cast away after all.
"Why don't we get wrecked?" asked Bo at this juncture, leaning over the boat side and looking into the water which was hardly a foot deep here.
"There ought to be a great wind," explained Yulee, "and a storm, and the ship ought to go to pieces, and then we should be thrown on shore, and in the morning we should go out to the wreck and get the carpenter's chest and all sorts of things; at least that's the way it usually happens, but we're in a boat you see, and that makes a difference. I think, Bo," she added, "you'd better take off your shoes and stockings, and get out and pull the boat ashore, or we never shall get there."
So Bo rolled up his trousers, and with some difficulty got over the side of the boat into the water. The boat moved easily, and Bo in great glee pulled it to the island, to a place where there was a little beach, till the bottom of the boat grated on the gravel.
"Here we are!" said Yulee. "Now, Bo, we must get the things ashore before the Little Madras goes to pieces." Bo stood on the beach by the boat while Yulee handed to him the various stores and provisions, not forgetting Miss Phely, who was still as wide awake as ever, staring before her without winking and keeping her fingers stiffly apart in the same uncomfortable fashion. Bo took her by the arm and tossed her upon the ground in a very unfeeling manner. Last of all came Yulee, holding fast her precious range and dividing her attention between the dangerous matches and the disembarking from the boat.
"Now, is the Little Madras going to pieces?" asked Bo.
"It ought to," said Yulee, "or else it will drift away in the night time. We'll tie it here, though, because you know we may want to sail round our island, and I don't see any log of wood here to make a boat out of as Robinson Crusoe did. Where's the rope, Bo?" she said, as she looked round in vain for it in order to tie the boat to the shore.
"You untied it," said he.
"So I did," said she, "but I must have untied the wrong end. Well, I guess the boat will stay here." Secretly Yulee hoped the boat wouldn't stay; it would be so much more like a real wreck.
"Now, the first thing we must do," said Yulee, "is to explore our island and see if there are any savages on it. You give me the bow and arrows and take your gun, and if you see a savage you mustn't fire at him, but must wait a moment to see if he won't come and kneel down and be your slave."
Bo was frightened at this; he wasn't prepared for savages. "Do you really think, Yulee," said he, "that there are savages here?"
"I don't know," said she, "I've never been here before, but it's best to be prepared. Don't you be afraid, Bobo," she added encouragingly; "you know we can take to the boat if they chase us, and they'll fire darts, but the darts will fall into the water all around us, and won't hit us at all."
"Do you think it's safe, Yulee, to leave the things so on the beach?" asked Bo, as they started off on their tour of discovery.
"Oh, yes," said she, "nobody will touch them, they never do; besides, I've got the range with me." To be sure, she had the range in one hand, but she had left the matches upon the beach as causing too much anxiety. Thus they set off. Yulee with the range and the bow and arrows, and Bo with his pop-gun. It did not take long to explore the island; it was only about an acre in all, and irregular in shape. They came to the clump of trees but did not dare go in, though Yulee was pretty sure that the cave must be in there. They left that, however, for a future tour, and came back without further adventure to their landing place, where they found their stores safe upon the beach, but the boat to Bo's consternation had drifted off from the shore, and was now some distance away, floating down the Lake.
"Oh, Yulee!" said he, "what shall we do I see the boat is gone!"
"That is all right," said she cheerfully. "I wouldn't have been half so much of a wreck if the boat had stayed. A'n't you glad we have got all the things out? The next thing we must do is to build a house."
"I'm hungry," said Bo.
"Then we'll have dinner first," said she. "We'll have strawberries to-day, but to-morrow we'll have fish, or you can shoot a goat."
"But there a'n't any goats," said Bo.
"Yes there are; they're in the cave in the clump of trees yonder." Bo couldn't dispute that, but he demurred as to going in there to shoot them. At present, however, they satisfied themselves with eating strawberries, which were very plentiful upon the island.
When they had eaten their strawberries, and had become quite crimson about the mouth and finger-tips, they returned to the landing-place, where Miss Phely had been keeping watch over the stores. She had been placed in a sitting posture, leaning against a stone, and looking out upon Clearwater as wide awake as when she had been put into the boat, and with her arms and fingers extended as if she were delivering an oration. She paid not the slightest attention to the valuables placed under her guard. Bo began to look about for stones to throw into the water while Yulee thought it a good time to attend to Miss Phely's toilet; so she set busily to work changing her frock; when she had finished this to her satisfaction and was debating whether it would be well to wash her face also, she remembered suddenly, what she had forgotten for the while, that she was a cast away.
"Bo!" she cried, "we ought to be building our house."
"What shall we make it of?" said he. She reflected a moment.
"Sometimes they build them of trees and sometimes of skins; the best way is to have a cave. I wish we had a cave, Bo. I've half a mind to try those trees. Will you go in if I will?"
"Ye-es," said Bo, hesitatingly; "but you must go in first."
"Let's make a fire first in the range and have some tea," said Yulee, who could not quite get up courage enough to go in among the trees.
"Oh, do! that'll be fine!" said Bo, joyfully. It was a very important business, this making a fire in the range. Yulee had long been looking forward to it, and now that she was really about to have the fire she proceeded very cautiously, Bo standing ready to help her and peering anxiously into the process. The range was precisely like a real range, only it was very small, and was made of lead instead of iron. It had a grate in the middle for the fire and a place underneath to hold the ashes; it had ovens at the sides; it had flues and dampers and a chimney piece, and even a place in front to heat irons on; moreover, it was furnished with a full set of pots and pans and kettles. In fact it was complete, and in Yulee's opinion, only needed a fire in the grate, real smoke coming out of the chimney, and a kettle of water boiling over it, to make it the most wonderful and perfect thing that ever had been conceived.
Now she set about preparing the fire. First she laid in the newspaper in which she had brought the matches; then Bo was sent off for leaves and came back with some very green grass and leaves of different sorts. Yulee put these very carefully above the paper, and on top of them she laid some twigs that she had broken up into bits, and now the fire was all ready to be lighted.
"Now, Bo," said she, "we must have the water in the kettle and on the range before we light the fire." So Bo took the pump to the lake side and filled it with water, and then hanging the kettle under the nose of the pump, he jerked the pump handle and made the water come plashing out into the kettle. He could have filled the kettle much easier by simply dipping it in the lake, but it would not have been near so good fun. However, it was full of water, and Yulee carefully set it in its place upon the range. Everything now was ready for the fire. Bo held his breath as he leaned on his hands and knees, eagerly watching Yulee while she proceeded to handle the dangerous matches. She took one in her hand and was just about rubbing it on a stone, when she stopped.
"Bo!" she said, "I think we had better set the table first for tea."
"Why, no!" said he, "mother always sets the table after she has set the kettle a boiling."
"But I shall want to watch the fire," said Yulee.—"Yes, I think we had better set the table first." So the match was laid down to Bo's grief, and Yulee proceeded to unpack the box containing her tea-set. They chose for a table a flat rock sunken in the sand, and just the right size. On this they arranged the cups and saucers, and tea-pot and sugar-bowl and creamer.
"We ought to have some real sugar," said Bo.
"So we ought," said Yulee. "There ought to be some in the ship's stores," she added. "They generally find a box of sugar on the beach, a little damaged by the water. At least I believe they did in Swiss Family Robinson."
"Did they in 'The Castaways?'" asked Bo.
"No," said Yulee, "but you know they weren't exactly wrecked the second time—Dr. Cameron went out to the ship when the rest were on shore, and brought back some things—I think there was sugar; let me see—here it is," and she read:—
"When the watering-boat touched the coast, Dr. Cameron went up and courteously requested to be allowed to return in it, as the ladies had forgotten some little necessaries, and he proposed to bring out their own boat, the Little Madras, to enable them to procure these trifles as well as the cooking-apparatus which would be useful if they were detained a few days on shore." Mum, mum, mum. "They succeeded in lowering their own boat, with its oars, and by Marshall's advice, brought from their property the carpenter's chest, disguised under the covering of a travelling trunk, with the powder and shot, ropes and straps, which had been left in the hold of their boat; but every morsel of provision, biscuit, wine and flour had been removed, and could not be found. Dr. Cameron had fortunately locked up his cabin before he left the vessel, and was able to remove his own private property consisting of a bag of coffee, a loaf of sugar, and a chest which contained his valuable medical stores, all of which he now placed in the boat."
Our castaways, however, had to content themselves like some of their betters with sand for sugar, which they put in the sugar bowl, and then filled the creamer with water, though Yulee declared that some time they would find the goats and milk them. The table was now set and Miss Phely was given a place by it, where she sat, still looking out on the water in an abstracted way, and keeping her hands away from her clean frock. She had none of the friskiness commonly belonging to black children; she was anything but a Topsy.
