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A Little Book of Profitable Tales by Eugene Field

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"Tell me, doctor," asked the mother, "shall she continue the food
suggested by Dr. Porpoise?"

"What food did he recommend?" inquired Dr. Sculpin.

"Sea-foam on toast," answered the mother.

Dr. Sculpin smiled a smile which seemed to suggest that Dr. Porpoise's
ignorance was really quite annoying.

"My dear madam," said Dr. Sculpin, "the diet suggested by that quack,
Porpoise, passed out of the books years ago. Give the child toast on
sea-foam, if you wish to build up her debilitated forces."

Now, the sick little oyster did not object to this treatment; on the
contrary, she liked it. But it did her no good. And one day, when she was
feeling very dry, she drank both tumblerfuls of medicine, and it did not
do her any harm; neither did it cure her: she remained the same sick
little oyster,--oh, so sick! This pained her parents very much. They did
not know what to do. They took her travelling; they gave her into the care
of the eel for electric treatment; they sent her to the Gulf Stream for
warm baths,--they tried everything, but to no avail. The sick little
oyster remained a sick little oyster, and there was an end of it.

At last one day,--one cruel, fatal day,--a horrid, fierce-looking machine
was poked down from the surface of the water far above, and with slow but
intrepid movement began exploring every nook and crevice of the oyster
village. There was not a family into which it did not intrude, nor a home
circle whose sanctity it did not ruthlessly invade. It scraped along the
great mossy rock; and lo! with a monstrous scratchy-te-scratch, the
mother-oyster and the father-oyster and hundreds of other oysters were
torn from their resting-places and borne aloft in a very jumbled and very
frightened condition by the impertinent machine. Then down it came again,
and the sick little oyster was among the number of those who were seized
by the horrid monster this time. She found herself raised to the top of
the sea; and all at once she was bumped in a boat, where she lay, puny and
helpless, on a huge pile of other oysters. Two men were handling the
fierce-looking machine. A little boy sat in the stern of the boat watching
the huge pile of oysters. He was a pretty little boy, with bright eyes and
long tangled hair. He wore no hat, and his feet were bare and brown.

"What a funny little oyster!" said the boy, picking up the sick little
oyster; "it is no bigger than my thumb, and it is very pale."

"Throw it away," said one of the men. "Like as not it is bad and not fit
to eat."

"No, keep it and send it out West for a Blue Point," said the other
man,--what a heartless wretch he was!

But the little boy had already thrown the sick little oyster overboard.
She fell in shallow water, and the rising tide carried her still farther
toward shore, until she lodged against an old gum boot that lay half
buried in the sand. There were no other oysters in sight; her head ached
and she was very weak; how lonesome, too, she was!--yet anything was
better than being eaten,--at least so thought the little oyster, and so, I
presume, think you.

For many weeks and many months the sick little oyster lay hard by the old
gum boot; and in that time she made many acquaintances and friends among
the crabs, the lobsters, the fiddlers, the star-fish, the waves, the
shells, and the gay little fishes of the ocean. They did not harm her, for
they saw that she was sick; they pitied her--some loved her. The one that
loved her most was the perch with green fins that attended school every
day in the academic shade of the big rocks in the quiet cove about a mile
away. He was very gentle and attentive, and every afternoon he brought
fresh, cool sea-foam for the sick oyster to eat; he told her pretty
stories, too,--stories which his grandmother, the venerable codfish, had
told him of the sea-king, the mermaids, the pixies, the water-sprites, and
the other fantastically beautiful dwellers in ocean depths. Now while all
this was very pleasant, the sick little oyster knew that the perch's
wooing was hopeless, for she was very ill and helpless, and could never
think of becoming a burden upon one so young and so promising as the
gallant perch with green fins. But when she spoke to him in this strain,
he would not listen; he kept right on bringing her more and more cool
sea-foam every day.

The old gum boot was quite a motherly creature, and anon the sick little
oyster became very much attached to her. Many times as the little invalid
rested her aching head affectionately on the instep of the old gum boot,
the old gum boot told her stories of the world beyond the sea: how she had
been born in a mighty forest, and how proud her folks were of their family
tree; how she had been taken from that forest and moulded into the shape
she now bore; how she had graced and served a foot in amphibious
capacities, until, at last, having seen many things and having travelled
much, she had been cast off and hurled into the sea to be the scorn of
every crab and the derision of every fish. These stories were all new to
the little oyster, and amazing, too; she knew only of the sea, having
lived therein all her life. She in turn told the old gum boot quaint
legends of the ocean,--the simple tales she had heard in her early home;
and there was a sweetness and a simplicity in these stories of the deep
that charmed the old gum boot, shrivelled and hardened and pessimistic
though she was.

