At Bedtime-ville there is a train of cars that waiteth for you, my sweet,—for you and for other little ones that would go to quiet, slumbrous Shut-Eye Town.
But make no haste; there is room for all. Each hath a tiny car that is snug and warm, and when the train starteth each car swingeth soothingly this way and that way, this way and that way, through all the journey of the night.
Your little gown is white and soft; your little cap will hold those pretty curls so fast that they cannot get away. Here is a curl that peepeth out to see what is going to happen. Hush, little curl! make no noise; we will let you peep out at the wonderful sights, but you must not tell the others about it; let them sleep, snuggled close together.
The locomotive is ready to start. Can you not hear it?
"Shug-chug! Shug-chug! Shug-chug!" That is what the locomotive is saying, all to itself. It knoweth how pleasant a journey it is about to make.
"Shug-chug! Shug-chug! Shug-chug!"
Oh, many a time hath it proudly swept over prairie and hill, over river and plain, through sleeping gardens and drowsy cities, swiftly and quietly, bearing the little ones to the far, pleasant valley where lieth Shut-Eye Town.
"Shug-chug! Shug-chug! Shug-chug!"
So sayeth the locomotive to itself at the station in Bedtime-ville; for it knoweth how fair and far a journey is before it.
Then a bell soundeth. Surely my little one heareth the bell!
"Ting-long! Ting-a-long! Ting-long!"
So soundeth the bell, and it seemeth to invite you to sleep and dreams.
"Ting-long! Ting-a-long! Ting-long!"
How sweetly ringeth and calleth that bell.
"To sleep—to dreams, O little lambs!" it seemeth to call. "Nestle down close, fold your hands, and shut your dear eyes! We are off and away to Shut-Eye Town! Ting-long! Ting-a-long! Ting-long! To sleep—to dreams, O little cosset lambs!"
And now the conductor calleth out in turn. "All aboard!" he calleth, "All aboard for Shut-Eye Town!" he calleth in a kindly tone.
But, hark ye, dear-my-soul, make thou no haste; there is room for all. Here is a cosey little car for you. How like your cradle it is, for it is snug and warm, and it rocketh this way and that way, this way and that way, all night long, and its pillows caress you tenderly. So step into the pretty nest, and in it speed to Shut-Eye Town.
That is the whistle. It soundeth twice, but it must sound again before the train can start. Now you have nestled down, and your dear hands are folded; let your two eyes be folded, too, my sweet; for in a moment you shall be rocked away, and away, away into the golden mists of Balow!
"Ting-long! Ting-a-long! Ting-long!"
"Toot! Toot! Toot!"
And so my little golden apple is off and away for Shut-Eye Town!
Slowly moveth the train, yet faster by degrees. Your hands are folded, my beloved, and your dear eyes they are closed; and yet you see the beauteous sights that skirt the journey through the mists of Balow. And it is rockaway, rockaway, rockaway, that your speeding cradle goes,—rockaway, rockaway, rockaway, through the golden glories that lie in the path that leadeth to Shut-Eye Town.
So crieth the whistle, and it is "down-brakes," for here we are at Ginkville, and every little one knoweth that pleasant waking-place, where mother with her gentle hands holdeth the gracious cup to her sleepy darling's lips.
"Ting-long! Ting-a-long! Ting-long!" and off is the train again. And swifter and swifter it speedeth,—oh, I am sure no other train speedeth half so swiftly! The sights my dear one sees! I cannot tell of them—one must see those beauteous sights to know how wonderful they are!
"Shug-chug! Shug-chug! Shug-chug!"
On and on and on the locomotive proudly whirleth the train.
"Ting-long! Ting-a-long! Ting-long!"
The bell calleth anon, but fainter and evermore fainter; and fainter and fainter groweth that other calling—"Toot! Toot! Toot!"—till finally I know that in that Shut-Eye Town afar my dear one dreameth the dreams of Balow.
This was the bedtime tale which I was wont to tell our little Mistress Merciless, and at its end I looked upon her face to see it calm and beautiful in sleep.
Then was I wont to kneel beside her little bed and fold my two hands,—thus,—and let my heart call to the host invisible: "O guardian angels of this little child, hold her in thy keeping from all the perils of darkness and the night! O sovereign Shepherd, cherish Thy little lamb and mine, and, Holy Mother, fold her to thy bosom and thy love! But give her back to me,—when morning cometh, restore ye unto me my little one!"
But once she came not back. She had spoken much of Master Sweetheart and of that land of Ever-Plaisance whither he had gone. And she was not afeared to make the journey alone; so once upon a time when our little Mistress Merciless bade us good-by, and went away forever, we knew that it were better so; for she was lonely here, and without her that far-distant country whither she journeyed were not content. Though our hearts were like to break for love of her, we knew that it were better so.
The tale is told, for it were not seemly to speak all the things that are in one's heart when one hath to say of a much-beloved child whose life here hath been shortened so that, in God's wisdom and kindness, her life shall be longer in that garden that bloometh far away.
About me are scattered the toys she loved, and the doll Beautiful hath come down all battered and grim,—yet, oh! so very precious to me, from those distant years; yonder fareth the Queen of Sheba in her service as handmaiden unto me and mine,—gaunt and doleful-eyed, yet stanch and sturdy as of old. The garden lieth under the Christmas snow,—the garden where ghosts of trees wave their arms and moan over the graves of flowers; the once gracious arbor is crippled now with the infirmities of age, the Siege of Restfulness fast sinketh into decay, and long, oh! long ago did that bird Joyous carol forth his last sweet song in the garden that was once so passing fair.
And amid it all,—this heartache and the loneliness which the years have brought,—cometh my Christmas gift to-day: the solace of a vision of that country whither she—our little Mistress Merciless—hath gone; a glimpse of that far-off land of Ever-Plaisance.
THE PLATONIC BASSOON
All who knew the beautiful and accomplished Aurora wondered why she did not marry. She had now reached the mature age of twenty-five years, and was in full possession of those charms which are estimated by all men as the choicest gifts a woman can possess. You must know that Aurora had a queenly person, delightful manners, an extensive education, and an amiable disposition; and, being the only child of wealthy parents, she should not have lacked the one thing that seemed necessary to perfect and round out her usefulness as a member of society.
The truth was, Aurora did not fancy the male sex. She regarded men as conveniences that might come handy at times when an escort to the theatre was required, or when a partner in a dance was demanded, when a fan was to be picked up, or when an errand was to be run; but the idea of marrying any man was as distasteful to Aurora as the proposition to marry a hat-rack or any other piece of household furniture would have been.
The secret of this strange aversion might have been traced to Aurora's maiden aunt Eliza, who had directed Aurora's education, and had from her niece's early youth instilled into Aurora's mind very distinct notions touching the masculine sex.
Aurora had numerous admirers among the young gentlemen who moved in the same elevated social circle as herself and frequently called at her father's house. Any one of them would gladly have made her his wife, and many of them had expressed a tender yearning for her life companionship. But Aurora was quick to recognize in each suitor some objectionable trait or habit or feature which her aunt Eliza had told about, and which imperatively prohibited a continuance of the young gentleman's attentions.
Aurora's father could not understand why his daughter was so hypercritical and fastidious in a matter which others of her sex were so apt to accept with charitable eyes. "They are bright, honest fellows," he urged, "worthy of any girl's love. Receive their advances kindly, my child, and having chosen one among them, you will be the happier for it."
"Never mind, Aurora," said Aunt Eliza. "Men are all alike. They show their meanness in different ways, but the same spirit of evil is in 'em all. I have lived in this world forty-six years, and during that time I have found men to be the most unfeeling and most untrustworthy of brutes."
So it was that at the age of twenty-five Aurora was found beautiful, amiable, and accomplished, but thoroughly and hopelessly a man-hater. And it was about this time that she became involved in that unhappy affair which even to this day is talked of by those who knew her then.
On the evening of a certain day Aurora attended the opera with her father and mother and Morgan Magnus, the young banker. Their box at the opera was so close to the orchestra that by reaching out her hand Aurora could have touched several of the instruments. Now it happened that a bassoon was the instrument nearest the box in which Aurora sat, and it was natural therefore that the bassoon attracted more of Aurora's attention than any other instrument in the orchestra. If you have never beheld or heard a bassoon you are to understand that it is an instrument of wood, of considerable more length than breadth, provided with numerous stops and keys, and capable of producing an infinite variety of tones, ranging from the depth of lugubriousness to the highest pitch of vivacity. This particular bassoon was of an appearance that bordered upon the somber, the polished white of his keys emphasizing the solemn black of his long, willowy body. And, as he loomed up above the serene bald head of the musician that played him, Aurora thought she had never seen a more distingue object.
The opera was "Il Trovatore," a work well calculated to call in play all that peculiar pathos of which the bassoon is capable. When Aurora saw the player raise the bassoon and apply the tiny tube thereunto appertaining to his lips, and heard him evoke from the innermost recesses of the bassoon tones that were fairly reeking with tears and redolent of melancholy, she felt a curious sentiment of pity awakened in her bosom.
Aurora had seen many an agonized swain at her feet, and had heard his impassioned pleadings for mercy; she had perused many a love missive wherein her pity was eloquently implored, but never had she experienced the tender, melting sentiment that percolated through her breast when she heard the bassoon mingling his melancholy tones with Manrico's plaints. The tears welled up into Aurora's eyes, her bosom heaved convulsively, and the most subtile emotions thrilled her soul.