Nothing now remained to be done but to light the fire and make the tea. Again Yulee took a match and Bo stooped down, breathlessly watching the operation. "Ritzch!" went the match and Yulee held it between the bars of the range to light the fire; it didn't seem to burn very well though there was considerable smoke; in fact, the match after burning to the edge of Yulee's fingers went out, and the fire was not yet fairly kindled. Yulee tried another match with about the same success, only a little more smoke.
"Burn a lot at a time," suggested Bo. So she took a bunch of six and got them into a fine blaze. Bo was still peering anxiously while Yulee with her face very red, and her sun-bonnet fallen back, held the bunch of matches between the bars; she tried them first between two and then between another two. All at once something hot fell upon her hand; she dropped the matches in the pan that was to hold the ashes and clapping her other hand upon the spot, began hopping up and down with the pain but determined not to cry.
"Why! what is the matter?" said Bo, in great surprise. Yulee didn't dare trust herself to speak—she was so afraid she might cry, but uncovered her hand to show him, and there they both saw—for she had not looked at it herself yet,—a shining spot as large as a three cent piece, and that looked like silver.
"Why!" exclaimed Yulee.
"Oh!" said Bo.
Yulee forgot her pain for a moment. How did it get there? what was it? she touched it and found that it came off easily. It was irregular at the edges, looking in fact like a spatter of silver.
"What is it?" asked Bo.
"What can it be?" said Yulee. "It looks like silver." She looked toward the range to see if that could explain it. Then she burst into a loud cry.
"Oh, Bo! Oh, Bo!" said she, "the range! the range!" Alas, the matches that had been dropped into the ash-pan, had burnt on and flamed up, melting the lead bars, the first drop from which had burnt poor Yulee's hand. The sticks in the grate had fallen through with the heap of matches, and catching fire, the melting had gone on until now the beautiful range was a sad sight to behold. The kettle just then gave way, and tipping up, spilled the water over, which hissed on the molten lead and caused a great smoke to rise from the burning embers.
Yulee and Bo gazed wofully on the ruin before them. It was too hot at first to touch, and they stood for some time in front of it, looking at the odd shapes that the melting lead had taken. If it had not been for that, they would have been much worse off; but the drops of lead were so curious and looked so much like animals and pieces of silver, that they almost forgot for the time their great loss. But they soon remembered it again and looked sadly at the range.
"Don't you suppose it can be mended?" said Bo.
"I don't know," said Yulee shaking her head, "I don't believe it can. What will mother say!"
"Yulee!" said Bo, suddenly, "I think we ought to pump on it so as to put the fire out." So he ran for his pump which had not been emptied in filling the kettle, and though the trough was somewhat in the way, he managed to spill out the rest of the water on to the hot range, while Yulee brought the cream-jug and emptied its contents also on it. By this time the range was pretty cool and they could handle it; but it was in a sad state, quite melted out.
Yulee tried to solace herself with making tea for Miss Phely; but it was miserable comfort to make tea with cold water that had not even made believe boil as usual on the wonderful range. As for Miss Phely, she was as unconcerned as ever, and seemed equally indifferent whether the water were hot or cold, or even whether the tea were made or not, and sat staring out upon the lake.
* * * * *
But June afternoons, long as they are, have an end at last; and this afternoon was drawing to a close. In the eagerness of making the fire, the little Castaways had not noticed how late it was growing, but now, when they were so disappointed and were sitting with Miss Phely disconsolately by the rock, they saw that the sun had set, and that evening was closing in.
Yes, the night was coming; they had hardly thought of this before and were not at all prepared for it. But it was still warm, for the June afternoon lingers long and far into the evening. Then they fell to eating strawberries again, for make-believe tea where everything is water and sand is not very satisfactory. After the strawberrying they came back to the shore again, and little Bo, now quite disheartened began to make a noise which sounded a little like crying, it was a whimper; but Yulee was brave and kept her courage up, and began telling Bo stories which she had read about people who had been cast away upon islands; but somehow or other she always seemed to remember best the parts where they were attacked by savages and wild beasts, and especially by her favourite hippopotamus. So that Bo only grew more terrified and as it became darker began to fancy he heard animals around them, and once actually thought he saw a great hippopotamus with open jaws coming out of Clearwater toward them. Yulee tried to read "The Castaways," but it soon became too dark. Yet she wouldn't give in to fear, but kept her courage stoutly.
"Bo," said she, "it's getting dark and I think it must be time to put Miss Phely to bed."
"I want to go to bed," said Bo. "I want to go to mother!" and little Bo cried now without any doubt. Yulee bravely kept back her tears and tried to comfort Bo, who soon began to take an interest in the unrobing of Miss Phely, who was put to bed on a very uncomfortable rock—the very one in fact at which she had sat for her tea; but it made no difference to her; she went to sleep with her eyes as wide open as ever.
When this was over, Yulee, never at a loss, began to sing for Bo's amusement and her own comfort. She sang all the songs she knew just as they came into her head. "There is a happy land," "Three little kittens." "Pop goes the weasel," "The sunday-school," and some others which I have forgotten. Would you believe it? Bo fell fast asleep with his head in her lap. Then Yulee felt less badly; before she had been troubled about Bo, but now that he was asleep, leaning so upon her, she felt a courage at having one depending upon her whom she must never desert, no, not even if a hippopotamus, as she said, were to come toward them.
But no hippopotamus came; instead of that, she saw a boat with a light twinkling in it, come rowing down the lake toward the island. The house and the boat-landing could not be seen from the island, because as I said, there was a point of land jutting out, and because the lake too makes a bend. Yulee was singing the song about the little robins as the boat came round the point. She was singing the line
"And what will the robins do then, poor things!"
And looked up at that moment, just as her father catching the sound of her voice—called out:
"There she is! bless her little soul, singing about the robins! Yulee!"
"Here I am, father," said the little Castaway. "Bo, wake up! here's father." Bo gave a sort of snuffle and went to sleep again. The boat with a few pulls was now brought up to the island, and John Robin jumping out, while the boys sat in the boat caught up Yulee and Bo in his arms.
"I've a good mind to give you a good whipping on the spot, you little runaways!" said he; but he did no such thing; perhaps he thought he would leave that to their mother. Bo opened his eyes and blinked in the light of the lanterns, but went right to sleep again on his father's shoulder.
"We didn't run away," said Yulee, "we were cast away in the Little Madras."
"Where's the boat, Yulee?" asked one of her brothers.
"Oh that was washed away of course," said she.
"Why of course?"
"Why, they always are," said she, "and they make new ones out of logs."
"Why didn't you make one out of a log, then?" he asked laughing. But Yulee was too busy collecting her treasures to answer his foolish question. She got them all safely on board at last, Miss Phely being unceremoniously huddled into the boat without waiting to be dressed. Now Yulee was reminded of her poor unfortunate range; but she said nothing about it, only gathering up its ruins and taking especial care of it.
Yulee was very talkative at first, but her father was grave and silent, and her brothers teased her, so that she soon stopped talking and began wondering in her mind how she ever was to get the range mended, and whether there was a cave in the grove of trees which she was very sorry now she had not explored; she secretly determined to make a second trip to the island for that purpose as soon as possible.
But when they came to the shore and walked up to the house, and when Yulee found her mother half wild with thinking she had been drowned, and her grandfather, old Benjy Robin, crooning in his arm-chair and saying he had been the death of them,—she began to think it was not so fine, and lay down that night penitently in her little bed and promised over and over never to be cast away again. As for Bo, he would do just as Yulee said, but he privately resolved never to follow her to sea at any rate. Even Miss Phely appeared so much the worse for her knocking about that I think she must have been better satisfied with her corner in the nursery; but as for repenting of her folly or blaming Yulee, I never heard of her doing so. She always looked contented and indifferent.
A Faery Surprise Party.
A Faery Surprise Party.
My name is Jack Frost, and I have a story to tell. If you don't know who I am, ask my friend North East Wind, Esq., and he will tell you, and whistle a tune which he made up about me. I am Painter to her Beauty Mab, Queen of the Faeries. She gives me plenty of work to do; in the summer-time I go North, like other artists, to take sketches, but when the winter comes then I come back and paint my pictures. I paint chiefly on glass, though sometimes on pottery, the night is the time I like best to work in, for in the day-time the sun tries to put some colour into the paintings, which spoils them; white is the only colour I ever use.