Yet, in spite of it all,--the kindness, the care, the amusements, and the
devotion of her friends,--the little oyster remained always a sick and
fragile thing. But no one heard her complain, for she bore her suffering
patiently.

Not far from this beach where the ocean ended its long travels there was a
city, and in this city there dwelt with her parents a maiden of the name
of Margaret. From infancy she had been sickly, and although she had now
reached the years of early womanhood, she could not run or walk about as
others did, but she had to be wheeled hither and thither in a chair. This
was very sad; yet Margaret was so gentle and uncomplaining that from aught
she said you never would have thought her life was full of suffering.
Seeing her helplessness, the sympathetic things of Nature had compassion
and were very good to Margaret. The sunbeams stole across her pathway
everywhere, the grass clustered thickest and greenest where she went, the
winds caressed her gently as they passed, and the birds loved to perch
near her window and sing their prettiest songs. Margaret loved them
all,--the sunlight, the singing winds, the grass, the carolling birds. She
communed with them; their wisdom inspired her life, and this wisdom gave
her nature a rare beauty.

Every pleasant day Margaret was wheeled from her home in the city down to
the beach, and there for hours she would sit, looking out, far out upon
the ocean, as if she were communing with the ocean spirits that lifted up
their white arms from the restless waters and beckoned her to come.
Oftentimes the children playing on the beach came where Margaret sat, and
heard her tell little stories of the pebbles and the shells, of the ships
away out at sea, of the ever-speeding gulls, of the grass, of the flowers,
and of the other beautiful things of life; and so in time the children
came to love Margaret. Among those who so often gathered to hear the
gentle sick girl tell her pretty stories was a youth of Margaret's
age,--older than the others, a youth with sturdy frame and a face full of
candor and earnestness. His name was Edward, and he was a student in the
city; he hoped to become a great scholar sometime, and he toiled very
zealously to that end. The patience, the gentleness, the sweet simplicity,
the fortitude of the sick girl charmed him. He found in her little stories
a quaint and beautiful philosophy he never yet had found in books; there
was a valor in her life he never yet had read of in the histories. So,
every day she came and sat upon the beach, Edward came too; and with the
children he heard Margaret's stories of the sea, the air, the grass, the
birds, and the flowers.

From her moist eyry in the surf the old gum boot descried the group upon
the beach each pleasant day. Now the old gum boot had seen enough of the
world to know a thing or two, as we presently shall see.

"That tall young man is not a child," quoth the old gum boot, "yet he
comes every day with the children to hear the sick girl tell her stories!
Ah, ha!"

"Perhaps he is the doctor," suggested the little oyster; and then she
added with a sigh, "but, oh! I hope not."

This suggestion seemed to amuse the old gum boot highly; at least she fell
into such hysterical laughter that she sprung a leak near her little toe,
which, considering her environments, was a serious mishap.

"Unless I am greatly mistaken, my child," said the old gum boot to the
little oyster, "that young man is in love with the sick girl!"

"Oh, how terrible!" said the little oyster; and she meant it too, for she
was thinking of the gallant young perch with green fins.

"Well, I've said it, and I mean it!" continued the old gum boot; "now just
wait and see."

The old gum boot had guessed aright--so much for the value of worldly
experience! Edward loved Margaret; to him she was the most beautiful, the
most perfect being in the world; her very words seemed to exalt his
nature. Yet he never spoke to her of love. He was content to come with the
children to hear her stories, to look upon her sweet face, and to worship
her in silence. Was not that a very wondrous love?

In course of time the sick girl Margaret became more interested in the
little ones that thronged daily to hear her pretty stories, and she put
her beautiful fancies into the little songs and quaint poems and tender
legends,--songs and poems and legends about the sea, the flowers, the
birds, and the other beautiful creations of Nature; and in all there was a
sweet simplicity, a delicacy, a reverence, that bespoke Margaret's
spiritual purity and wisdom. In this teaching, and marvelling ever at its
beauty, Edward grew to manhood. She was his inspiration, yet he never
spoke of love to Margaret. And so the years went by.