In vain did young Magnus, the banker, seek to learn the cause of her agitation, and it seemed like a cruel mockery when Aurora's mother said: "You must remember, dear, that it is not real; it is only a play." After this memorable evening, wherein an unexpected and indescribable sweetness had crept into the young woman's life, Aurora more frequently insisted upon going to the opera. A strange fascination attracted her thither, and on each succeeding evening she found some new beauty in the bassoon, some new phase in his kaleidoscopic character to wonder at, some new accomplishment to admire. On one occasion—it was at the opera bouffe—this musical prodigy exhibited a playfulness and an exuberance of wit and humor that Aurora had never dreamed of. He ran the gamut of vocal conceit, and the polyglot fertility of his fancy simply astounded his rapt auditor. She was dazed, enchanted, spellbound. So here we find the fair Aurora passing from the condition of pity into the estate of admiration.
And now, having first conceived a wondrous pity for the bassoon, and then having become imbued with an admiration of his wit, sarcasm, badinage, repartee, and humor, it followed naturally and logically that Aurora should fall desperately in love with him; for pity and admiration are but the forerunners of the grand passion.
"Aunt Eliza," said Aurora one day, "you have instilled into my sensitive nature an indelible aversion to men, compared with which all such deleble passions as affection and love are as inconsequential as summer zephyrs. I believe men to be by nature and practice gross, vulgar, sensual, and unworthy; and from this opinion I feel that I shall never recede. Yet such a clinging and fragile thing is woman's heart that it must needs have some object about which it may twine, even as the gentle ivy twines about the oak. Now, as you know, some women there are who, convinced of the utter worthlessness of the opposite sex, dedicate their lives to the adoration of some art or science, lavishing thereupon that love which women less prudent squander upon base men and ungrateful children; in the painting of pictures, devotion to the drama, the cultivation of music, pursuit of trade, or the exclusive attention to a profession, some women find the highest pleasure. But you and I, dear aunt, who are directed by even higher and purer motives than these women, scorn the pursuits of the arts and sciences, the professions and trades, and lay our hearts as willing sacrifices upon the altars of a tabby cat and a bassoon. What could be purer or more exalted than a love of that kind?"
Having uttered this eloquent preface, which was, indeed, characteristic of the fair creature, Aurora told Aunt Eliza of the bassoon, and as she spoke of his versatile accomplishments and admirable qualities her eyes glowed with an unwonted animation, and a carmine hue suffused her beautiful cheeks. It was plain that Aurora was deeply in love, and Aunt Eliza was overjoyed.
"It is gratifying," said Aunt Eliza, "to find that my teachings promise such happy results, that the seeds I have so carefully sown already show signs of a glorious fruition. Now, while it is true that I cannot conceive of a happier love than that which exists between my own dear tabby cat and myself, it is also true that I recognize your bassoon as an object so much worthier of adoration than mankind in general, and your male acquaintances in particular, that I most heartily felicitate you upon the idol you have chosen for your worship. Bassoons do not smoke, nor chew tobacco, nor swear, nor bet on horse-races, nor play billiards, nor do any of those horrid things which constitute the larger part of a man's ambitions and pursuits. You have acted wisely, my dear, and heaven grant you may be as happy in his love as I am in tabby's."
"I feel that I shall be," murmured Aurora; "already my bassoon is very precious to me."
With the dawn of this first passion a new motive seemed to come into Aurora's life—a gentle melancholy, a subdued sentiment whose accompaniments were sighings and day-dreamings and solitary tears and swoonings.
Quite naturally Aurora sought Aunt Eliza's society more than ever now, and her conversation and thoughts were always on the bassoon. It was very beautiful.
But late one night Aurora burst into Aunt Eliza's room and threw herself upon Aunt Eliza's bed, sobbing bitterly. Aunt Eliza was inexpressibly shocked, and under a sudden impulse of horror the tabby sprang to her feet, arched her back, bristled her tail, and uttered monosyllables of astonishment.
"Why, Aurora, what ails you?" inquired Aunt Eliza, kindly.
"Oh, auntie, my heart is broken, I know it is," wailed Aurora.
"Come, come, my child," said Aunt Eliza, soothingly, "don't take on so. Tell auntie what ails you."
"He was harsh and cruel to me to-night, and oh! I loved him so!" moaned Aurora.
"A lovers' quarrel, eh?" thought Aunt Eliza; and she got up, slipped her wrapper on, and brewed Aurora a big bowl of boneset tea. Oh, how nice and bitter and fragrant it was, and how Aunt Eliza's nostrils sniffed, and how her eyes sparkled as she sipped the grateful beverage.
"There, drink that, my dear," said Aunt Eliza, "and then tell me all about it."
Aurora quaffed the bowl of boneset tea, and the wholesome draught seemed to give her fortitude, for now she told Aunt Eliza the whole story. It seems that Aurora had been to the opera as usual, not for the purpose of hearing and seeing the performance, but simply for the sake of being where the beloved bassoon was. The opera was Wagner's "Die Walkuere," and the part played by the bassoon in the orchestration was one of conspicuous importance. Fully appreciating his importance, the bassoon conducted himself with brutal arrogance and superciliousness on this occasion. His whole nature seemed changed; his tones were harsh and discordant, and with malevolent obstinacy he led all the other instruments in the orchestra through a seemingly endless series of musical pyrotechnics. There never was a more remarkable exhibition of stubbornness. When the violins and the 'cellos, the hautboys and the flutes, the cornets and the trombones, said "Come, let us work together in G minor," or "Let us do this passage in B flat," the bassoon would lead off with a wild shriek in D sharp or some other foreign key, and maintain it so lustily that the other instruments—e. g., the violins, the 'cellos, the hautboys, and all—were compelled to back, switch, and wheel into the bassoon's lead as best they could.
But no sooner had they come into harmony than the bassoon—oh, melancholy perversity of that instrument—would strike off into another key with a ribald snicker or coarse guffaw, causing more turbulence and another stampede. And this preposterous condition of affairs was kept up the whole evening, the bassoon seeming to take a fiendish delight in his riotous, brutal conduct.
At first Aurora was mortified; then her mortification deepened into chagrin. In the hope of touching his heart she bestowed upon him a look of such tender supplication that, had he not been the most callous creature in the world, he must have melted under it. To his eternal shame, let it be said, the bassoon remained as impervious to her beseeching glances as if he had been a sphinx or a rhinoceros. In fact, Aurora's supplicating eyes seemed to instigate him to further and greater madness, for after that he became still more riotous, and at many times during the evening the crisis in the orchestra threatened anarchy and general disintegration.
Aurora's humiliation can be imagined by those only who have experienced a like bitterness—the bitterness of awakening to a realization of the cruelty of love. Aurora loved the bassoon tenderly, deeply, absorbingly. The sprightliness of his lighter moods, no less than the throbbing pathos of his sadder moments, had won her heart. She had given him her love unreservedly, she fairly worshipped him, and now she awakened, as it were, from a golden dream, to find her idol clay! It was very sad. Yet who that has loved either man or bassoon does not know this bitterness?
"He will be gentler hereafter," said Aunt Eliza, encouragingly. "You must always remember that we should be charitable and indulgent with those we love. Who knows why the bassoon was harsh and wayward and imperious to-night? Let us not judge him till we have heard the whys and wherefores. He may have been ill; depend upon it, my dear, he had cause for his conduct."
Aunt Eliza's prudent words were a great solace to Aurora. And she forgave the bassoon all the pain he had inflicted when she went to the opera the next night and heard him in "I Puritani," a work in which the grand virility of his nature, its vigor and force, came out with telling effect. There was not a trace of the insolence he had manifested in "Die Walkuere," nor of the humorous antics he had displayed in "La Grande Duchesse"; divested of all charlatanism, he was now a magnificent, sonorous, manly bassoon, and you may depend upon it Aurora was more in love with him than ever.
It was about this time that, perceiving a marked change in his daughter's appearance and demeanor, Aurora's father began to question her mother about it all, and that good lady at last made bold to tell the old gentleman the whole truth of the matter, which was simply that Aurora cherished a passion for the bassoon. Now the father was an exceedingly matter-of-fact, old-fashioned man, who possessed not the least bit of sentiment, and when he heard that his only child had fallen in love with a bassoon, his anger was very great. He summoned Aurora into his presence, and regarded her with an austere countenance.
"Girl," he said, in icy tones, "is it true that you have been flirting with a bassoon?"
"Father," replied Aurora, with dignity, "I have never flirted with anybody, and you grievously wrong the bassoon when you intimated that he, too, is capable of such frivolity."
"It is nevertheless true," roared the old gentleman, "that you have conceived a passion for this bassoon, and have cherished it clandestinely."
"It is true, father, that I love the bassoon," said Aurora; "it is true that I admire his wit, vivacity, sentiment, soul, force, power, and manliness, but I have loved in secret. We have never met; he may know I love him, and he may reciprocate my love, but he has never spoken to me nor I to him, so there is nothing clandestine in the affair."
"Oh, my child! my child!" sobbed the old man, breaking down; "how could you love a bassoon, when so many eligible young men are suitors for your hand?"
"Don't mention him in the same breath with those horrid creatures!" cried Aurora, indignantly. "What scent of tobacco or odor of wines has ever profaned the purity of his balmy breath? What does he know of billiards, of horse-racing, of actresses, and those other features of brutal men's lives? Father, he is pure and good and exalted; seek not to debase him by naming him in the category of man!"
"These are Eliza's teachings!" shrieked the old gentleman; and off he bundled to vent his wrath on the maiden aunt. But it was little satisfaction he got from Aunt Eliza.
After that the old gentleman kept a strict eye on Aurora, and very soon he became satisfied of two things: First, that Aurora was sincerely in love with the bassoon; and, second, that the bassoon cared nothing for Aurora. That Aurora loved the bassoon was evidenced by her demeanor when in his presence—her steadfast eyes, her parted lips, her heaving bosom, her piteous sighs, her flushed cheeks, and her varying emotions as his tones changed, bore unimpeachable testimony to the sincerity of her passion. That the bassoon did not care for Aurora was proved by his utter disregard of her feelings, for though he might be tender this moment he was harsh the next—though pleading now he spurned her anon; and so, variable and fickle and false as the winds, he kept Aurora in misery and hysterics about half the time.