I was going to tell you, however, a story about what I saw the other night. Queen Mab sent a snow-flake to me with a message. I was to paint eight large squares of glass in a certain window of a certain house. I might paint what I chose only it must be done in good season, for the Queen was to visit the painting when it was finished. So I was at the glass and at work early—'twas only a little after sundown; my friend, North East Wind, jolly old fellow! was whistling a tune right merrily as I handled my brush.
There was a light inside the room, and I could see everything that was going on there; I could hear everything too, for there was a crack in one of the panes of glass; these cracks spoil my paintings—I never can make any mark on the glass close to them—but how ever, here was this crack, and I could make out through it everything that was going on. A nurse was putting a little girl named Milly to bed, and they talked incessantly. Milly was to have a party the next day, which was her sixth birth-day; it was to be her first party. All things had been made ready for it; she had had a new dress, white with red spots like wafers all over it, and she was to wear a red sash and bronze kid slippers. Twelve little girls had been invited, but only eleven were sure to come; Susan Peabody was sick, and might not be there.
All this I heard, and I saw Milly tucked up in bed and left to go to sleep. Then I worked with a will, for I had no time to spare. I begged my jolly friend, N. E. Wind, to be off with himself, as he interrupted my work. So he gave one long wheugh! and away he went.
At twelve o'clock my painting was done. It was the best piece I had done in a long while; one square of glass in particular was superb, though I say it that ought not say it. It was a picture of the palace of Queen Mab; towers and spires were there, hung with crystal bells; the castle was set round with trees, some slim, shooting up above the towers, some stunted throwing out their branches in every direction. The whole glittered most brilliantly. There was a network over all, as if a spider had spun silver threads in front of it. I very often put that on afterwards to add to the effect, though my friend North East Wind pooh-poohs at it; but he knows nothing about art.
It was twelve o'clock, as I said, and the moon was shining brightly; as it rose higher, a moon-beam passed through the window, and through the very square of glass that I had taken such pains with. It passed like a carriage-way right by the great door of the Queen's palace, while the other end rested on the bed where Milly was sleeping. I was standing on the window sash, just touching up the work a little, when, all of a sudden, what should I see but her Beauty Queen Mab with eleven attendants; she came out of the great door of the palace I had painted—that was the finest effect of all.
She got into her sleigh which is made of a dove-feather, curling up in front, and which is drawn by twelve lady birds: the lady birds all had on robes of caterpillar fuz to keep them warm. The retinue of eleven Faeries were all riding on milk-white steeds of dandelion-down. The Queen held the reins herself, and cracking the whip which is made of a musquito leg, away they went over the moon-beam. The Queen saw me just as they left the palace, and gave me a nod. She is very gracious! It did not take them long to reach the bed, I can tell you, and they reined up at the other end of the moon-beam, which rested on Milly's breast.
I wondered what they were going to do here, but it was very soon evident. It seems the Queen knew of the party Milly was to have, and meant to get the better of her by giving her a surprise party first. So she had brought the eleven Faeries with her—just the number of little girls Milly was to have the next day.
The Queen got out of her sleigh, and tied the ladybirds to the strings of Milly's night-cap, that they might not run away. Then she walked along very carefully till she came to Milly's chin. She climbed up it and rested there for a minute, to get breath, and then went on, until she was safely perched on Milly's red lip, where she was nearly blown away, Milly breathed so hard.
Here she beckoned to the eleven and they, leaving their horses below, all set out to reach Milly's forehead, where she told them to gather. A hard time they had of it, too! some of them tried to get up by the nose, but the wind coming out of two great caves was too strong for them; others more wisely crept round by the corners of the eyes, and scrambled up the precipice there. But those who fared worst were a few who tried to get through the hair. They got lost in the forest, and wandered about for a long time, halloing and trying to find the top. You may wonder why they didn't fly—I suppose you think Faeries always do—but I know better. When winter comes they always take off their wings, and put them carefully away where the moths can not touch them—chiefly in old nut-shells; then in spring, their mantua-makers and milliners, the caterpillars and spiders, get them out and put them in repair, or else make new ones.
However, they all at last safely reached the forehead. That was a fine large play-ground for them—the forest behind, and the hill and precipices below. Here they formed a ring and took hold of hands.
Round the ring run, Pass in and out, Melt into one, Puff! turn about!
cried Queen Mab, and in a twinkling the ring of Faeries was going round and round, till it looked just like a glittering ring, perfectly still; then all in a moment they had stopped, and each Faery in turn ran across the ring, ducked between two Faeries, was back again, then between two more, and so on, till I got perfectly confused, and couldn't tell one from another, they seemed so mixed up; they kept getting more and more in a maze, and nearer and nearer to each other, until it was just one solid ball of Faeries; spinning round like a top; then suddenly the ball seemed to burst, and the Faeries to scatter in every direction, but really there was a perfect ring again, and whirling round in just the opposite direction. And then the same thing was done over again, till I should have thought they would all have been ready to drop.
But that came to an end after a while, for they heard the Queen scream, and they stopped to see what the matter might be. It was nothing, though the Queen was a good deal frightened at first. Milly, who was probably dreaming about them, smiled very prettily in her sleep, and as the lip moved, the Queen perched on it almost lost her balance, and came as near as possible to falling into the pit that was open before her. If she had fallen in, she would have struck against Milly's teeth, and that might have been the death of her. She got over her fright soon, and moved a little farther back to get out of harm's way. This put an end to the dance.
After some games of hide and seek when they hid in the eyebrows and the edge of the forest, they had a Tableau. The subject was "The Faery's Sacrifice." That is a favourite story with them. I myself have painted it on glass. A Faery—so the story runs—was once in great danger from a Musquito; it would certainly have caught her and killed her, though she was winged and flying very swiftly; but just then a horse of dandelion-down came gliding by; she jumped on it and they two together were too swift for the Musquito and she escaped; but they went so fast through the wind that the poor horse lost almost all his down and finally dropped upon the ground from sheer inability to go further. The Faery loved him so for saving her that she pulled out her own wings and fastened them on the horse;—away he went, and she had to creep home as well as she could. But she did right though she suffered for it; she was never sorry, and the story is told by the Faeries to their children. This was the story that they played in the Tableau. There were two scenes; in the first the Faery is just mounting the horse to escape the Musquito—the Musquito of course they had to make believe was there, in the second the horse lies panting on the ground and she is leaning over it weeping. There should have been a third, as there usually is, where she puts the wings on the horse, but they had no material with them for that scene.
Then came a Charade. The word was a very easy one—I guessed it myself—it was Duty. It was divided into two parts; the first was dew. Dew is a drink of the Faeries in summer-time. Half a dozen Faeries sat in a circle. The hat of one of them which was made of a bit of rose-leaf, they twisted and turned till it looked a little like the cup of a violet, though the colour wasn't exact. This they put in the middle; but where was the dew? there was none of course, so one of the Faeries had crept down, got on a dandelion-down horse's back and ridden over the moon-beam to the window. In the crack of the sash he got a wee bit of ice that made part of a drop of water when he held it in his hand. It looked like dew, and he managed to get it safely back without spilling much. This had been put in the hat or pretended violet cup. Each of the Faeries, according to custom, took a spoon in hand and slowly stirred the dew in the cup. The spoons they use are made of pieces of the stamens of different flowers; here they had make-believe spoons made out of bits of hair from Milly's eyebrows. They stirred the dew in the cup, and as they stirred they sang the Dew drinking chorus:—
"The shining Dew in the Violet cup Flows round and round in a silvery flood:— Against the sides we'll dash the dew up,— Then drink! and cool our summer-hot blood."
But though they each in turn lifted the cup, they only pretended to drink, for it was icy cold.
That was for du; next came ty.
This was done thus. They had a marriage-scene. Two little Faeries stood up together, and the one that was to marry them took a hair from each of their heads, and fastening the ends together, made a long string; with this he tied them together in a true-lover knot; for such is the way the Faeries do when they are married.
This was for ty; then came the whole word.
A Faery is seen busily occupied with weaving; she is making a veil for a human maiden which shall keep her from seeing sin; the Faery is singing to herself. Presently up comes a little Brownie—a male Faery that is—most daintily dressed and in the gayest mood. He wants the little weaving Faery to come with him; there is to be a most delicious little gathering in a clover-field on purpose to sip clover-honey—white clover-honey! Now of all things the little busy Faery loves clover-honey; it would be so delightful to be there this charming afternoon. She thinks she will go, but then she remembers the task which the Queen has given her to do—to go would be to disobey. The Brownie still begs, but she is firm—no, she will not go.
That was the whole word—Duty.
All this was very simple; a good many would have thought it very childish, but it pleased the Faeries and it pleased the Queen, and that was enough.