Beginning with the children, the world came to know the sick girl's power.
Her songs were sung in every home, and in every home her verses and her
little stories were repeated. And so it was that Margaret came to be
beloved of all, but he who loved her best spoke never of his love to her.

And as these years went by, the sick little oyster lay in the sea cuddled
close to the old gum boot. She was wearier now than ever before, for there
was no cure for her malady. The gallant perch with green fins was very
sad, for his wooing had been hopeless. Still he was devoted, and still he
came each day to the little oyster, bringing her cool sea-foam and other
delicacies of the ocean. Oh, how sick the little oyster was! But the end
came at last.

The children were on the beach one day, waiting for Margaret, and they
wondered that she did not come. Presently, grown restless, many of the
boys scampered into the water and stood there, with their trousers rolled
up, boldly daring the little waves that rippled up from the overflow of
the surf. And one little boy happened upon the old gum boot. It was a
great discovery.

"See the old gum boot," cried the boy, fishing it out of the water and
holding it on high. "And here is a little oyster fastened to it! How
funny!"

The children gathered round the curious object on the beach. None of them
had ever seen such a funny old gum boot, and surely none of them had ever
seen such a funny little oyster. They tore the pale, knotted little thing
from her foster-mother, and handled her with such rough curiosity that
even had she been a robust oyster she must certainly have died. At any
rate, the little oyster was dead now; and the bereaved perch with green
fins must have known it, for he swam up and down his native cove
disconsolately.

It befell in that same hour that Margaret lay upon her death-bed, and
knowing that she had not long to live, she sent for Edward. And Edward,
when he came to her, was filled with anguish, and clasping her hands in
his, he told her of his love.

Then Margaret answered him: "I knew it, dear one; and all the songs I have
sung and all the words I have spoken and all the prayers I have made have
been with you, dear one,--all with _you_, in my heart of hearts."

"You have purified and exalted my life," cried Edward; "you have been my
best and sweetest inspiration; you have taught me the eternal truth,--you
are my beloved!"

And Margaret said: "Then in my weakness hath there been a wondrous
strength, and from my sufferings cometh the glory I have sought!"

So Margaret died, and like a broken lily she lay upon her couch; and all
the sweetness of her pure and gentle life seemed to come back and rest
upon her face; and the songs she had sung and the beautiful stories she
had told came back, too, on angel wings, and made sweet music in that
chamber.

The children were lingering on the beach when Edward came that day. He
could hear them singing the songs Margaret had taught them. They wondered
that he came alone.

"See," cried one of the boys, running to meet him and holding a tiny shell
in his hand,--"see what we have found in this strange little shell. Is it
not beautiful!"

Edward took the dwarfed, misshapen thing, and lo! it held a beauteous
pearl.

_O little sister mine, let me look into your eyes and read an
inspiration there; let me hold your thin white hand and know the strength
of a philosophy more beautiful than human knowledge teaches; let me see in
your dear, patient little face and hear in your gentle voice the untold
valor of your suffering life. Come, little sister, let me fold you in my
arms and have you ever with me, that in the glory of your faith and love I
may walk the paths of wisdom and of peace_.

1887.

+THE SPRINGTIME+

THE SPRINGTIME

A child once said to his grandsire: "Gran'pa, what do the flowers mean
when they talk to the old oak-tree about death? I hear them talking every
day, but I cannot understand; it is all very strange."

The grandsire bade the child think no more of these things; the flowers
were foolish prattlers,--what right had they to put such notions into a
child's head? But the child did not do his grandsire's bidding; he loved
the flowers and the trees, and he went each day to hear them talk.

It seems that the little vine down by the stone wall had overheard the
south wind say to the rose-bush: "You are a proud, imperious beauty now,
and will not listen to my suit; but wait till my boisterous brother comes
from the North,--then you will droop and wither and die, all because you
would not listen to me and fly with me to my home by the Southern sea."

These words set the little vine to thinking; and when she had thought for
a long time she spoke to the daisy about it, and the daisy called in the
violet, and the three little ones had a very serious conference; but,
having talked it all over, they came to the conclusion that it was as much
of a mystery as ever. The old oak-tree saw them.