One morning the old gentleman entered the theatre while the orchestra was rehearsing.
"Who plays the bassoon?" he asked, in an imperative tone.
"Ich!" said a man with a bald head and gold spectacles.
"Your name?" demanded the old gentleman.
"Otto Baumgarten," replied he of the bald head and gold spectacles.
"Then, Otto Baumgarten," said the father, "I will give you one hundred dollars for your bassoon."
"Mein Gott!" said Herr Baumgarten, "dat bassoon gost me not half so much fon dot!"
"Never mind!" replied the old gentleman. "Take the money and give me the bassoon."
Herr Baumgarten did not hesitate a moment. He clutched at the gold pieces, and while he counted them Aurora's father was hastening up the street with the bassoon under his arm. Aurora saw him coming, and she recognized the idol of her soul; his silver-plated keys were not to be mistaken. With a cry of joy she met her father in the hallway, snatched the bassoon to her heart, and covered him with kisses.
"He makes no answer to your protestations!" said her father. "Come, give over a love that is hopeless; cast aside this bassoon, who is hollow at heart, and whose affection at best is only platonic!"
"You speak blasphemies, father," cried Aurora, "and you yourself shall hear how he loves me, for when I but put my lips to this slender mouthpiece there shall issue from my worshipped bassoon tones of such ineffable tenderness that even you shall be convinced that my passion is reciprocated."
With these words Aurora glued her beauteous lips to the slender blowpipe of the bassoon, and, having inflated her lungs to their capacity, breathed into it a respiration that seemed to come from her very soul. But no sound issued from the cold, hollow, unresponsive bassoon. Aurora repeated the effort with increased vigor. There came no answer at all.
"Aha!" laughed her father. "I told you so; he loves you not."
But then, with a last superhuman effort, Aurora made her third attempt; her eyeballs started from their sockets, big, blue veins and cords stood out on her lovely neck, and all the force and vigor of her young life seemed to go out through her pursed lips into the bassoon's system. And then, oh then! as if to mock her idolatry and sound the death knell of her unhappy love, the bassoon recoiled and emitted a tone so harsh, so discordant, so supernatural, that even Aurora's father drew back in horror.
And lo! hearing that supernatural sound that told her of the hopelessness of love, Aurora dropped the hollow, mocking scoffer, clutched spasmodically at her heart, and, with an agonizing shriek, fell lifeless to the floor.
HAWAIIAN FOLK TALES
There was a maiden named Liliokani whose father was a fisherman. But the maiden liked not her father's employment, for she believed it to be an offence against Atua, the all-god, to deprive any animal of that life which Atua had breathed into it. And this was pleasing unto Atua, and he blessed Liliokani with exceeding beauty; no other eyes were so large, dark, and tender as hers; the braids of her long, soft hair fell like silken seagrass upon her shoulders; she was tall and graceful as the palm, and her voice was the voice of the sea when the sea cradles the moonlight and sings it to sleep.
Full many kings' sons came wooing Liliokani, and chiefs renowned in war; and with others came Tatatao, that was a mighty hunter of hares and had compassed famous hardships. For those men that delight in adventure and battle are most pleasantly minded to gentle women, for thus capriciously hath Atua, the all-god, ordained. But Liliokani had no ear to the wooing of these men, and the fisherman's daughter was a virgin when Mimi came.
Mimi was king of the eels, and Atua had given him eternal life and the power to change his shape when it pleased him to issue from the water and walk the earth. It befell that this eel-king, Mimi, beheld Liliokani upon a time as he swam the little river near her father's abode, and he saw that she was exceeding fair and he heard the soft, sad sea-tone in her voice. So for many days Mimi frequented those parts and grew more and more in love with the maiden.
Upon a certain day, while she helped her father to mend his nets, Liliokani saw a young man of goodly stature and handsome face approaching, and to herself she said: "Surely if ever I be tempted to wed it shall be with this young man, whose like I have never before known." But she had no thought that it was Mimi, the eel-king, who in this changed shape now walked the earth.
Sweetly he made obeisance and pleasant was his discourse with the fisherman and his daughter, and he told them many things of his home, which he said was many kumes distant from that spot. Though he spake mostly to the old man, his eyes were fixed upon Liliokani, and, after the fashion of her sex, that maiden presently knew that he had great love unto her. Many days after that came Mimi to hold discourse with them, and they had joy of his coming, for in sooth he was of fair countenance and sweet address, and the fisherman, being a single-minded and a simple man, had no suspicion of the love between Mimi and Liliokani. But once Mimi said to Liliokani in such a voice as the sea-wind hath to the maiden palm-trees: "Brown maiden mine, let thy door be unlatched this night, and I will come to thee."
So the door was not latched that night and Mimi went in unto her, and they two were together and alone.
"What meaneth that moaning of the sea?" asked Liliokani.
"The sea chanteth our bridal anthem," he answered.
"And what sad music cometh from the palms to-night?" she asked.
"They sing soft and low of our wedded love," he answered.
But Liliokani apprehended evil, and, although she spake no more of it at that time, a fear of trouble was in her heart.
Now Atua, the all-god, was exceeding wroth at this thing, and in grievous anger he beheld how that every night the door was unlatched and Mimi went in unto Liliokani. And Atua set about to do vengeance, and Atua's wrath is sure and very dreadful.
There was a night when Mimi did not come; the door was unlatched and the breath of Liliokani was as the perfume of flowers and of spices commingled; yet he came not. Then Liliokani wept and unbraided her hair and cried as a widow crieth, and she thought that Mimi had found another pleasanter than she unto him. So, upon the next night, she latched the door. But in the middle of the night, when the fire was kindled in the island moon, there was a gentle tapping at the door, and Mimi called to her. And when she had unlatched the door she began to chide him, but he stopped her chiding, and with great groaning he took her to his breast, and she knew by the beating of his heart that evil had come upon him.
Then Mimi told her who he was and how wroth the all-god was because the eel-king, forgetful of his immortality and neglectful of his domain, loved the daughter of a mortal.
"Forswear me, then," quoth Liliokani, "forswear me, and come not hither again, and the anger of the all-god shall be appeased."
"It is not to lie to Atua," answered Mimi. "The all-god readeth every heart and knoweth every thought. How can I, that love thee only, forswear thee? More just and terrible would be Atua's wrath for that lie to him and that wrong to thee and to myself. Brown maiden, I go back into the sea and from thee forever, bearing with me a love for thee which even the all-god's anger cannot chill."
So he kissed her for the last time and bade her a last farewell, and then he went from that door down to the water's edge and into his domain. And Liliokani made great moan and her heart was like to break. But the sea was placid as a hearthstone and the palms lay asleep in the sky that night, for it was Atua's will that the woman should suffer alone.
In the middle of the next night a mighty tempest arose. The clouds reached down and buffeted the earth and sea, and the winds and the waters cried out in anger against each other and smote each other. Above the tumult Atua's voice was heard. "Arise, Liliokani," quoth that voice, "and with thy father's stone hatchet smite off the head of the fish that lieth upon the threshold of the door."
Then Liliokani arose with fear and trembling and went to the door, and there, on the threshold, lay a monster eel whose body had been floated thither by the flood and the tempest. With her father's stone hatchet she smote off the eel's head, and the head fell into the hut, but the long, dead body floated back with the flood into the sea and was seen no more. Then the tempest abated, and with the morning came the sun's light and its tender warmth. And at the earliest moment Liliokani took the eel's head secretly and buried it with much sorrow and weeping, for the eyes within that lifeless head were Mimi's eyes, and Liliokani knew that this thing was come of the all-god's wrath.
It was her wont to go each day and make moan over the spot where she had hid this vestige of her love, and presently Atua pitied her, for Atua loveth his children upon this earth, even though they sin most grievously. So, by and by, Liliokani saw that two green leaves were sprouting from the earth, and in a season these two leaves became twin stalks and grew into trees, the like of which had never before been seen upon earth. And Liliokani lived to see and to taste the fruit of these twin trees that sprung from Mimi's brain—the red cocoanut and the white cocoanut, whereof all men have eaten since that time. And all folk hold that fruit in sweet estimation, for it cometh from the love that a god had unto a mortal woman, and mortality is love and love is immortality.
Atua forgot not Liliokani when the skies opened to her; she liveth forever in the star that looketh only upon this island, and it is her tender grace that nourishes the infant cocoas and maketh the elder ones fruitful. Meanwhile no woman that dwelleth upon earth hath satisfaction in tasting the flesh of eels, for a knowledge of Mimi's love and sacrifice hath been subtly implanted by Atua, the all-god, in every woman's breast.
THE MOON LADY
Once there were four maidens who were the daughters of Talakoa, and they were so very beautiful that their fame spread through the universe. The oldest of these maidens was named Kaulualua, and it is of her that it is to tell this tale.
One day while Kaulualua was combing her hair she saw a tall, fair man fishing in the rivulet, and he was a stranger to her. Never before had she seen so fair a man, though in very sooth she had been wooed of many king's sons and of chiefs from every part of the earth. Then she called to her three sisters and asked them his name, but they could not answer; this, however, they knew—he was of no country whereof they had heard tell, for he was strangely clad and he was of exceeding fair complexion and his stature surpassed that of other men.