But the party had lasted a long time now—much longer than it has taken me to tell of it. The moon path was of course altered, but it didn't make much matter. The Queen ordered them all to take to their horses, and giving Milly a kiss on her rosy lips, she clambered down and untying the lady birds from the strings of the night-cap got into her sleigh. She cracked her musquito-leg whip, away went the lady birds and they passed through the window—how, I don't know, but I'm sure I saw them do it. The Queen saw me again as she passed out, and nodded to me. I had just time to nod back and they were out of sight.
That is all, and if it's not true then my name isn't Jack Frost; and if you don't believe me, ask North East Wind, who is my friend, and he will tell you the same thing.
The Rock Elephant.
There is a tradition among the Elephants that some one of the race will one day mount up to the sky and dwell among the stars. Once a young elephant thought that he must be the one, for a great stone becoming detached from a cliff fell upon his head. He instantly exclaimed, "I see stars all around me. I am surely the Elephant foretold!" and for a few moments actually thought he must have "gone up;" but those standing by saw him rambling round with uncertain step and laughed at him. When he got over the effects of the blow on his head, he had to acknowledge that he was still upon the earth, though he always solemnly declared that for a few moments he really had been in the sky among the stars. Of course he had not "gone up," and each still continued to hope that he was the one destined to immortality. The Lion, they said, was among the stars, and the Bear and even the senseless Dipper. But none knew that to live among the stars one must go through a great deal of suffering.
There were two Elephants living a long time since who were remarkably sagacious. They were married and it was their earnest desire that their son, if they ever had any, should be the one who should climb the sky and live among the stars. They often talked over the best way of securing this good, and ate up an immense number of different kinds of trees because they had heard that there was a particular kind of tree which, when eaten, would furnish the necessary knowledge. Whether they ever ate the right tree or not it is difficult to say, but one night as they were considering the matter, the father-Elephant noticed a strange light in the north.
"Look, my dear!" said he, "surely the woods are a-fire in the north!"
"Oh!" said she, "it is only the moon rising."
"Hold your trunk!" said he, sharply. "Are you such a camel as not to know that the moon never rises in the north?" But on second thoughts, he added, "I don't think it can be the woods on fire. See! the light is streaming up the sky. How many colours it has!"
"Perhaps it is the rainbow," timidly suggested the mother-Elephant.
"Rainbow! your Grandelephant!" retorted he, contemptuously. They stood looking at the increasing light for some time longer with their trunks elevated, the mother-Elephant wisely refraining from further comment; when suddenly the father-Elephant, in a state of great excitement, began whisking his trunk about, and turning, ran his ivory tusks against the large sides of the mother. It was his way of expressing joy. "Have a care!" said she, impatiently, clumsily avoiding his thrusts. "Do you want to make a hole in me?"
"I have it! I have it!" said he, joyfully. "That is the way to the stars! all we have to do is to reach the foot of these Northern Lights, and then there must be some ascent by them to the stars." Hereupon the Elephant began to dance about as well as he could, and tore up several small trees by the roots in his exultation. The mother-Elephant, however, had her doubts.
"I don't believe," said she, "that we shall be any more likely to reach these lights than I was to get to the foot of the rainbow, which you know I tried once and had the mortification of being laughed at by the monkeys in consequence. Nevertheless, I will do as you say, my dear; you know best."
That very night, accordingly, the two set out in search of the Northern Lights. They travelled for days and weeks. Every once in a while, when they began to get discouraged, the Aurora would appear and they would press on with new hope. At last they came to a very cold country. Here they made enquiries of a polar bear. Now the Polar Bear is generally courteous. Like all the family he is very affectionate and always gives one a hearty embrace upon meeting; but he is not sincere. It so happened that his family also had a story and about these very Northern Lights. The story was, that if one could find the foot of them one would discover an immense hole or pit where one could sleep forever. This was precisely what the polar bears most wanted, and they were forever going north in search of the hole. This particular Polar Bear that the Elephants met was at that very time on his way thither. So he thought to himself, "This will never do. If these immense animals reach the hole—for I'm sure that is what they are going for, the idea of the stars is only an absurd blind—they will occupy all the room." This he said to himself, and then he turned to the Elephants and said in answer to their question as to the most direct road—"You will have to keep to the east for some distance; then you will come to ice; cross it and you will come to land again, after which you can again enquire as I am unable to direct you further; though if you go a little south, and call on my cousins, the Black Bears, they will be very happy to give you any information. Just mention my name to them and it will be sufficient." He knew very well that the Black Bears knew nothing whatever of the matter. What they wished was to find the Great Tree up which they could climb and in which they could burrow. But all that the Polar Bear wanted was to put the Elephants off the track.
They thanked him for his politeness, and followed his directions. They came to the ice which they crossed; and once more they trode on land, but upon a new continent—upon North America, in fact, as it is now called. "I am not so sure about this matter of going south," said the father-Elephant. "It seems to me that we shall be going away from the Northern Lights. I begin to mistrust the Polar Bear."
"But my dear," said the mother-Elephant, "surely the way has been just as he told us; and I could never doubt one so evidently warm-hearted. Besides, don't you think it would be best to get where it is a little warmer? You know we don't propose going ourselves; the journey is taken solely on account of our son not yet born. We might let him grow a little in a warmer country and then conduct him to the Northern Lights."
The father-Elephant would not agree with her; he preferred to have his own way; but finally he said: "I think we will go a little farther South, on the whole. I am not sure but there is an easier way of getting to the North, by taking just a little southerly and then an easterly course." This was a very foolish reason, but it satisfied him. All he wished was to do as he chose and not because his wife advised it. It satisfied her too. All she wanted was to get where it was a little warmer; but she found it hard not to say—"that is just the plan I proposed." She was wise not to say it however.
They had suffered a great deal by this time. So much travel and so much severe weather, had brought sorrow and discomfort to them. They were really thin for Elephants. The father-Elephant had lost much flesh, and his skin hung about him very loosely. They complained too of the trees; they were so stunted and such poor eating. They were, in truth, very miserable. They even began to care but little for the object of their journey. The object was changed in fact. Before, they were only anxious to reach the Northern Lights—the staircase to the stars. Now, all they desired was to reach a warmer place—one like that where they once lived.
At last the father-Elephant, overcome by all his trouble died; but the mother-Elephant sustained by the hope of her unborn son, still pressed toward the South, and rejoiced as the days grew warmer. Finally, she reached a pleasant place where the hills were all about her, and the sun shone warmly. Here was born the young Elephant, the son of the two Elephants who had travelled so far. The mother now felt herself very weak.
"My son," she began with great difficulty, "there is a tradition"—but just as she got through the word, she died, and the young Elephant in vain listened for the rest of the sentence.
"What's a tradition? I wonder," he said to himself. "It must be something to eat, I am excessively hungry." He looked round and saw a birch tree standing by. "Ah! that must be the tradition my mother meant, when she said, 'There is a tradition.' Yes, her trunk is pointing to it." So he pulled up the birch tree and devoured it, as well as he could. The young Elephant continued to wander among the mountains but with no great purpose in life; for he was totally ignorant of the story that one of his race would one day mount to the sky and dwell among the stars, so that he was without that great object before him. Neither did he know how much suffering his father and mother had gone through, that he might be the fortunate Elephant who should ascend the sky. It was spring when he was born. The days grew warmer and warmer and he enjoyed them exceedingly. But after a while the days became shorter and the sun was not so hot.
"What is the meaning of this?" he one day asked of a Black Bear with whom he was somewhat intimate.
"It means," said the Bear gruffly, "that bye-and-bye the sun will go a great way off, the snow will be on the ground; there will be no whortle berries to eat, and I shall go to sleep."
"Dreadful!" said the Elephant. "Is there no way of avoiding such discomfort?"
"None that I know of or care for," said the Bear. "Roll yourself up and go to sleep as I do, and you'll be comfortable enough." But the Elephant despaired of ever rolling himself up; he was growing larger every day and such a proceeding was of course becoming more and more difficult.
"Let us call a council of the animals," said he, "and see what is to be done about it." Now the Elephant was greatly feared in the place. He was so large and powerful. So no animal dared disobey when the Hare whom the Elephant had sent brought the message to them. They assembled about a deep pool. The Elephant opened the meeting by dipping his trunk into the pool and squirting water over all the animals. He thought it was great fun, and they did not dare run away, for they feared his anger.
"The Elephant is very good-natured," whispered the Otter, who cared nothing for the wetting, to the Fox who was shivering under his ducking, and contriving a way of getting off. "You never see a large fat fellow but he is so good-natured. What a joke that was of his to squirt water all over the crowd!"