"You little folks seem very much puzzled about something," said the old
oak-tree.

"I heard the south wind tell the rose-bush that she would die," exclaimed
the vine, "and we do not understand what it is. Can you tell us what it is
to die?"

The old oak-tree smiled sadly.

"I do not call it death," said the old oak-tree; "I call it sleep,--a
long, restful, refreshing sleep."

"How does it feel?" inquired the daisy, looking very full of astonishment
and anxiety.

"You must know," said the old oak-tree, "that after many, many days we all
have had such merry times and have bloomed so long and drunk so heartily
of the dew and sunshine and eaten so much of the goodness of the earth
that we feel very weary and we long for repose. Then a great wind comes
out of the north, and we shiver in its icy blast. The sunshine goes away,
and there is no dew for us nor any nourishment in the earth, and we are
glad to go to sleep."

"Mercy on me!" cried the vine, "I shall not like that at all! What, leave
this smiling meadow and all the pleasant grass and singing bees and
frolicsome butterflies? No, old oak-tree, I would never go to sleep; I
much prefer sporting with the winds and playing with my little friends,
the daisy and the violet."

"And I," said the violet, "I think it would be dreadful to go to sleep.
What if we never should wake up again!"

The suggestion struck the others dumb with terror,--all but the old
oak-tree.

"Have no fear of that," said the old oak-tree, "for you are sure to awaken
again, and when you have awakened the new life will be sweeter and happier
than the old."

"What nonsense!" cried the thistle.

"You children shouldn't believe a word of it. When you go to sleep you
die, and when you die there's the last of you!"

The old oak-tree reproved the thistle; but the thistle maintained his
abominable heresy so stoutly that the little vine and the daisy and the
violet were quite at a loss to know which of the two to believe,--the old
oak-tree or the thistle.

The child heard it all and was sorely puzzled. What was this death, this
mysterious sleep? Would it come upon him, the child? And after he had
slept awhile would he awaken? His grandsire would not tell him of these
things; perhaps his grandsire did not know.

It was a long, long summer, full of sunshine and bird-music, and the
meadow was like a garden, and the old oak-tree looked down upon the grass
and flowers and saw that no evil befell them. A long, long play-day it was
to the little vine, the daisy, and the violet. The crickets and the
grasshoppers and the bumblebees joined in the sport, and romped and made
music till it seemed like an endless carnival. Only every now and then the
vine and her little flower friends talked with the old oak-tree about that
strange sleep and the promised awakening, and the thistle scoffed at the
old oak-tree's cheering words. The child was there and heard it all.

One day the great wind came out of the north. Hurry-scurry! back to their
warm homes in the earth and under the old stone wall scampered the
crickets and bumblebees to go to sleep. Whirr, whirr! Oh, but how piercing
the great wind was; how different from his amiable brother who had
travelled all the way from the Southern sea to kiss the flowers and woo
the rose!

"Well, this is the last of us!" exclaimed the thistle; "we're going to
die, and that's the end of it all!"

"No, no," cried the old oak-tree; "we shall not die; we are going to
sleep. Here, take my leaves, little flowers, and you shall sleep warm
under them. Then, when you awaken, you shall see how much sweeter and
happier the new life is."

The little ones were very weary indeed. The promised sleep came very
gratefully.

"We would not be so willing to go to sleep if we thought we should not
awaken," said the violet.

So the little ones went to sleep. The little vine was the last of all to
sink to her slumbers; she nodded in the wind and tried to keep awake till
she saw the old oak-tree close his eyes, but her efforts were vain; she
nodded and nodded, and bowed her slender form against the old stone wall,
till finally she, too, had sunk into repose. And then the old oak-tree
stretched his weary limbs and gave a last look at the sullen sky and at
the slumbering little ones at his feet; and with that, the old oak-tree
fell asleep too.

The child saw all these things, and he wanted to ask his grandsire about
them, but his grandsire would not tell him of them; perhaps his grandsire
did not know.