The next day these maidens saw this same tall, fair man, but he no longer fished in the rivulet; he hunted the hares and was passing skilful thereat, so that the maidens admired him not only for his exceeding comeliness but also for his skill as a huntsman, for surely there was no hare that could escape his vigilance and the point of his arrow. So when Talakoa, their father, came that evening the maidens told him of this stranger, and he wondered who he was and whence he fared. Awaking from sleep in the middle of that night, Kaulualua saw that the stars shone with rare brilliancy, and that by their light a man was gazing upon her through the window. And she saw that the man was the tall, fair man of whom it has been spoken. So she uttered no cry, but feigned that she slept, for she saw that there was love in the tall, fair man's eyes, and it pleaseth a maiden to be looked upon in that wise.
When it was morning this tall, fair man came and entered that house and laid a fish and a hare upon the hearthstone and called for Talakoa. And he quoth to Talakoa:
"Old man, I would have your daughter to wife."
Being a full crafty man, as beseemeth one of years, Talakoa replied: "Four daughters have I."
The tall, fair man announced: "You speak sooth, as well becometh a full crafty man. Four daughters have you, and it is Kaulualua that I would have to wife."
Saith that full crafty man, the father: "How many palm trees grow in thy possession, and how many rivers flow through thy chiefdom? Whence comest thou, gentle sir, for assuredly neither I nor mine have seen the like of thee before."
"Good sooth," answered the tall, fair man, "I will tell you no lie, for I would have that daughter to wife, and the things you require do well beseem a full crafty man that meaneth for his child's good. I am the man of the moon, and my name is Marama."
Then Talakoa and his daughters looked at one another and were sore puzzled, for they knew not whereof Marama spake. And they deemed him a madman; yet did they not laugh him to scorn, because that he had come a-wooing, and had laid the fish and the hare upon the hearthstone.
"Kind sir, bringing gifts," quoth Talakoa, "I say no lie to you, but we know not that country whereof you speak. Pray tell us of the moon and where is it situate, and how many kumes is it distant from here?"
"Full crafty man, father of her whom I would have to wife, I will tell you truly," answered Marama. "The moon wherefrom I come is a mighty island in the vast sea of night, and it is distant from here so great a space that it were not to count the kumes that lie between. Exceeding fair is that island in that vast sea, and it hath mountains and valleys and plains and seas and rivers and lakes, and I am the chief overall. Atua made that island for me and put it in that mighty sea, for I am the son of Atua, and over that island in that sea I shall rule forever."
Great wonder had they to hear tell of these things, and they knew now that Marama was the child of Atua, who made the universe and is the all-god. Then Marama said on:
"Atua bade me search and find me a wife, and upon the stars have I walked two hundred years, fishing and hunting, and seeing maidens, but of all maidens seen there is none that I did love. So now at last, in this island of this earth, I have found Kaulualua, and have seen the pearl of her beauty and smelled the cinnamon of her breath, and I would fain have her to wife that she may be ruler with me over the moon, my island in the vast, black sea of night."
It was not for Talakoa, being of earth such as all human kind, to gainsay the words of Marama. And there was a flame in Kaulualua's heart and incense in her breath and honey in her eyes toward this tall, fair man that was the son of Atua. So the old father said to her: "Take up the fish and the hare and roast them, my daughter, and spread them before us, and we will eat them and so pledge our troth, one to another."
This thing did Kaulualua, and so the man from the moon had her to wife.
That night they went from the home of Talakoa to the island in the sea of night, and Talakoa and the three maidens watched for a signal from that island, for Kaulualua told them she would build a fire thereon that they might know when she was come thither. Many, many nights they watched, and their hair grew white, and Time marked their faces with his fingers, and the moss gathered on the palm trees. At last, as if he would sleep forever, Talakoa laid himself upon his mat by the door and asked that the skies be opened to him, for he was enfeebled with age.
And while he asked this thing the three sisters saw a dim light afar off in the black sea of night, and it was such a light as had never before been seen. And this light grew larger and brighter, so that in seven nights it was thrice the size of the largest palm leaf, and it lighted up all that far-off island in the sea of night, and they knew that Kaulualua and the moon-god were in their home at last. So old Talakoa was soothed and the skies that opened unto him found him satisfied.
The three sisters lived long, and yet two hundred ages are gone since the earth received them into its bosom. Yet still upon that island in the dark sea of night abideth in love the moon-god with his bride. Atua hath been good to her, for he hath given her eternal youth, as he giveth to all wives that do truly love and serve their husbands. It is for us to see that pleasant island wherein Kaulualua liveth; it is for us to see that when Marama goeth abroad to hunt or to fish his moon-lady sitteth alone and maketh moan, and heedeth not her fires; it is for us to see that when anon he cometh back she buildeth up those fires whereon to cook food for him, and presently the fires grow brighter and the whole round moon island is lighted and warmed thereby. In this wise an exceeding fair example is set unto all wives of their duty unto their mates.
When the sea singeth to the sands, when the cane beckoneth to the stars, and when the palm-leaves whisper to sweet-breathed night, how pleasant it is, my brown maiden, to stand with thee and look upon that island in the azure sea that spreadeth like a veil above the cocoa trees. For there we see the moon-lady, and she awaiteth her dear lord and she smileth in love; and that grace warmeth our hearts—your heart and mine, O little maiden! and we are glad with a joy that knoweth no speaking.
LUTE BAKER AND HIS WIFE EM
The Plainfield boys always had the name of being smart, and I guess Lute Baker was just about the smartest boy the old town ever turned out. Well, he came by it naturally; Judge Baker was known all over western Massachusetts as the sage of Plainfield, and Lute's mother—she was a Kellogg before the judge married her—she had more faculty than a dozen of your girls nowadays, and her cooking was talked about everywhere—never was another woman, as folks said, could cook like Miss Baker. The boys—Lute's friends—used to hang around the back porch of noonings just to get some of her doughnuts; she was always considerate and liberal to growing boys. May be Lute would n't have been so popular if it had n't been for those doughnuts, and may be he would n't have been so smart if it had n't been for all the good things his mother fed into him. Always did believe there was piety and wisdom in New England victuals.
Lute went to Amherst College and did well; was valedictorian; then he taught school a winter, for Judge Baker said that nobody could amount to much in the world unless he taught school a spell. Lute was set on being a lawyer, and so presently he went down to Springfield and read and studied in Judge Morris' office, and Judge Morris wrote a letter home to the Bakers once testifying to Lute's "probity" and "acumen"—things that are never heard tell of except high up in the legal profession.
How Lute came to get the western fever I can't say, but get it he did, and one winter he up and piked off to Chicago, and there he hung out his shingle and joined a literary social and proceeded to get rich and famous. The next spring Judge Baker fell off the woodshed while he was shingling it, and it jarred him so he kind of drooped and pined round a spell and then one day up and died. Lute had to come back home and settle up the estate.
When he went west again he took a wife with him—Emma Cowles that was (everybody called her Em for short), pretty as a picture and as likely a girl as there was in the township. Lute had always had a hankering for Em, and Em thought there never was another such a young fellow as Lute; she understood him perfectly, having sung in the choir with him two years. The young couple went west well provided.
Lute and Em went to housekeeping in Chicago. Em wanted to do her own work, but Lute would n't hear to it; so they hired a German girl that was just over from the vineyards of the Rhine country.
"Lute," says Em, "Hulda does n't know much about cooking."
"So I see," says Lute, feelingly. "She's green as grass; you'll have to teach her."
Hulda could swing a hoe and wield a spade deftly, but of the cuisine she knew somewhat less than nothing. Em had lots of patience and pluck, but she found teaching Hulda how to cook a precious hard job. Lute was amiable enough at first; used to laugh it off with a cordial bet that by and by Em would make a famous cook of the obtuse but willing immigrant. This moral backing buoyed Em up considerable, until one evening in an unguarded moment Lute expressed a pining for some doughnuts "like those mother makes," and that casual remark made Em unhappy. But next evening when Lute came home there were doughnuts on the table—beautiful, big, plethoric doughnuts that fairly reeked with the homely, delicious sentiment of New England. Lute ate one. Em felt hurt.
"I guess it's because I 've eaten so much else," explained Lute, "but somehow or other they don't taste like mother's."
Next day Em fed the rest of the doughnuts to a poor man who came and said he was starving. "Thank you, marm," said he, with his heart full of gratitude and his mouth full of doughnuts; "I ha' n't had anything as good as this since I left Connecticut twenty years ago."
That little subtlety consoled Em, but still she found it hard to bear up under her apparent inability to do her duty by Lute's critical palate. Once when Lute brought Col. Hi Thomas home to dinner they had chicken pie. The colonel praised it and passed his plate a third time.
"Oh, but you ought to eat some of mother's chicken pie," said Lute. "Mother never puts an under crust in her chicken pies, and that makes 'em juicier."
Same way when they had fried pork and potatoes; Lute could not understand why the flesh of the wallowing, carnivorous western hog should n't be as white and firm and sweet as the meat of the swill-fed Yankee pig. And why were the Hubbard squashes so tasteless and why was maple syrup so very different? Yes, amid all his professional duties Lute found time to note and remark upon this and other similar things, and of course Em was—by implication, at least—held responsible for them all.
And Em did try so hard, so very hard, to correct the evils and to answer the hypercritical demands of Lute's foolishly petted and spoiled appetite. She warred valorously with butchers, grocers, and hucksters; she sent down east to Mother Baker for all the famous family recipes; she wrestled in speech and in practice with that awful Hulda; she experimented long and patiently; she blistered her pretty face and burned her little hands over that kitchen range—yes, a slow, constant martyrdom that conscientious wife willingly endured for years in her enthusiastic determination to do her duty by Lute. Doughnuts, chicken-pies, boiled dinners, layer-cakes, soda biscuits, flapjacks, fish balls, baked beans, squash pies, corned-beef hash, dried-apple sauce, currant wine, succotash, brown bread—how valorously Em toiled over them, only to be rewarded with some cruel reminder of how "mother" used to do these things! It was terrible; a tedious martyrdom.