"V-v-very," chattered the Fox. "It isn't what you call a dry joke, though, is it?"
"What a cunning fellow you are!" said the Otter. "But, holloa, are you going off on the sly?" Yes, surely the Fox was starting away.
"Tell the Elephant," said he, "that I'm off after a partridge. We shall want something to eat after meeting." But he did not come back again. While they were all shivering with the wet, the Elephant wiping the end of his trunk upon some moss, opened his mouth and spake.
"I notice," quoth he, "that it is not as warm as it was, and my friend the Bear at my right hand (here the bear sitting on his hind legs nodded his head and growled,) tells me that it will grow much colder even. It would be a great calamity to all of us, and I have called you together that we may confer as to the best means of avoiding this severe cold that is to come, which my friend the Bear (another growl) calls by the name of winter. You are at liberty to make any suggestions you please."
The Wolf spoke first. "Who cares for the winter?" snarled he. "For my part I think it is great sport. The snow grows very hard, and one glides over the crust so swiftly. Besides, it is easy then to see the footsteps of my little friends," and the Wolf leered round upon the smaller animals. "The winter is grand sport."
"But I could not walk on the crust," said the Elephant, "I am too heavy. No, it will not do at all just to take the winter as you would any other season. We must either prevent the winter or protect ourselves from it. Let us hear the Hare. I am not above listening to him."
The Hare came out trembling and hardly dared open his mouth. His friend the Squirrel, however, stood near and clapped to reassure him. "Go it, Long Ears!" said he, encouragingly. Then the Hare bashfully spoke. "My own course is to make a hole and get into it." Saying this, he hopped back to his seat alarmed that he should have said so much.
"That is very ridiculous!" said the Elephant. "It would be quite absurd to expect me to make a hole and get into it." Just then there was a rustling noise over head, and a dark cloud seemingly passed over them. "What is that?" asked the Elephant. No one answered at first, when the Squirrel came forward in a deferential manner and said: "Please your Bigness, that is a flock of geese flying to the South. They go every winter to keep warm."
"Do they?" said the Elephant. "Why shouldn't I too go South to keep warm?" No one objected to this; they all secretly hoped he would go, except indeed the Wolf, who had been counting on the Elephant falling a prey to him. At last the Squirrel spoke again.
"Please your Bigness, I can show you the way to the South if you wish it."
"Pray what do you know about the South?" asked the Wolf, sneeringly, "How would you go to get there?"
"Follow my tail!" retorted the Squirrel.
"I think I will go to the South," said the Elephant, "and the Squirrel may go with me to show the way. We will start immediately; there is no time to be lost. Stay you all about here till I return." And off he walked, preceded by the Squirrel.
"How thankful I am that he has gone!" said the Hare, "but I wish the Squirrel had not gone with him." The Wolf was savage at the idea of the Elephant's going off and depriving him thus of such a fine winter's provision. He showed his teeth fearfully. And when the night was later, he stole swiftly and silently along the path over which the Elephant and Squirrel had gone. "He will go to sleep," said the Wolf, "and then I will spring upon him." He came up with the Elephant after a while, and found him as he expected fast asleep, with the Squirrel perched on one of his tusks. But the Squirrel kept good watch. He saw the gleaming eyes of the Wolf and knew that he came for no good. Quickly he jumped upon the Elephant's trunk, and running down to the end of it tickled it with his tail. This instantly awoke the Elephant. It was no use now for the Wolf to spring upon him. He could only hope to get the mastery of him if he caught him asleep and off his guard. So the Wolf slunk back into the woods again.
In the morning the Elephant and Squirrel again took up their march. For several days they walked toward the South, until they came one morning to a river that was flowing quietly along. It was not a wide river; it was hardly more than a brook, and one could scarcely hear a sound, it flowed so smoothly. It ran through the forest, its edges skirted with rows of flowers, and its banks cushioned with every variety of moss. There was hardly a large stone in it for the water to eddy about. The Squirrel ran up the Elephant's back, and he in two or three steps waded across. It was not above his knee in any place. Once over on the other side, the Squirrel ran down the Elephant's fore-leg to the ground. The Elephant drank some of the cool water and then amused himself with squirting it about in every direction. He aimed it chiefly at some rocks that lay by the side of the river—rocks of all sizes and shapes. This sport grew tiresome, however, and the Elephant began to look about for some new fun. The rocks again met his eye.
"What fun it would be," said he to the Squirrel, "if I should pitch these rocks into the river." Saying this he twisted his trunk round an immense boulder and flung it into the bed of the stream.
"Oh!" screamed the Squirrel. "Don't do so! you will hurt the river."
"It deserves to be hurt," said the Elephant. "What business has it to flow along without making any noise. I'll teach it to sing." He threw rock after rock into the river, piling them high up in some places. The Squirrel looked on mournfully, and could bear it at last no longer. He ran to the Elephant and looked up into his face.
"Do you remember the first night we left home," said he, "how I prevented the Wolf from killing you? For my sake, then, do not destroy or hurt the river!" At this the Elephant grew very angry.
"Go to the Wolf with your nonsense!" said he, and lifting his heavy foot, he cruelly stepped upon the little Squirrel and crushed him to death. The Elephant was now perfectly fiendish. He raised his trunk in the air and blew a terrible trumpet sound. He hurled rock after rock into the stream. He walked down its side and kept casting in the rocks and stones that lay about so plentifully. The river, when the first stone fell in was shocked by it, and eddied around it in a petulant way. As stone after stone came splashing in, choking its current, the river more loudly complained and remonstrated, but to no purpose. Still the rocks came crushing down, and now the river growing more and more angry, rushed foaming madly along. Over the rocks and between it rushed and roared. The moss on the banks and the tall flowers growing out of it, trembled as the stream rose higher and higher. The Elephant snorted and blew his terrible trumpet, walking up and down, and throwing rocks and trees up-torn by the roots, into the rushing flood. At last the rocks were all thrown in. Not one was left on the banks.
Where now was the beautiful, quiet river? It was turned by the remorseless Elephant into an angry, hateful flood. It was the Mad River. Where was the little Squirrel that had saved the Elephant's life and led him hither, and pleaded for the lovely river that it might be spared? Dead! crushed by the unthankful, cruel Elephant, and swept down the stream that dashed so fiercely along!
* * * * *
The Elephant, after he had done this deed of violence, left Mad River and walked into the woods beyond, cooler in spirit since his anger had spent itself. He began now to reflect upon his conduct. "The river had done nothing to me," he thought, "that I should treat it so harshly. And the Squirrel—I killed the Squirrel, who was my best friend. That was an unkind act." But though the Elephant thus began to blame himself, he never thought of turning back, and undoing as much as he might of the mischief he had done. He kept on his journey and tried to dismiss from his mind such unpleasant thoughts. The Elephant is called good-natured because he is so fat; that may be, but really he is both cruel and cowardly.
He was somewhat fatigued by his angry labours and did not go much further, but coming to a grassy place in the depth of the forest, he lay down and slept. Nightfall came soon after and still he slept. In the depth of the night, when all was still and dark, the sky in the north grew brighter as rays of light shot in quivering ecstasy toward the zenith. It was the Northern Lights—the Aurora Borealis. The parents of this Elephant had long sought it but had never reached it; they had hoped that it would be the staircase up which their son, the Elephant, now asleep, would mount the sky to dwell among the stars. Still he slept, though the light grew clearer and the rays became more distinctly marked. It was now twelve o'clock and deep night. What was that descending the slope of the Auroral Light? Who could tell? Who saw it? Yet the Elephant in his sleep saw it. Down the slope he knew It come—down the staircase which was the way to immortality. Now It hovered near him and thus he heard It speak:—
"Thou hast sinned. The river that flowed so peacefully and carried beauty and joy wherever it ran, thou hast despoiled and rudely ravaged. Thou smotest its breast with terrible rocks; thou wouldst not heed its complaining cry; thou turnedst its peace into mad wrangling. But worse, thou slewest with thine own foot the little one that loved thee and saved thy life from the fierce Wolf. For this the river and the Squirrel shall be avenged. Thou didst choke the river with rocks; thou didst crush the Squirrel with thy foot. Thou shalt thyself become a stone and another shall stand on thy head. Arise!"
The Elephant obeyed trembling. He stood upon his feet. For one moment he saw with his mortal eyes It that had spoken; the next he was blinded by a flash; he saw no more, but he knew that in that instant he was turned into a rock where he was standing. His feet were sunk in the ground and his trunk extended before him was also rooted in the earth. All stone. Where his eyes were, only two slight chinks in the rock remained.