The child saw the storm-king come down from the hills and ride furiously
over the meadows and over the forest and over the town. The snow fell
everywhere, and the north wind played solemn music in the chimneys. The
storm-king put the brook to bed, and threw a great mantle of snow over
him; and the brook that had romped and prattled all the summer and told
pretty tales to the grass and flowers,--the brook went to sleep too. With
all his fierceness and bluster, the storm-king was very kind; he did not
awaken the old oak-tree and the slumbering flowers. The little vine lay
under the fleecy snow against the old stone wall and slept peacefully, and
so did the violet and the daisy. Only the wicked old thistle thrashed
about in his sleep as if he dreamed bad dreams, which, all will allow, was
no more than he deserved.

All through that winter--and it seemed very long--the child thought of the
flowers and the vine and the old oak-tree, and wondered whether in the
springtime they would awaken from their sleep; and he wished for the
springtime to come. And at last the springtime came. One day the sunbeams
fluttered down from the sky and danced all over the meadow.

"Wake up, little friends!" cried the sunbeams,--"wake up, for it is the
springtime!"

The brook was the first to respond. So eager, so fresh, so exuberant was
he after his long winter sleep, that he leaped from his bed and frolicked
all over the meadow and played all sorts of curious antics. Then a little
bluebird was seen in the hedge one morning. He was calling to the violet.

"Wake up, little violet," called the bluebird. "Have I come all this
distance to find you sleeping? Wake up; it is the springtime!"

That pretty little voice awakened the violet, of course.

"Oh, how sweetly I have slept!" cried the violet; "how happy this new life
is! Welcome, dear friends!"

And presently the daisy awakened, fresh and beautiful, and then the little
vine, and, last of all, the old oak-tree. The meadow was green, and all
around there were the music, the fragrance, the new, sweet life of the
springtime.

"I slept horribly," growled the thistle. "I had bad dreams. It was sleep,
after all, but it ought to have been death."

The thistle never complained again; for just then a four-footed monster
stalked through the meadow and plucked and ate the thistle and then
stalked gloomily away; which was the last of the sceptical thistle,--truly
a most miserable end!

"You said the truth, dear old oak-tree!" cried the little vine. "It was
not death,--it was only a sleep, a sweet, refreshing sleep, and this
awakening is very beautiful."

They all said so,--the daisy, the violet, the oak-tree, the crickets, the
bees, and all the things and creatures of the field and forest that had
awakened from their long sleep to swell the beauty and the glory of the
springtime. And they talked with the child, and the child heard them. And
although the grandsire never spoke to the child about these things, the
child learned from the flowers and trees a lesson of the springtime which
perhaps the grandsire never knew.

1885

+RODOLPH AND HIS KING+

RODOLPH AND HIS KING

"Tell me, Father," said the child at Rodolph's knee,--"tell me of the
king."

"There is no king, my child," said Rodolph. "What you have heard are old
women's tales. Do not believe them, for there is no king."

"But why, then," queried the child, "do all the people praise and call on
him; why do the birds sing of the king; and why do the brooks always
prattle his name, as they dance from the hills to the sea?"

"Nay," answered Rodolph, "you imagine these things; there is no king.
Believe me, child, there is no king."

So spake Rodolph; but scarcely had he uttered the words when the cricket
in the chimney corner chirped loudly, and his shrill notes seemed to say:
"The king--the king." Rodolph could hardly believe his ears. How had the
cricket learned to chirp these words? It was beyond all understanding. But
still the cricket chirped, and still his musical monotone seemed to say,
"The king--the king," until, with an angry frown, Rodolph strode from his
house, leaving the child to hear the cricket's song alone.

But there were other voices to remind Rodolph of the king. The sparrows
were fluttering under the eaves, and they twittered noisily as Rodolph
strode along, "The king, king, king!" "The king, king, king," twittered
the sparrows, and their little tones were full of gladness and praise.

A thrush sat in the hedge, and she was singing her morning song. It was a
hymn of praise,--how beautiful it was! "The king--the king--the king,"
sang the thrush, and she sang, too, of his goodness,--it was a wondrous
song, and it was all about the king.

The doves cooed in the elm-trees. "Sing to us!" cried their little ones,
stretching out their pretty heads from the nests. Then the doves nestled
hard by and murmured lullabies, and the lullabies were of the king who
watched over and protected even the little birds in their nests.

Rodolph heard these things, and they filled him with anger.

"It is a lie!" muttered Rodolph; and in great petulance he came to the
brook.