Lute—mind you—Lute was not wilfully cruel; no, he was simply and irremediably a heedless idiot of a man, just as every married man is, for a spell, at least. But it broke Em's heart, all the same.
Lute's mother came to visit them when their first child was born, and she lifted a great deal of trouble off the patient wife. Old Miss Baker always liked Em; had told the minister three years ago that she knew Em would make Lute a good Christian wife. They named the boy Moses, after the old judge who was dead, and old Miss Baker said he should have his gran'pa's watch when he got to be twenty-one.
Old Miss Baker always stuck by Em; may be she remembered how the old judge had talked once on a time about his mother's cooking. For all married men are, as I have said, idiotically cruel about that sort of thing. Yes, old Miss Baker braced Em up wonderful; brought a lot of dried catnip out west with her for the baby; taught Em how to make salt-rising bread; told her all about stewing things and broiling things and roasting things; showed her how to tell the real Yankee codfish from the counterfeit—oh, she just did Em lots of good, did old Miss Baker!
The rewards of virtue may be slow in coming, but they are sure to come. Em's three boys—the three bouncing boys that came to Em and Lute—those three boys waxed fat and grew up boisterous, blatant appreciators of their mother's cooking. The way those boys did eat mother's doughnuts! And mother's pies—wow! Other boys—the neighbors' boys—came round regularly in troops, battalions, armies, and like a consuming fire licked up the wholesome viands which Em's skill and liberality provided for her own boys' enthusiastic playmates. And all those boys—there must have been millions of 'em—were living, breathing, vociferous testimonials to the unapproachable excellence of Em's cooking.
Lute got into politics, and they elected him to the legislature. After the campaign, needing rest, he took it into his head to run down east to see his mother; he had not been back home for eight years. He took little Moses with him. They were gone about three weeks. Gran'ma Baker had made great preparations for them; had cooked up enough pies to last all winter, and four plump, beheaded, well-plucked, yellow-legged pullets hung stiff and solemn-like in the chill pantry off the kitchen, awaiting the last succulent scene of all.
Lute and the little boy got there late of an evening. The dear old lady was so glad to see them; the love that beamed from her kindly eyes well nigh melted the glass in her silver-bowed specks. The table was spread in the dining-room; the sheet-iron stove sighed till it seemed like to crack with the heat of that hardwood fire.
"Why, Lute, you ain't eatin' enough to keep a fly alive," remonstrated old Miss Baker, when her son declined a second doughnut; "and what ails the child?" she continued; "ha' n't he got no appetite? Why, when you wuz his age, Lute, seemed as if I could n't cook doughnuts fast enough for you!"
Lute explained that both he and his little boy had eaten pretty heartily on the train that day. But all the time of their visit there poor old Gran'ma Baker wondered and worried because they did n't eat enough—seemed to her as if western folks had n't the right kind of appetite. Even the plump pullets, served in a style that had made Miss Baker famed throughout those discriminating parts—even those pullets failed to awaken the expected and proper enthusiasm in the visitors.
Home again in Chicago, Lute drew his chair up to the table with an eloquent sigh of relief. As for little Moses, he clamored his delight.
"Chicken pie!" he cried, gleefully; and then he added a soulful "wow!" as his eager eyes fell upon a plateful of hot, exuberant, voluptuous doughnuts.
"Yes, we are both glad to get back," said Lute.
"But I am afraid," suggested Em, timidly, "that gran'ma's cooking has spoiled you."
Little Moses (bless him) howled an indignant, a wrathful remonstrance. "Gran'ma can't cook worth a cent!" said he.
Em expected Lute to be dreadfully shocked, but he was n't.
"I would n't let her know it for all the world," remarked Lute, confidentially, "but mother has lost her grip on cooking. At any rate, her cooking is n't what it used to be; it has changed."
Then Em came bravely to the rescue. "No, Lute," says she, and she meant it, "your mother's cooking has n't changed, but you have. The man has grown away from the boy, and the tastes, the ways, and the delights of boyhood have no longer any fascination for the man."
"May be you 're right," said Lute. "At any rate, I 'm free to say that your cooking beats the world."
Good for Lute! Virtue triumphs and my true story ends. But first an explanation to concinnate my narrative.
I should never have known this true story if Lute himself had n't told it to me at the last dinner of the Sons of New England—told it to me right before Em, that dear, patient little martyred wife of his. And I knew by the love light in Em's eyes that she was glad that she had endured that martyrdom for Lute's sake.
JOEL'S TALK WITH SANTA CLAUS
One Christmas eve Joel Baker was in a most unhappy mood. He was lonesome and miserable; the chimes making merry Christmas music outside disturbed rather than soothed him, the jingle of the sleigh-bells fretted him, and the shrill whistling of the wind around the corners of the house and up and down the chimney seemed to grate harshly on his ears.
"Humph," said Joel, wearily, "Christmas is nothin' to me; there was a time when it meant a great deal, but that was long ago—fifty years is a long stretch to look back over. There is nothin' in Christmas now, nothin' for me at least; it is so long since Santa Claus remembered me that I venture to say he has forgotten that there ever was such a person as Joel Baker in all the world. It used to be different; Santa Claus used to think a great deal of me when I was a boy. Ah! Christmas nowadays ain't what it was in the good old time—no, not what it used to be."
As Joel was absorbed in his distressing thoughts he became aware very suddenly that somebody was entering or trying to enter the room. First came a draft of cold air, then a scraping, grating sound, then a strange shuffling, and then,—yes, then, all at once, Joel saw a pair of fat legs and a still fatter body dangle down the chimney, followed presently by a long white beard, above which appeared a jolly red nose and two bright twinkling eyes, while over the head and forehead was drawn a fur cap, white with snowflakes.
"Ha, ha," chuckled the fat, jolly stranger, emerging from the chimney and standing well to one side of the hearthstone; "ha, ha, they don't have the big, wide chimneys they used to build, but they can't keep Santa Claus out—no, they can't keep Santa Claus out! Ha, ha, ha. Though the chimney were no bigger than a gas pipe, Santa Claus would slide down it!"
It didn't require a second glance to assure Joel that the new-comer was indeed Santa Claus. Joel knew the good old saint—oh, yes—and he had seen him once before, and, although that was when Joel was a little boy, he had never forgotten how Santa Claus looked.
Nor had Santa Claus forgotten Joel, although Joel thought he had; for now Santa Claus looked kindly at Joel and smiled and said: "Merry Christmas to you, Joel!"
"Thank you, old Santa Claus," replied Joel, "but I don't believe it's going to be a very merry Christmas. It's been so long since I 've had a merry Christmas that I don't believe I 'd know how to act if I had one."
"Let's see," said Santa Claus, "it must be going on fifty years since I saw you last—yes, you were eight years old the last time I slipped down the chimney of the old homestead and filled your stocking. Do you remember it?"
"I remember it well," answered Joel. "I had made up my mind to lie awake and see Santa Claus; I had heard tell of you, but I 'd never seen you, and Brother Otis and I concluded we 'd lie awake and watch for you to come."
Santa Claus shook his head reproachfully. "That was very wrong," said he, "for I 'm so scarey that if I 'd known you boys were awake I 'd never have come down the chimney at all, and then you 'd have had no presents."
"But Otis could n't keep awake," explained Joel. "We talked about everythin' we could think of, till father called out to us that if we did n't stop talking he 'd have to send one of us up into the attic to sleep with the hired man. So in less than five minutes Otis was sound asleep and no pinching could wake him up. But I was bound to see Santa Claus and I don't believe anything would 've put me to sleep. I heard the big clock in the sitting-room strike eleven, and I had begun wonderin' if you never were going to come, when all of a sudden I heard the tinkle of the bells around your reindeers' necks. Then I heard the reindeers prancin' on the roof and the sound of your sleigh-runners cuttin' through the crust and slippin' over the shingles. I was kind o' scared and I covered my head up with the sheet and quilts—only I left a little hole so I could peek out and see what was goin' on. As soon as I saw you I got over bein' scared—for you were jolly and smilin' like, and you chuckled as you went around to each stockin' and filled it up."
"Yes, I can remember the night," said Santa Claus. "I brought you a sled, did n't I?"
"Yes, and you brought Otis one, too," replied Joel. "Mine was red and had 'Yankee Doodle' painted in black letters on the side; Otis' was black and had 'Snow Queen' in gilt letters."
"I remember those sleds distinctly," said Santa Claus, "for I made them specially for you boys."
"You set the sleds up against the wall," continued Joel, "and then you filled the stockin's."
"There were six of 'em, as I recollect?" said Santa Claus.
"Let me see," queried Joel. "There was mine, and Otis', and Elvira's, and Thankful's, and Susan Prickett's—Susan was our help, you know. No, there were only five, and, as I remember, they were the biggest we could beg or borrer of Aunt Dorcas, who weighed nigh unto two hundred pounds. Otis and I did n't like Susan Prickett, and we were hopin' you 'd put a cold potato in her stockin'."
"But Susan was a good girl," remonstrated Santa Claus. "You know I put cold potatoes only in the stockin's of boys and girls who are bad and don't believe in Santa Claus."
"At any rate," said Joel, "you filled all the stockin's with candy and pop-corn and nuts and raisins, and I can remember you said you were afraid you 'd run out of pop-corn balls before you got around. Then you left each of us a book. Elvira got the best one, which was 'The Garland of Frien'ship,' and had poems in it about the bleeding of hearts, and so forth. Father was n't expectin' anything, but you left him a new pair of mittens, and mother got a new fur boa to wear to meetin'."