But at the same moment the Elephant heard,—so faintly that he could hardly catch the sound—a last word from the voice:—
"Thus, but not forever. A Deliverer shall come and thou shalt mount up to the sky and dwell among the stars."
That was what the Elephant heard. He heard nothing more but he could feel. He could feel himself a stone; that is a dreadful thing to feel. It was a heavy, crushing feeling; a dead weight always bearing him down. He could not lift it; he could not throw it off. It was forever crushing him down, down,—though he never really sank. But it was the same thing to him; he felt that he was sinking.
But he had another evil to bear. A tree with its roots sunk in the ground all about him, stood directly over his head. That was a bitter suffering to him; he could feel it there. He knew that it was stretching its long arms into the air and waving its branches in the wind. He knew that its roots grappled his body and grew tighter fixed in the earth. The tree, indeed, died in time, but another took its place and the torment grew with it. For it kept in his mind the Squirrel he had killed. He could stolidly bear the crushing weight of the rock bringing remorse at the recollection of the happy river that he had made an angry brawling stream,—but the tree—it was a birch, the very kind that he had first devoured after the death of his mother, the tree, that moving with every breath of air, stirred in his mind the recollection of the Squirrel he had killed, who had loved him, saved him from death, and died beside for love of the river—the tree he thought he could not bear.
But still through all his remorse and bitter anguish, the Elephant seemed to hear, though faintly, the last words spoken:
"But not forever. A Deliverer shall come, and thou shalt mount the sky and dwell among the stars."
This was the only slight ray of comfort, though he did not always remember it, but still when the morning sun arose and its beams fell upon the rock, it awakened the remembrance in the Elephant's mind, and he repeated to himself, "A Deliverer shall come." And sometimes in the deep and still night, the Aurora flushing in the north would lighten up a deeper and more cheering hope, for by it he thought would the Deliverer come.
But though the Deliverer has not yet come, still some small comfort does the Elephant have. For the gentle mosses have grown over his stony body; the mosses on the river bank he had terrified and roughly beaten with the jagged rocks. Now did these spread themselves over him, covering him with green verdure and gladdening his soul with the love they gave him. The tree, too, drops yearly its leaves upon his back, and the roots, though they hug him closer, seem to him to do it more lovingly and not with the old terrible gripe.
Yes, all these things make him mindful of the Deliverer. He knows not in what form he will come, but I will tell you. A Squirrel shall finally gnaw away the roots of the tree and it will fall never to rise again. The river, turning its course, shall flow over and about him, and its constant washing shall wear away the rock. The rocky covering gone, in the night, the deep and still night, the Aurora of the north shall stream upon the bed of the river, and where the rock once stood shall rise up the Elephant, and the Squirrel that once led him shall now go before him and lead him up the quivering rays to the sky, where he shall become a constellation never before seen by men, but then discovered and named
Now he sleeps still in the deep forest. It must all be true, for I have seen him there, and so have others.
Vaterville, Valley of the Mad, White Mountains.
The Old Brown Coat.
The royal family of the Kingdom of Percan had an old brown coat which they prized very highly; it was so old that no one could say exactly when it was made, but the story was that the Phoenix made it for the first King of Percan, so it must have been very old. Only the ruler of the kingdom was allowed to put it on, which he did once a year, on New Year's Day. Anybody else who wore it either would die or become king. Such an old coat would have to be mended occasionally, for though the King put it on very carefully on New Year's Day—sixteen men helping him on with it and taking two hours to do it in—and though he only wore it an hour and then put it away safely in a cedar chest for the rest of the year,—yet for all this care the coat, being so old and weak, frequently was torn. Whenever this sad event happened, the sixteen men who were called "Coat-Tails to His Majesty," (because they were appendages to the coat,) carried the coat to the oldest woman in the kingdom, who was obliged to mend it. If she were so old as to be helpless, the Sixteen Coat-Tails put her to death and then went to the woman next to her in age, who was of course the oldest then, until at last they found one who could mend it. Then they all kept guard over her to see that neither she nor any one else put it on, and when the coat was mended, they carried it back to the king's palace and put it away in the cedar chest. Once safely locked up, the Sixteen Coat-Tails sat on the chest by turns all the rest of the year. They were very trusty men indeed; it was a great honour to be one of the Coat-Tails.
Now, at the time when this story commences, the King of Percan was Shahtah the Great. He was called the Great, because he weighed so much and measured so far round the waist; since he had come to the throne, he had been growing greater and more powerful, until his fame spread through all the earth.
It was New Year's Day; and all the people came flocking to the palace to see the King put on the Old Brown Coat. At noon came a long procession led by the Sixteen Coat-Tails, headed by Kaddel the chief of the Sixteen; they carried the coat in a gold box. "See!" cried the people; "that is the box! the Old Brown Coat is inside! hurrah!" and as the procession passed, all the people shouted and tossed up their hats. And Kaddel was so splendidly dressed that he thought some of the crowd must be shouting for him. Then the palace was crowded as Kaddel at the head of the Coat-Tails brought the box before the King, who sat on the throne, and opened it in the presence of the royal family and the people, who however could not get near enough to see very much. The King who, as I said, was very fat, came slowly down the steps of the throne and laid aside his regal apparel, when the Sixteen Coat-Tails lifted the Old Brown Coat very carefully and began putting it upon the King; and very hard work it was. "I must reduce my size," said Shahtah; "next year I will drink a great deal of vinegar. I really am afraid I shall not be able to get the coat on without tearing it." Indeed the coat was already beginning to burst in several places, and Shahtah became quite heated with trying to make himself as small as possible. "If your Majesty would let out your breath," said Kaddel, "I think we might get it on." So Shahtah let out his breath as well as he could, at the same time shrinking in his skin, and the Sixteen Coat-Tails seized the opportunity to give a final push to the coat, so that it was at last fairly on, two hours and five minutes after it was taken out of the box. But Shahtah, the King, could not possibly do without breathing longer; he grew very red, and by the time the coat was fairly on was so exhausted, and so relieved at being through with the exertion, that he drew a long breath and sighed heavily, which expanded his portly frame until the coat burst in twenty rents. "How vexatious!" thought Kaddel, "and my grandmother who is blind, is the oldest woman! If now, the King were only as thin as I am," (for he was very thin,) "there would be no difficulty; or if I were only the king," he half added to himself.
When the coat was taken off, after the people had looked at it for an hour, and Shahtah the Great had been put to bed, for he was very much exhausted,—the Sixteen Coat-Tails immediately set out with the coat to get it mended. "Who is the oldest woman in the kingdom?" asked one of them. Kaddel kept the list and had to answer—"It is my grandmother." So they went to her house. But Kaddel's grandmother was ninety years old and blind, and besides had lost the use of her hands by paralysis. Of course she could not mend the coat, so there was nothing to be done but to put her to death and find the next in age. The law was very strict and could not be avoided. When they went away with the Old Brown Coat, Kaddel felt very bitter toward the fat old Shahtah. "If he had only been lean like me!" he groaned; "or if I were only king," he added to himself. This he said to himself so often that by the time they had found an old woman who could mend the coat, Kaddel had made up his mind to be king. "To be king," said he, "one must needs wear the Old Brown Coat; to be sure one may die; but the chance is even; and at any rate I am determined to kill Shahtah for making my grandmother die. The coat would just fit me."
The first night after the coat was finished and safely locked up in the cedar chest in the palace of the King of Percan, it was Kaddel's turn to sit upon the chest to guard it. In the middle of the night when all was quiet, he opened the chest and very carefully put on the Old Brown Coat; it was a perfect fit. "Now that I have put it on," said he, "I must either be king or die." Then he wont silently up to Shahtah's chamber where the guard let him in without suspicion, for Kaddel was a very trusty man and chief of the Sixteen Coat-Tails; there he killed the fat Shahtah and came out again. "Do not disturb the King," he said to the guard, "he will sleep late." Returning to the chest he took out the coat again and, doing it up in a bundle, went off with it on horseback long before morning, for he said to himself, "I will escape with the coat, then when the family of the King find he has been killed and the Old Brown Coat taken by me, they will be very angry and try to catch me and get the coat again, for no one can rule who does not wear the coat. But the people like me, and after a while I will come back and rule over them." So he rode night and day for a long while, and though the King's family sent messengers after him in every direction, they could not find him.