How noisy and romping the brook was; how capricious, how playful, how
furtive! And how he called to the willows and prattled to the listening
grass as he scampered on his way. But Rodolph turned aside and his face
grew darker. He did not like the voice of the brook; for, lo! just as the
cricket had chirped and the birds had sung, so did this brook murmur and
prattle and sing ever of the king, the king, the king.

So, always after that, wherever Rodolph went, he heard voices that told
him of the king; yes, even in their quiet, humble way, the flowers seemed
to whisper the king's name, and every breeze that fanned his brow had a
tale to tell of the king and his goodness.

"But there is no king!" cried Rodolph. "They all conspire to plague me!
There is no king--there is no king!"

Once he stood by the sea and saw a mighty ship go sailing by. The waves
plashed on the shore and told stories to the pebbles and the sands.
Rodolph heard their thousand voices, and he heard them telling of the
king.

Then a great storm came upon the sea, a tempest such as never before had
been seen. The waves dashed mountain-high and overwhelmed the ship, and
the giant voices of the winds and waves cried of the king, the king! The
sailors strove in agony till all seemed lost. Then, when they could do no
more, they stretched out their hands and called upon the king to save
them,--the king, the king, the king!

Rodolph saw the tempest subside. The angry winds were lulled, and the
mountain waves sank into sleep, and the ship came safely into port. Then
the sailors sang a hymn of praise, and the hymn was of the king and to the
king.

"But there is no king!" cried Rodolph. "It is a lie; there is no king!"

Yet everywhere he went he heard always of the king; the king's name and
the king's praises were on every tongue; ay, and the things that had no
voices seemed to wear the king's name written upon them, until Rodolph
neither saw nor heard anything that did not mind him of the king.

Then, in great anger, Rodolph said: "I will go to the mountain-tops; there
I shall find no birds, nor trees, nor brooks, nor flowers to prate of a
monarch no one has ever seen. There shall there be no sea to vex me with
its murmurings, nor any human voice to displease me with its
superstitions."

So Rodolph went to the mountains, and he scaled the loftiest pinnacle,
hoping that there at last he might hear no more of that king whom none had
ever seen. And as he stood upon the pinnacle, what a mighty panorama was
spread before him, and what a mighty anthem swelled upon his ears! The
peopled plains, with their songs and murmurings, lay far below; on every
side the mountain peaks loomed up in snowy grandeur; and overhead he saw
the sky, blue, cold, and cloudless, from horizon to horizon.

What voice was that which spoke in Rodolph's bosom then as Rodolph's eyes
beheld this revelation?

"There is a king!" said the voice. "The king lives, and this is his
abiding-place!"

And how did Rodolph's heart stand still when he felt Silence proclaim the
king,--not in tones of thunder, as the tempest had proclaimed him, nor in
the singing voices of the birds and brooks, but so swiftly, so surely, so
grandly, that Rodolph's soul was filled with awe ineffable.

Then Rodolph cried: "There is a king, and I acknowledge him! Henceforth my
voice shall swell the songs of all in earth and air and sea that know and
praise his name!"

So Rodolph went to his home. He heard the cricket singing of the king;
yes, and the sparrows under the eaves, the thrush in the hedge, the doves
in the elms, and the brook, too, all singing of the king; and Rodolph's
heart was gladdened by their music. And all the earth and the things of
the earth seemed more beautiful to Rodolph now that he believed in the
king; and to the song all Nature sang Rodolph's voice and Rodolph's heart
made harmonious response.

"There _is_ a king, my child," said Rodolph to his little one.
"Together let us sing to him, for he is _our_ king, and his goodness
abideth forever and forever."

1885.

+THE HAMPSHIRE HILLS+

THE HAMPSHIRE HILLS

One afternoon many years ago two little brothers named Seth and Abner were
playing in the orchard. They were not troubled with the heat of the August
day, for a soft, cool wind came up from the river in the valley over
yonder and fanned their red cheeks and played all kinds of pranks with
their tangled curls. All about them was the hum of bees, the song of
birds, the smell of clover, and the merry music of the crickets. Their
little dog Fido chased them through the high, waving grass, and rolled
with them under the trees, and barked himself hoarse in his attempt to
keep pace with their laughter. Wearied at length, they lay beneath the
bellflower-tree and looked off at the Hampshire hills, and wondered if the
time ever would come when they should go out into the world beyond those
hills and be great, noisy men. Fido did not understand it at all. He
lolled in the grass, cooling his tongue on the clover bloom, and puzzling
his brain to know why his little masters were so quiet all at once.