"Of course," said Santa Claus, "I never forgot father and mother."
"Well, it was as much as I could do to lay still," continued Joel, "for I 'd been longin' for a sled, an' the sight of that red sled with 'Yankee Doodle' painted on it jest made me wild. But, somehow or other, I began to get powerful sleepy all at once, and I could n't keep my eyes open. The next thing I knew Otis was nudgin' me in the ribs. 'Git up, Joel,' says he; 'it's Chris'mas an' Santa Claus has been here.' 'Merry Christ'mas! Merry Chris'mas!' we cried as we tumbled out o' bed. Then Elvira an' Thankful came in, not more 'n half dressed, and Susan came in, too, an' we just made Rome howl with 'Merry Chris'mas! Merry Chris'mas!' to each other. 'Ef you children don't make less noise in there,' cried father, 'I'll hev to send you all back to bed.' The idea of askin' boys an' girls to keep quiet on Chris'mas mornin' when they 've got new sleds an' 'Garlands of Frien'ship'!"
Santa Claus chuckled; his rosy cheeks fairly beamed joy.
"Otis an' I did n't want any breakfast," said Joel. "We made up our minds that a stockin'ful of candy and pop-corn and raisins would stay us for a while. I do believe there was n't buckwheat cakes enough in the township to keep us indoors that mornin'; buckwheat cakes don't size up much 'longside of a red sled with 'Yankee Doodle' painted onto it and a black sled named 'Snow Queen.' We did n't care how cold it was—so much the better for slidin' down hill! All the boys had new sleds—Lafe Dawson, Bill Holbrook, Gum Adams, Rube Playford, Leander Merrick, Ezra Purple—all on 'em had new sleds excep' Martin Peavey, and he said he calculated Santa Claus had skipped him this year 'cause his father had broke his leg haulin' logs from the Pelham woods and had been kep' indoors six weeks. But Martin had his ol' sled, and he didn't hev to ask any odds of any of us, neither."
"I brought Martin a sled the next Christmas," said Santa Claus.
"Like as not—but did you ever slide down hill, Santa Claus? I don't mean such hills as they hev out here in this new country, but one of them old-fashioned New England hills that was made 'specially for boys to slide down, full of bumpers an' thank-ye-marms, and about ten times longer comin' up than it is goin' down! The wind blew in our faces and almos' took our breath away. 'Merry Chris'mas to ye, little boys!' it seemed to say, and it untied our mufflers an' whirled the snow in our faces, just as if it was a boy, too, an' wanted to play with us. An ol' crow came flappin' over us from the corn field beyond the meadow. He said: 'Caw, caw,' when he saw my new sled—I s'pose he 'd never seen a red one before. Otis had a hard time with his sled—the black one—an' he wondered why it would n't go as fast as mine would. 'Hev you scraped the paint off'n the runners?' asked Wralsey Goodnow. 'Course I hev,' said Otis; 'broke my own knife an' Lute Ingraham's a-doin' it, but it don't seem to make no dif'rence—the darned ol' thing won't go!' Then, what did Simon Buzzell say but that, like 's not, it was because Otis's sled's name was 'Snow Queen.' 'Never did see a girl sled that was worth a cent, anyway,' sez Simon. Well, now, that jest about broke Otis up in business. 'It ain't a girl sled,' sez he, 'and its name ain't "Snow Queen"! I'm a-goin' to call it "Dan'l Webster," or "Ol'ver Optic," or "Sheriff Robbins," or after some other big man!' An' the boys plagued him so much about that pesky girl sled that he scratched off the name, an', as I remember, it did go better after that!
"About the only thing," continued Joel, "that marred the harmony of the occasion, as the editor of the 'Hampshire County Phoenix' used to say, was the ashes that Deacon Morris Frisbie sprinkled out in front of his house. He said he was n't going to have folks breakin' their necks jest on account of a lot of frivolous boys that was goin' to the gallows as fas' as they could! Oh, how we hated him! and we 'd have snowballed him, too, if we had n't been afraid of the constable that lived next door. But the ashes did n't bother us much, and every time we slid sidesaddle we 'd give the ashes a kick, and that sort of scattered 'em."
The bare thought of this made Santa Claus laugh.
"Goin' on about nine o'clock," said Joel, "the girls come along—Sister Elvira an' Thankful, Prudence Tucker, Belle Yocum, Sophrone Holbrook, Sis Hubbard, an' Marthy Sawyer. Marthy's brother Increase wanted her to ride on his sled, but Marthy allowed that a red sled was her choice every time. 'I don't see how I 'm goin' to hold on,' said Marthy. 'Seems as if I would hev my hands full keepin' my things from blowin' away.' 'Don't worry about yourself, Marthy,' sez I, 'for if you'll look after your things, I kind o' calc'late I'll manage not to lose you on the way.' Dear Marthy—seems as if I could see you now, with your tangled hair a-blowin' in the wind, your eyes all bright and sparklin', an' your cheeks as red as apples. Seems, too, as if I could hear you laughin' an' callin', jist as you did as I toiled up the old New England hill that Chris'mas mornin'—a callin': 'Joel, Joel, Joel—ain't ye ever comin', Joel?' But the hill is long and steep, Marthy, an' Joel ain't the boy he used to be; he 's old, an' gray, an' feeble, but there 's love an' faith in his heart, an' they kind o' keep him totterin' tow'rds the voice he hears a-callin': 'Joel, Joel, Joel!'"
"I know—I see it all," murmured Santa Claus, very softly.
"Oh, that was so long ago," sighed Joel; "so very long ago! And I've had no Chris'mas since—only once, when our little one—Marthy's an' mine—you remember him, Santa Claus?"
"Yes," said Santa Claus, "a toddling little boy with blue eyes—"
"Like his mother," interrupted Joel; "an' he was like her, too—so gentle an' lovin', only we called him Joel, for that was my father's name and it kind o' run in the fam'ly. He wa' n't more 'n three years old when you came with your Chris'mas presents for him, Santa Claus. We had told him about you, and he used to go to the chimney every night and make a little prayer about what he wanted you to bring him. And you brought 'em, too—a stick-horse, an' a picture-book, an' some blocks, an' a drum—they 're on the shelf in the closet there, and his little Chris'mas stockin' with 'em—I 've saved 'em all, an' I 've taken 'em down an' held 'em in my hands, oh, so many times!"
"But when I came again," said Santa Claus—
"His little bed was empty, an' I was alone. It killed his mother—Marthy was so tender-hearted; she kind o' drooped an' pined after that. So now they 've been asleep side by side in the buryin'-ground these thirty years.
"That's why I 'm so sad-like whenever Chris'mas comes," said Joel, after a pause. "The thinkin' of long ago makes me bitter almost. It's so different now from what it used to be."
"No, Joel, oh, no," said Santa Claus. "'T is the same world, and human nature is the same and always will be. But Christmas is for the little folks, and you, who are old and grizzled now, must know it and love it only through the gladness it brings the little ones."
"True," groaned Joel; "but how may I know and feel this gladness when I have no little stocking hanging in my chimney corner—no child to please me with his prattle? See, I am alone."
"No, you 're not alone, Joel," said Santa Claus. "There are children in this great city who would love and bless you for your goodness if you but touched their hearts. Make them happy, Joel; send by me this night some gift to the little boy in the old house yonder—he is poor and sick; a simple toy will fill his Christmas with gladness."
"His little sister, too—take her some present," said Joel; "make them happy for me, Santa Claus—you are right—make them happy for me."
How sweetly Joel slept! When he awoke, the sunlight streamed in through the window and seemed to bid him a merry Christmas. How contented and happy Joel felt! It must have been the talk with Santa Claus that did it all; he had never known a sweeter sense of peace. A little girl came out of the house over the way. She had a new doll in her arms, and she sang a merry little song and she laughed with joy as she skipped along the street. Ay, and at the window sat the little sick boy, and the toy Santa Claus left him seemed to have brought him strength and health, for his eyes sparkled and his cheeks glowed, and it was plain to see his heart was full of happiness.
And, oh! how the chimes did ring out, and how joyfully they sang their Christmas carol that morning! They sang of Bethlehem and the manger and the Babe; they sang of love and charity, till all the Christmas air seemed full of angel voices.
Carol of the Christmas morn— Carol of the Christ-child born— Carol to the list'ning sky Till it echoes back again "Glory be to God on high, Peace on earth, good will tow'rd men!"
So all this music—the carol of the chimes, the sound of children's voices, the smile of the poor little boy over the way—all this sweet music crept into Joel's heart that Christmas morning; yes, and with these sweet, holy influences came others so subtile and divine that, in its silent communion with them, Joel's heart cried out amen and amen to the glory of the Christmas time.
THE LONESOME LITTLE SHOE
The clock was in ill humor; so was the vase. It was all on account of the little shoe that had been placed on the mantel-piece that day, and had done nothing but sigh dolorously all the afternoon and evening.
"Look you here, neighbor," quoth the clock, in petulant tones, "you are sadly mistaken if you think you will be permitted to disturb our peace and harmony with your constant sighs and groans. If you are ill, pray let us know; otherwise, have done with your manifestations of distress."
"Possibly you do not know what befell the melancholy plaque that intruded his presence upon us last week," said the vase. "We pitched him off the mantelpiece, and he was shattered into a thousand bits."
The little shoe gave a dreadful shudder. It could not help thinking it had fallen among inhospitable neighbors. It began to cry. The brass candlestick took pity on the sobbing thing, and declared with some show of temper that the little shoe should not be imposed on.
"Now tell us why you are so full of sadness," said the brass candlestick.