But Kaddel had forgotten that he who wears the coat may after all not be king but die. He was in the forest on the banks of a beautiful blue river. He was hiding in a cave very far away from any living person, but not far away from the wild beasts. One day he had taken the Old Brown Coat out of the bundle and laid it upon the limb of a tree, that he might look at it and fancy himself a king wearing it; but a tiger stole smoothly behind him and, before he was aware, the beast had killed Kaddel. The Coat lay still upon the bough and was protected by the leaves. But a great wind came and broke off the bough, sending it into the river that flowed below; the coat clung to the limb and floated with it for many days down the river.
Now the river ran for hundreds of miles through the forest without passing any house, but then it came to a woodman's hut where dwelt, entirely alone, the woodman and his little daughter Isal. One evening after the sun was down, Isal was playing on the river bank when she saw a limb of a tree floating down the river toward her; as it came near, the current of the stream brought it by the bank, and Isal, reaching out into the water, took hold of a twig and drew to her the very bough which had floated for hundred of miles down the river, with the Old Brown Coat snugly hid among the twigs and leaves. "Here is a coat!" said Isal. "I wonder where it could have come from!" She took it off the bough, which drifted away as she let it go, and held up the coat to look at it. "And what a strange looking coat it is!" she said. "It must be very old; it is very carefully mended too. Some poor person must have owned it; but it doesn't belong to anyone I know. I'll see if it fits me." Now Isal had never heard anything about the Old Brown Coat of the Kingdom of Percan, and of course knew nothing about the story that any one who wore it must rule or die. "It certainly fits me very well," said she, "but I don't think it is very warm; it is soft though, and I will sleep on it to night." She carried it into the house and showed it to her father, who turned it round and round but knew no more about it than she. When night came she laid the coat upon her hard bed so as to make it a little softer, for they were very poor, and soon went to sleep upon it.
Do you recollect that I told you at the beginning of this story that the Phoenix made the Old Brown Coat? Yes, the Phoenix made it, but not the one that was living then; for the Phoenix, you know, lives for five hundred years; there is only one Phoenix at a time, and when the old bird has lived his five hundred years, he builds a bonfire of sweet spices and lies down on it; when he is burned to ashes, out of the cinders rises up a new Phoenix with crimson and golden feathers who also lives five hundred years, and so on. It looks something like an eagle, though to be sure it is a great deal more magnificent than the eagle, and is a very wise bird. I do not know how old the present Phoenix is; persons differ about his age. Now it was a Phoenix—surely the great-great-great-grandfather of the one who was living in the reign of Shahtah, King of Percan, that made the Old Brown Coat; and the descendants of that bird, called generally Phoenix the Tailor, took a great interest in the coat and in all who wore it. The Phoenix who was living at the time of this story, was very much concerned about the stealing of the coat. He was a very old bird; he was four hundred and ninety-five years old when Shahtah was killed, and of course knew a great deal.
"Such a thing has not happened in my memory," said he, gravely, "but the times are growing very degenerate. When I was young there was a great deal more respect shown to the Old Brown Coat. That coat was made by the Tailor, my great-great-great grandfather. I can remember when the whole kingdom would have held their breath if there had happened a rent in the coat. But the times are sadly degenerate. I am sure I don't know what the world will come to after I die."
This he said to the Tufters. The Phoenix of course can have no children, so he generally adopts four birds of some other family and brings them up to wait on him. The four adopted children of the Phoenix were Tufters, that is a kind of goose, but differing from the goose in having a very fine scarlet tuft on the head which sets off the white body very finely; besides the Tufter is very wise. You sometimes hear persons say—as silly as a goose, but never as silly as a Tufter. Still the Tufters are geese after all, and are very fond of cackling. So, when the Phoenix had done speaking, the Tufters looked at one another and burst into a fit of cackling. The Phoenix was very much displeased at this. "How often have I told you," said he, "not to cackle in that way. It is very disrespectful in you. Besides this is no cackling matter." So the Tufters tried to look solemn, which made them look very much like geese. "I don't know exactly what it is best to do about this," proceeded the Phoenix, stroking his beak with one of his claws as he always did when he reflected; "but at any rate we must watch the coat." So the Tufters were sent off to keep watch over the coat, all except the youngest, who remained behind to take care of the aged bird. Her name was Rosedrop, because the tuft on her head was shaped and coloured like a rose.
After a while the Tufters came back very much excited. They forgot to make their obeisance to the Phoenix, when they came in, which irritated the venerable bird very much. "Where are your manners?" said he, sharply, as they were about to speak all at once. The Tufters recollected themselves, and standing in a row before the Phoenix, each upon one leg, they stretched out their long necks and bowed all together till their heads touched the ground, when they rubbed their brilliant tufts in the dirt. They always do this to show their humility. This pleased the Phoenix, and he told them they might speak now if they had anything to tell him, but one at a time. Whereupon, they all forgot their manners again, and cackled together in a most confusing manner, telling him that Kaddel had been killed, the coat had been carried down the river and captured by a woodman's little daughter, named Isal.
"I saw it myself," said the oldest, "and I saw Isal take it from the bough, on which it floated, and put it on."
"Yes," said the second, "and she has gone to sleep on it. She is very beautiful."
"But she will have to die or else rule, which is impossible, though; the law is very strict," said the next.
"Oh!" said the youngest, who had stayed with her father, "and must she die, because she put the coat on?" And Rosedrop looked very sad. She would have cried, but Tufters never cry. The Phoenix was evidently very much perplexed. He shook his head very hard while all the Tufters stood huddled around him.
"We must put this right," said he at last; but he did not say how; no doubt he knew, though, he looked so wise.
"Suppose we carry the coat back to the Prince; he will never know that Isal wore it," suggested the third of the Tufters who had spoken before.
"Little Tufters should be seen, not heard," said the Phoenix; "I did not ask your advice." At this the Tufter who had spoken so rashly looked very foolish, and the rest cackled over it. "You're a goose!" said they, all except Rosedrop, who came up and stroked her brother's tuft with her bill. "Isal must be brought here," at last said the Phoenix. "You must all four go and bring her here with the coat."
Away flew the Tufters—they fly very swiftly—and long before morning, though it was hundreds of miles away, they had come to the woodman's hut. The father and Isal were both asleep—Isal upon the Old Brown Coat. "What a sweet face!" whispered Rosedrop. Then each took a corner of the coat by the beak and lifting it up with Isal upon it, they flew out of the house and back again to the Phoenix. Isal was still asleep, but the morning light would soon wake her.
"Shall I give her a worm?" said the Tufter who had spoken so rashly before.
"Nonsense!" said the Phoenix sharply. "Little girls don't eat worms! Be more discreet. But you may go and find some berries." So he went off for them and Rosedrop with him. Isal was awake when they came back, and very much astonished at everything about her.
"How came I here?" said she, "with these strange looking birds about me. That is certainly a very odd looking bird, and very tame;" and she went up to the Phoenix to stroke it.
"Make your manners! make your manners! Stand on one foot! Put your head out! so!" screamed all the Tufters at once, as they stretched out their necks toward her and the Phoenix. But Isal could not tell that they said anything. "How these geese do cackle," said she, as she stroked the Phoenix, who did not dislike it, though he thought her rather forward, and bade Rosedrop bring her some berries. Rosedrop brought them to Isal, who thought she was the prettiest of all, and not at all like a goose.
"What shall we do with her now we have her here?" asked the rash Tufter; but he was sorry he asked, for the Phoenix gave him a terrible peck.
"I know my own affairs," said the old bird angrily, but really he knew very little about this affair and was sadly perplexed and quite at his wit's end. He said nothing of that though, but looked more than usually wise, and finally, when all were on tip-toe, or rather tip-claw, to hear what the wise bird would say, he spoke, and told the oldest to go to the palace of the King and bring back word of what was going on there.
"Ah!" said the second in age, "the Phoenix is a wonderful bird! what deep plans he has!"
* * * * *
Meanwhile Isal stayed by the Phoenix and the three Tufters, who kept very good watch over her. She looked about in vain for her father's house or for the great blue river; she could not understand how she came to be where she was and in such strange company; for, though the birds all told her everything about it a great many times over, she could not understand them, for she had never learned the Phoenician and the Tufter tongues. After roaming about all day and eating berries, shouting for her father and sometimes crying, she lay down upon the Old Brown Coat. The coat she knew; somehow or other she was pretty sure that it must have had something to do with her strange journey. She had heard her father tell about the wonderful cushion that Houssain rode upon; perhaps she had flown here upon the coat; she would lie down upon it and wish herself home again, and "who knows," said she, "but I shall wake up on my cot in the morning?"