"I wish I were a man," said Abner, ruefully. "I want to be somebody and do
something. It is very hard to be a little boy so long and to have no
companions but little boys and girls, to see nothing but these same old
trees and this same high grass, and to hear nothing but the same
bird-songs from one day to another."

"That is true," said Seth. "I, too, am very tired of being a little boy,
and I long to go out into the world and be a man like my gran'pa or my
father or my uncles. With nothing to look at but those distant hills and
the river in the valley, my eyes are wearied; and I shall be very happy
when I am big enough to leave this stupid place."

Had Fido understood their words he would have chided them, for the little
dog loved his home and had no thought of any other pleasure than romping
through the orchard and playing with his little masters all the day. But
Fido did not understand them.

The clover bloom heard them with sadness. Had they but listened in turn
they would have heard the clover saying softly: "Stay with me while you
may, little boys; trample me with your merry feet; let me feel the imprint
of your curly heads and kiss the sunburn on your little cheeks. Love me
while you may, for when you go away you never will come back."

The bellflower-tree heard them, too, and she waved her great, strong
branches as if she would caress the impatient little lads, and she
whispered: "Do not think of leaving me: you are children, and you know
nothing of the world beyond those distant hills. It is full of trouble and
care and sorrow; abide here in this quiet spot till you are prepared to
meet the vexations of that outer world. We are for _you_,--we trees
and grass and birds and bees and flowers. Abide with us, and learn the
wisdom we teach."

The cricket in the raspberry-hedge heard them, and she chirped, oh! so
sadly: "You will go out into the world and leave us and never think of us
again till it is too late to return. Open your ears, little boys, and hear
my song of contentment."

So spake the clover bloom and the bellflower-tree and the cricket; and in
like manner the robin that nested in the linden over yonder, and the big
bumblebee that lived in the hole under the pasture gate, and the butterfly
and the wild rose pleaded with them, each in his own way; but the little
boys did not heed them, so eager were their desires to go into and mingle
with the great world beyond those distant hills.

Many years went by; and at last Seth and Abner grew to manhood, and the
time was come when they were to go into the world and be brave, strong
men. Fido had been dead a long time. They had made him a grave under the
bellflower-tree,--yes, just where he had romped with the two little boys
that August afternoon Fido lay sleeping amid the humming of the bees and
the perfume of the clover. But Seth and Abner did not think of Fido now,
nor did they give even a passing thought to any of their old friends,--the
bellflower-tree, the clover, the cricket, and the robin. Their hearts beat
with exultation. They were men, and they were going beyond the hills to
know and try the world.

They were equipped for that struggle, not in a vain, frivolous way, but as
good and brave young men should be. A gentle mother had counselled them, a
prudent father had advised them, and they had gathered from the sweet
things of Nature much of that wisdom before which all knowledge is as
nothing. So they were fortified. They went beyond the hills and came into
the West. How great and busy was the world,--how great and busy it was
here in the West! What a rush and noise and turmoil and seething and
surging, and how keenly did the brothers have to watch and struggle for
vantage ground. Withal, they prospered; the counsel of the mother, the
advice of the father, the wisdom of the grass and flowers and trees, were
much to them, and they prospered. Honor and riches came to them, and they
were happy. But amid it all, how seldom they thought of the little home
among the circling hills where they had learned the first sweet lessons of
life!

And now they were old and gray. They lived in splendid mansions, and all
people paid them honor.

One August day a grim messenger stood in Seth's presence and beckoned to
him.

"Who are you?" cried Seth. "What strange power have you over me that the
very sight of you chills my blood and stays the beating of my heart?"

Then the messenger threw aside his mask, and Seth saw that he was Death.
Seth made no outcry; he knew what the summons meant, and he was content.
But he sent for Abner.

And when Abner came, Seth was stretched upon his bed, and there was a
strange look in his eyes and a flush upon his cheeks, as though a fatal
fever had laid hold on him.

"You shall not die!" cried Abner, and he threw himself about his brother's
neck and wept.

But Seth bade Abner cease his outcry. "Sit here by my bedside and talk
with me," said he, "and let us speak of the Hampshire hills."