"I do not know how to explain," whimpered the little shoe. "You see I am quite a young thing, albeit I have a rusty appearance and there is a hole in my toes and my heel is badly run over. I feel so lonesome and friendless and sort of neglected-like, that it seems as if there were nothing for me to do but sigh and grieve and weep all day long."
"Sighing and weeping do no good," remarked the vase, philosophically.
"I know that very well," replied the little shoe; "but once I was so happy that my present lonesome lot oppresses me all the more grievously."
"You say you once were happy—pray tell us all about it," demanded the brass candlestick.
The vase was eager to hear the little shoe's story, and even the proud, haughty clock expressed a willingness to listen. The matchbox came from the other end of the mantel-piece, and the pen-wiper, the paper-cutter, and the cigar-case gathered around the little shoe, and urged it to proceed with its narrative.
"The first thing I can remember in my short life," said the little shoe, "was being taken from a large box in which there were many of my kind thrown together in great confusion. I found myself tied with a slender cord to a little mate, a shoe so very like me that you could not have told us apart. We two were taken and put in a large window in the midst of many grown-up shoes, and we had nothing to do but gaze out of the window all day long into the wide, busy street. That was a very pleasant life. Sometimes the sunbeams would dance through the window-panes and play at hide-and-seek all over me and my little mate; they would kiss and caress us, and we learned to love them very much—they were so warm and gentle and merrisome. Sometimes the raindrops would patter against the window-panes, singing wild songs to us, and clamoring to break through and destroy us with their eagerness. When night came, we could see stars away up in the dark sky winking at us, and very often the old mother moon stole out from behind a cloud to give us a kindly smile. The wind used to sing us lullabies, and in one corner of our window there was a little open space where the mice gave a grand ball every night to the music of the crickets and a blind frog. Altogether we had a merry time."
"I 'd have liked it all but the wind," said the brass candlestick. "I don't know why it is, but I 'm dreadfully put out by the horrid old wind!"
"Many people," continued the little shoe, "used to stop and look in at the window, and I believe my little mate and I were admired more than any of our larger and more pretentious companions. I can remember there was a pair of red-top boots that was exceedingly jealous of us. But that did not last long, for one day a very sweet lady came and peered in at the window and smiled very joyously when she saw me and my little mate. Then I remember we were taken from the window, and the lady held us in her hands and examined us very closely, and measured our various dimensions with a string, and finally, I remember, she said she would carry us home. We did not know what that meant, only we realized that we would never live in the shop window again, and we were loath to be separated from the sunbeams and the mice and the other friends that had been so kind to us."
"What a droll little shoe!" exclaimed the vase. Whereupon the clock frowned and ticked a warning to the vase not to interrupt the little shoe in the midst of its diverting narrative.
"It is not necessary for me to tell you how we were wrapped in paper and carried a weary distance," said the little shoe; "it is sufficient to my purpose to say that, after what seemed to us an interminable journey and a cruel banging around, we were taken from the paper and found ourselves in a quiet, cozy room—yes, in this very apartment where we all are now! The sweet lady held us in her lap, and at the sweet lady's side stood a little child, gazing at us with an expression of commingled astonishment, admiration, and glee. We knew the little child belonged to the sweet lady, and from the talk we heard we knew that henceforth the child was to be our little master."
As if some sudden anguish came upon it, hushing its speech, the little shoe paused in its narrative. The others said never a word. Perhaps it was because they were beginning to understand. The proud, haughty clock seemed to be less imperious for the moment, and its ticking was softer and more reverential.
"From that time," resumed the little shoe, "our little master and we were inseparable during all the happy day. We played and danced with him and wandered everywhere through the grass, over the carpets, down the yard, up the street—ay, everywhere our little master went, we went too, sharing his pretty antics and making music everywhere. Then, when evening came and little master was put to sleep, in yonder crib, we were set on the warm carpet near his bed where we could watch him while he slept, and bid him good-morrow when the morning came. Those were pleasant nights, too, for no sooner had little master fallen asleep than the fairies came trooping through the keyholes and fluttering down the chimney to dance over his eyes all night long, giving him happy dreams, and filling his baby ears with sweetest music."
"What a curious conceit!" said the pen-wiper.
"And is it true that fairies dance on children's eyelids at night?" asked the paper-cutter.
"Certainly," the clock chimed in, "and they sing very pretty lullabies and very cunning operettas, too. I myself have seen and heard them."
"I should like to hear a fairy operetta," suggested the pen-wiper.
"I remember one the fairies sang my little master as they danced over his eyelids," said the little shoe, "and I will repeat it if you wish."
"Nothing would please me more," said the pen-wiper.
"Then you must know," said the little shoe, "that, as soon as my master fell asleep, the fairies would make their appearance, led by their queen, a most beautiful and amiable little lady no bigger than a cambric needle. Assembling on the pillow of the crib, they would order their minstrels and orchestra to seat themselves on little master's forehead. The minstrels invariably were the cricket, the flea, the katydid, and the gnat, while the orchestra consisted of mosquitos, bumblebees, and wasps. Once in a great while, on very important occasions, the fairies would bring the old blind hop-toad down the chimney and set him on the window-sill, where he would discourse droll ditties to the infinite delight of his hearers. But on ordinary occasions, the fairy queen, whose name was Taffie, would lead the performance in these pleasing words, sung to a very dulcet air:
AN INVITATION TO SLEEP
Little eyelids, cease your winking; Little orbs, forget to beam; Little soul, to slumber sinking, Let the fairies rule your dream. Breezes, through the lattice sweeping, Sing their lullabies the while— And a star-ray, softly creeping To thy bedside, woos thy smile. But no song nor ray entrancing Can allure thee from the spell Of the tiny fairies dancing O'er the eyes they love so well. See, we come in countless number— I, their queen, and all my court— Haste, my precious one, to slumber Which invites our fairy sport.
"At the conclusion of this song Prince Whimwham, a tidy little gentleman fairy in pink silk small-clothes, approaching Queen Taffie and bowing graciously, would say:
Pray, lady, may I have the pleasure Of leading you this stately measure?
To which her majesty would reply with equal graciousness in the affirmative. Then Prince Whimwham and Queen Taffie would take their places on one of my master's eyelids, and the other gentleman fairies and lady fairies would follow their example, till at last my master's face would seem to be alive with these delightful little beings. The mosquitos would blow a shrill blast on their trumpets, the orchestra would strike up, and then the festivities would begin in earnest. How the bumblebees would drone, how the wasps would buzz, and how the mosquitos would blare! It was a delightful harmony of weird sounds. The strange little dancers floated hither and thither over my master's baby face, as light as thistledowns, and as graceful as the slender plumes they wore in their hats and bonnets. Presently they would weary of dancing, and then the minstrels would be commanded to entertain them. Invariably the flea, who was a rattle-headed fellow, would discourse some such incoherent song as this:
Tiddle-de-dumpty, tiddle-de-dee— The spider courted the frisky flea; Tiddle-de-dumpty, tiddle-de-doo— The flea ran off with the bugaboo! "Oh, tiddle-de-dee!" Said the frisky flea— For what cared she For the miseree The spider knew, When, tiddle-de-doo, The flea ran off with the bugaboo!
Rumpty-tumpty, pimplety-pan— The flubdub courted a catamaran But timplety-topplety, timpity-tare— The flubdub wedded the big blue bear! The fun began With a pimplety-pan When the catamaran, Tore up a man And streaked the air With his gore and hair Because the flubdub wedded the bear!
"I remember with what dignity the fairy queen used to reprove the flea for his inane levity:
Nay, futile flea; these verses you are making Disturb the child—for, see, he is awaking! Come, little cricket, sing your quaintest numbers, And they, perchance, shall lull him back to slumbers.
"Upon this invitation the cricket, who is justly one of the most famous songsters in the world, would get his pretty voice in tune and sing as follows:
THE CRICKET'S SONG
When all around from out the ground The little flowers are peeping, And from the hills the merry rills With vernal songs are leaping, I sing my song the whole day long In woodland, hedge, and thicket— And sing it, too, the whole night through, For I 'm a merry cricket.
The children hear my chirrup clear As, in the woodland straying, They gather flow'rs through summer hours— And then I hear them saying: "Sing, sing away the livelong day, Glad songster of the thicket— With your shrill mirth you gladden earth, You merry little cricket!"
When summer goes, and Christmas snows Are from the north returning, I quit my lair and hasten where The old yule-log is burning. And where at night the ruddy light Of that old log is flinging A genial joy o'er girl and boy, There I resume my singing.
And, when they hear my chirrup clear, The children stop their playing— With eager feet they haste to greet My welcome music, saying: "The little thing has come to sing Of woodland, hedge, and thicket— Of summer day and lambs at play— Oh, how we love the cricket!"
"This merry little song always seemed to please everybody except the gnat. The fairies appeared to regard the gnat as a pestiferous insect, but a contemptuous pity led them to call upon him for a recitation, which invariably was in the following strain:
THE FATE OF THE FLIMFLAM
A flimflam flopped from a fillamaloo, Where the pollywog pinkled so pale, And the pipkin piped a petulant "pooh" To the garrulous gawp of the gale. "Oh, woe to the swap of the sweeping swipe That booms on the hobbling bay!" Snickered the snark to the snoozing snipe That lurked where the lamprey lay.
The gluglug glinked in the glimmering gloam, Where the buzbuz bumbled his bee— When the flimflam flitted, all flecked with foam, From the sozzling and succulent sea. "Oh, swither the swipe, with its sweltering sweep!" She swore as she swayed in a swoon, And a doleful dank dumped over the deep, To the lay of the limpid loon!