After Isal had dropped asleep the Tufter who had been sent to the palace returned quite out of breath; he had such good news to tell; he hurried through his manners before the punctilious Phoenix, and then proceeded to relate how he had called on his friend, the Peacock, who lived in the palace garden. "I had a very good time, indeed," said he; "we had green peas to eat, and the Peacock showed me all his new feathers. I asked him about the theft of the coat and what the prince was going to do; but he did not know much about it; he said that for his part he thought people made a very ridiculous fuss about a seedy old coat. But just then we were joined by the Rabbit. The Peacock rather despised him; he whispered to me—so loud that I am sure the Rabbit must have heard—'Did you ever see such an absurd tail?' But I am sure the Rabbit is very beautiful and much more intelligent. The Peacock has such a disagreeable voice, and he is always trying to sing. I asked the Rabbit if he knew anything about the coat. He said he did; his friend the Mouse had told him the latest news that very morning; and the Mouse was very good authority, for he lived generally in the library and had gone through a great many books; he was very learned; he had overheard the Prince talking with the prime-minister, and he gathered that the Prince had sent out a proclamation, promising to give a very large sum to any one who would bring back the Old Brown Coat, and if it chanced to be a maiden he would marry her and make her queen; though of course that was quite absurd, the Rabbit said; but then the Rabbit jumps at conclusions. The Peacock tried to turn the conversation once or twice; he thought it was insufferably dull and finally went off in a dudgeon, and I saw him as I flew away, looking very grand, strutting along the garden walk. I bade the Rabbit good-by and left my regards for the Mouse though I am afraid it was rather improper—the Mouse is so learned. And here I am."
When the Tufter finished they all talked very eagerly about what was best to be done, while the Phoenix sat apart and deliberated by himself; of course the four children could know nothing about it.
Finally he called them to him and said—"Children, you may get yourselves ready to go with me to the Palace." This was, indeed, great news; the Phoenix had not, visited the palace for a hundred years. This was indeed a great event!
"May I go too?" asked Rosedrop.
"Yes," said the Phoenix, "you shall all go. You are to carry Isal with you on the coat. We shall go slowly. I am too old to travel very fast."
For a week they travelled. Every morning when Isal awoke she was surprised to find herself in a new place; always with the Old Brown Coat and the strange birds; they only travelled in the night time when Isal was asleep; in the day time they rested on account of the Phoenix. At last one morning, an hour before sunrise, they came to the Palace and alighted in the garden just below the Prince's window. They laid Isal on the Old Brown Coat upon the grass, and then the Phoenix bade the Tufters fly away a few miles into the woods and wait his coming. Rosedrop, however, he bade stay a while, when she tapped with her beak upon the window of the Prince's chamber, and then flew away to join her brothers.
The Prince heard the tapping upon the window, and said—"It is the messenger-bird," and rose to see if it had brought him a billet. He opened the window but no bird flew in, and he leaned upon the sill and looked up to the beautiful sky; the morning-star was just disappearing; he watched it till it was gone, and then cast his eyes on the green grass below. What should he see there but a lovely girl lying asleep on the grass, and a very magnificent bird standing beside her. He hastened down and stooped over the beautiful maiden. "How lovely!" said he; "she is more beautiful than the daughters of Calla. She is the morning-star which I just saw disappear in the heavens." He bent his face to hers and kissed her. With the kiss Isal awoke, and when she saw leaning over her so grand a looking person, she was more wonderstruck than ever before. "Surely he kissed me!" she murmured. Here the Phoenix broke in with a remark.
"O Prince," said he, "I am the Phoenix. For nearly five hundred years I have lived and guarded the Old Brown Coat. It was stolen, and I have brought it back to you with the maiden you are to marry. But you have taken no sort of notice of the coat. My great-great-great grandfather made that coat. It is more valuable than a hundred lovely girls."
When the Prince heard the Phoenix speak, he turned and saw the grand bird which he had overlooked. But he could not understand a word he said, though the Phoenix spoke very loud and as he thought very distinctly. "This is a very strange bird, indeed!" said the Prince. "Did the bird fly with you from the heavens, Morning-Star!"
Isal said, half to herself, "It is very strange. I cannot understand it at all. How did I come here! It is like a dream. And where are the other birds with tufts on their heads?" She got up as she said this; the Prince lifting her by the hand. Then the Prince saw the Old Brown Coat. "Ah! you have brought me my precious coat again!" said he, and he took it up joyfully. At this the Phoenix grew very much excited.
"He will tear it!" said he. "Where are the Sixteen Coat-Tails? This is alarming!"
But the Prince, without heeding him, took Isal by the hand and led her into the Palace, carrying, too, the Old Brown Coat. Then he made Isal tell him all that she knew about it. The royal household gathered about, mad with joy that the Old Brown Coat had been found again. The Sixteen Coat-Tails came in very solemnly and took possession of it. Each of the Sixteen in turn looked over it carefully, but could not find the least rent or tear. "How wonderful!" said they, "but we are very glad to get it again; we are so distinguished now." The bells of the city were rung and crowds of people came to rejoice over the recovery of the coat. Meanwhile the Phoenix walked about the garden.
"This is as it should be," said he, "as far as the Old Brown Coat is concerned, but I don't receive the honour due to me. I am the Phoenix; the only one of course in the world. I am five hundred years old, nearly. When I was here a hundred years ago I was made very much of. But the world is growing very degenerate." The gardener of the palace came by just then.
"What have we here?" said he. "Can it be that this is the Phoenix? I have heard my father describe the one that was here a century ago, and it certainly was very much like this fine bird." He went into the Palace and desired an audience with the Prince. "Does your majesty know," said he, "that the Phoenix is here?"
At this all the people set up a shout. "The Phoenix! It is the royal bird of Percan! Long live the Phoenix!"
The Prince and people passed into the garden and stood looking at the Phoenix. "Now I am respected;" said he. "This is as it should be." It was a great day for the Phoenix and a great day for the people. The Poet recited a long ode in his honour. The musicians played a great deal of music; the wise men, moreover, all got together and held a discussion for several hours about his age; but the people did not care much for this. The Phoenix was given a place above the throne. And not only that, but upon that very day the Prince of Percan, son of Shahtah the Great, the former king, was throned king and took for his queen the beautiful Isal, daughter of a woodman. He wore the Old Brown Coat, and it fitted him very well; it took the Sixteen Coat-Tails only an hour, with all their care, to get it upon him. When it was nightfall, the Phoenix came majestically down from his high perch, and hovering for a few minutes about the King and Queen, gave them a great deal of good advice which they could not understand, and then sailed grandly away, joined the Tufters in the woods, and flew back to his eyrie, far off. In the Palace lived the Prince and his beautiful Queen, the good Isal.
The Prince and Isal had now been married nearly five years, so that Isal was then eighteen years old and even more beautiful than when the prince found her in the garden. The royal family was at first displeased that the Prince should marry a peasant maiden, but Isal was so good that one could not help loving her, and soon every one said that there never had been such a Queen in Percan. As for the Prince, he loved her more than the whole of his kingdom; he always called her his Morning-Star. And Isal loved the Prince and was very happy in the palace where she had everything she could desire; but often in the five years did she remember the woodman's hut on the bank of the great blue river where she had spent her childhood; often she thought of her father living there alone, reft of his little daughter, the one comfort of his life. Then would the Prince come with his kind love, and quite drive away such sad thoughts. As the years went by she thought less of her former life; indeed it was so different from the present that she persuaded herself that she had died in her cot the night after finding the Old Brown Coat, that now she was in the Paradise she had heard her father tell about, and that the birds—the Phoenix and the Tufters—were the winged spirits that brought her there.
The Phoenix was now very nearly five hundred years old; in a few weeks he would have to build his nest and die. The Tufters too were five years older; but five years makes a great deal more difference with them than it does with the Phoenix. It makes them much wiser; even the one that had been rash was quite prudent now. They waited still on the old bird and brought him all the information they could find about the affairs of the world.
"I wonder how the Old Brown Coat does," said the Tufter who had once been rash, as they all stood round the Phoenix one night. "That was a very grand event we brought about—the marriage of the Prince with Isal. If it had not been for us, Isal might still have been only a woodman's daughter and not a Queen at all!" Here the Phoenix spoke, but with a very muffled voice; his age prevented him from talking very loud or much at a time; he was apt to repeat himself, too, sometimes, and to ramble in his remarks. But the Tufters always listened very respectfully to whatever he had to say: he was so old and so wise; everything he said would bear reflection.
"You are a goose. My great-great-great grandfather made the Old Brown Coat. He was called Phoenix the Tailor. The world is growing very degenerate. I am five hundred years old very nearly. I don't know what will become of it when I die. The Prince is very well, but he did not know me when he saw me in the garden. I was respected, though. The gardener knew me, and the people shouted. My great—"