"This was simply horrid, as you all will allow. The queen and her fairy followers were much relieved when the honest katydid narrated a pleasant moral in the form of a ballad to this effect:
Once on a time an old red hen Went strutting 'round with pompous clucks, For she had little babies ten, A part of which were tiny ducks. "'T is very rare that hens," said she, "Have baby ducks as well as chicks— But I possess, as you can see, Of chickens four and ducklings six!"
A season later, this old hen Appeared, still cackling of her luck, For, though she boasted babies ten, Not one among them was a duck! "'T is well," she murmured, brooding o'er The little chicks of fleecy down— "My babies now will stay ashore, And, consequently, cannot drown!"
The following spring the old red hen Clucked just as proudly as of yore— But lo! her babes were ducklings ten, Instead of chickens, as before! "'T is better," said the old red hen, As she surveyed her waddling brood; "A little water now and then Will surely do my darlings good!"
But oh! alas, how very sad! When gentle spring rolled round again The eggs eventuated bad, And childless was the old red hen! Yet patiently she bore her woe, And still she wore a cheerful air, And said: "'T is best these things are so, For babies are a dreadful care!"
I half suspect that many men, And many, many women, too, Could learn a lesson from the hen With foliage of vermilion hue; She ne'er presumed to take offence At any fate that might befall, But meekly bowed to Providence— She was contented—that was all!
"Then the fairies would resume their dancing. Each little gentleman fairy would bow to his lady fairy and sing in the most musical of voices:
Sweet little fairy, Tender and airy, Come, let us dance on the good baby-eyes; Merrily skipping, Cheerily tripping, Murmur we ever our soft lullabies.
"And then, as the rest danced, the fairy queen sang the following slumber-song, accompanied by the orchestra:
A FAIRY LULLABY
There are two stars in yonder steeps That watch the baby while he sleeps. But while the baby is awake And singing gayly all day long, The little stars their slumbers take Lulled by the music of his song. So sleep, dear tired baby, sleep While little stars their vigils keep.
Beside his loving mother-sheep A little lambkin is asleep; What does he know of midnight gloom—- He sleeps, and in his quiet dreams He thinks he plucks the clover bloom And drinks at cooling, purling streams. And those same stars the baby knows Sing softly to the lamb's repose.
Sleep, little lamb; sleep, little child— The stars are dim—the night is wild; But o'er the cot and o'er the lea A sleepless eye forever beams— A shepherd watches over thee In all thy little baby dreams; The shepherd loves his tiny sheep— Sleep, precious little lambkin, sleep!
"That is very pretty, indeed!" exclaimed the brass candlestick.
"So it is," replied the little shoe, "but you should hear it sung by the fairy queen!"
"Did the operetta end with that lullaby?" inquired the cigar-case.
"Oh, no," said the little shoe. "No sooner had the queen finished her lullaby than an old gran'ma fairy, wearing a quaint mob-cap and large spectacles, limped forward with her crutch and droned out a curious ballad, which seemed to be for the special benefit of the boy and girl fairies, very many of whom were of the company. This ballad was as follows:
BALLAD OF THE JELLY-CAKE
A little boy whose name was Tim Once ate some jelly-cake for tea— Which cake did not agree with him, As by the sequel you shall see. "My darling child," his mother said, "Pray do not eat that jelly-cake, For, after you have gone to bed, I fear 't will make your stomach ache!" But foolish little Tim demurred Unto his mother's warning word.
That night, while all the household slept, Tim felt an awful pain, and then From out the dark a nightmare leapt And stood upon his abdomen! "I cannot breathe!" the infant cried— "Oh, Mrs. Nightmare, pity take!" "There is no mercy," she replied, "For boys who feast on jelly-cake!" And so, despite the moans of Tim, The cruel nightmare went for him.
At first, she 'd tickle Timmy's toes Or roughly smite his baby cheek— And now she 'd rudely tweak his nose And other petty vengeance wreak; And then, with hobnails in her shoes And her two horrid eyes aflame, The mare proceeded to amuse Herself by prancing o'er his frame—- First to his throbbing brow, and then Back to his little feet again.
At last, fantastic, wild, and weird, And clad in garments ghastly grim, A scowling hoodoo band appeared And joined in worrying little Tim. Each member of this hoodoo horde Surrounded Tim with fierce ado And with long, cruel gimlets bored His aching system through and through, And while they labored all night long The nightmare neighed a dismal song.
Next morning, looking pale and wild, Poor little Tim emerged from bed— "Good gracious! what can ail the child!" His agitated mother said. "We live to learn," responded he, "And I have lived to learn to take Plain bread and butter for my tea, And never, never, jelly-cake! For when my hulk with pastry teems, I must expect unpleasant dreams!"
"Now you can imagine this ballad impressed the child fairies very deeply," continued the little shoe. "Whenever the gran'ma fairy sang it, the little fairies expressed great surprise that boys and girls ever should think of eating things which occasioned so much trouble. So the night was spent in singing and dancing, and our master would sleep as sweetly as you please. At last the lark—what a beautiful bird she is—would flutter against the window panes, and give the fairies warning in these words:
The eastern sky is streaked with red, The weary night is done, And from his distant ocean bed Rolls up the morning sun. The dew, like tiny silver beads Bespread o'er velvet green, Is scattered on the wakeful meads By angel hands unseen. "Good-morrow, robin in the trees!" The star-eyed daisy cries; "Good-morrow," sings the morning breeze Unto the ruddy skies; "Good-morrow, every living thing!" Kind Nature seems to say, And all her works devoutly sing A hymn to birth of day, So, haste, without delay, Haste, fairy friends, on silver wing, And to your homes away!
"But the fairies could never leave little master so unceremoniously. Before betaking themselves to their pretty homes under the rocks near the brook, they would address a parting song to his eyes, and this song they called a matin invocation:
TO A SLEEPING BABY'S EYES
And thou, twin orbs of love and joy! Unveil thy glories with the morn— Dear eyes, another day is born— Awake, O little sleeping boy! Bright are the summer morning skies, But in this quiet little room There broods a chill, oppressive gloom— All for the brightness of thine eyes. Without those radiant orbs of thine How dark this little world would be— This sweet home-world that worships thee— So let their wondrous glories shine On those who love their warmth and joy— Awake, O sleeping little boy.
"So that ended the fairy operetta, did it?" inquired the match-box.
"Yes," said the little shoe, with a sigh of regret. "The fairies were such bewitching creatures, and they sang so sweetly, I could have wished they would never stop their antics and singing. But, alas! I fear I shall never see them again."
"What makes you think so?" asked the brass candlestick.
"I 'm sure I can't tell," replied the little shoe; "only everything is so strange-like and so changed from what it used to be that I hardly know whether indeed I am still the same little shoe I used to be."
"Why, what can you mean?" queried the old clock, with a puzzled look on her face.
"I will try to tell you," said the little shoe. "You see, my mate and our master and I were great friends; as I have said, we roamed and frolicked around together all day, and at night my little mate and I watched at master's bedside while he slept. One day we three took a long ramble, away up the street and beyond where the houses were built, until we came into a beautiful green field, where the grass was very tall and green, and where there were pretty flowers of every kind. Our little master talked to the flowers and they answered him, and we all had a merry time in the meadow that afternoon, I can tell you. 'Don't go away, little child,' cried the daisies, 'but stay and be our playfellow always.' A butterfly came and perched on our master's hand, and looked up and smiled, and said: 'I 'm not afraid of you; you would n't hurt me, would you?' A little mouse told us there was a thrush's nest in the bush yonder, and we hurried to see it. The lady thrush was singing her four babies to sleep. They were strange-looking babies, with their gaping mouths, bulbing eyes, and scant feathers! 'Do not wake them up,' protested the lady thrush. 'Go a little further on and you will come to the brook. I will join you presently.' So we went to the brook."
"Oh, but I would have been afraid," suggested the pen-wiper.
"Afraid of the brook!" cried the little shoe. "Oh, no; what could be prettier than the brook! We heard it singing in the distance. We called to it and it bade us welcome. How it smiled in the sunshine! How restless and furtive and nimble it was, yet full of merry prattling and noisy song. Our master was overjoyed. He had never seen the brook before; nor had we, for that matter. 'Let me cool your little feet,' said the brook, and, without replying, our master waded knee-deep into the brook. In an instant we were wet through—my mate and I; but how deliciously cool it was here in the brook, and how smooth and bright the pebbles were! One of the pebbles told me it had come many, many miles that day from its home in the hills where the brook was born."
"Pooh, I don't believe it," sneered the vase.
"Presently our master toddled back from out the brook," continued the little shoe, heedless of the vase's interruption, "and sat among the cowslips and buttercups on the bank. The brook sang on as merrily as before. 'Would you like to go sailing?' asked our master of my mate. 'Indeed I would,' replied my mate, and so our master pulled my mate from his little foot and set it afloat upon the dancing waves of the brook. My mate was not the least alarmed. It spun around gayly several times at first and then glided rapidly away. The butterfly hastened and alighted upon the merry little craft. 'Where are you going?' I cried. 'I am going down to the sea,' replied my little mate, with laughter. 'And I am going to marry the rose in the far-away south,' cried the butterfly. 'But will you not come back?' I cried. They answered me, but they were so far away I could not hear them. It was very distressing, and I grieved exceedingly. Then, all at once, I discovered my little master was asleep, fast asleep among the cowslips and buttercups. I did not try to wake him—only I felt very miserable, for I was so cold and wet. Presently the lady thrush came, as she had said she would. The child is asleep—he will be ill—I must hasten to tell his mother,' she cried, and away she flew."
"And was he sick?" asked the vase.
"I do not know," said the little shoe. "I can remember it was late that evening when the sweet lady and others came and took us up and carried us back home, to this very room. Then I was pulled off very unceremoniously and thrown under my little master's bed, and I never saw my little master after that.