A great wonder overcame Abner. With reverence he listened, and as he
listened a sweet peace seemed to steal into his soul.

"I am prepared for Death," said Seth, "and I will go with Death this day.
Let us talk of our childhood now, for, after all the battle with this
great world, it is pleasant to think and speak of our boyhood among the
Hampshire hills."

"Say on, dear brother," said Abner.

"I am thinking of an August day long ago," said Seth, solemnly and softly.
"It was _so very_ long ago, and yet it seems only yesterday. We were
in the orchard together, under the bellflower-tree, and our little dog--"

"Fido," said Abner, remembering it all, as the years came back.

"Fido and you and I, under the bellflower-tree," said Seth. "How we had
played, and how weary we were, and how cool the grass was, and how sweet
was the fragrance of the flowers! Can you remember it, brother?"

"Oh, yes," replied Abner, "and I remember how we lay among the clover and
looked off at the distant hills and wondered of the world beyond."

"And amid our wonderings and longings," said Seth, "how the old
bellflower-tree seemed to stretch her kind arms down to us as if she would
hold us away from that world beyond the hills."

"And now I can remember that the clover whispered to us, and the cricket
in the raspberry-hedge sang to us of contentment," said Abner.

"The robin, too, carolled in the linden."

"It is very sweet to remember it now," said Seth. "How blue and hazy the
hills looked; how cool the breeze blew up from the river; how like a
silver lake the old pickerel pond sweltered under the summer sun over
beyond the pasture and broomcorn, and how merry was the music of the birds
and bees!"

So these old men, who had been little boys together, talked of the August
afternoon when with Fido they had romped in the orchard and rested beneath
the bell-flower-tree. And Seth's voice grew fainter, and his eyes were,
oh! so dim; but to the very last he spoke of the dear old days and the
orchard and the clover and the Hampshire hills. And when Seth fell asleep
forever, Abner kissed his brother's lips and knelt at the bedside and said
the prayer his mother had taught him.

In the street without there was the noise of passing carts, the cries of
tradespeople, and all the bustle of a great and busy city; but, looking
upon Seth's dear, dead face, Abner could hear only the music voices of
birds and crickets and summer winds as he had heard them with Seth when
they were little boys together, back among the Hampshire hills.

1885.

+EZRA'S THANKSGIVIN' OUT WEST+

EZRA'S THANKSGIVIN' OUT WEST

Ezra had written a letter to the home folks, and in it he had complained
that never before had he spent such a weary, lonesome day as this
Thanksgiving day had been. Having finished this letter, he sat for a long
time gazing idly into the open fire that snapped cinders all over the
hearthstone and sent its red forks dancing up the chimney to join the
winds that frolicked and gambolled across the Kansas prairies that raw
November night. It had rained hard all day, and was cold; and although the
open fire made every honest effort to be cheerful, Ezra, as he sat in
front of it in the wooden rocker and looked down into the glowing embers,
experienced a dreadful feeling of loneliness and homesickness.

"I'm sick o' Kansas," said Ezra to himself. "Here I 've been in this
plaguy country for goin' on a year, and--yes, I'm sick of it, powerful
sick of it. What a miser'ble Thanksgivin' this has been! They don't know
what Thanksgivin' is out this way. I wish I was back in ol'
Mass'chusetts--that's the country for _me_, and they hev the kind o'
Thanksgivin' I like!"

Musing in this strain, while the rain went patter-patter on the
window-panes, Ezra saw a strange sight in the fireplace,--yes, right among
the embers and the crackling flames Ezra saw a strange, beautiful picture
unfold and spread itself out like a panorama.

"How very wonderful!" murmured the young man. Yet he did not take his eyes
away, for the picture soothed him and he loved to look upon it.

"It is a pictur' of long ago," said Ezra, softly. "I had like to forgot
it, but now it comes back to me as nat'ral-like as an ol' friend. An' I
seem to be a part of it, an' the feelin' of that time comes back with the
pictur', too."

Ezra did not stir. His head rested upon his hand, and his eyes were fixed
upon the shadows in the firelight.

"It is a pictur' of the ol' home," said Ezra to himself. "I am back there
in Belchertown, with the Holyoke hills up north an' the Berkshire
mountains a-loomin' up gray an' misty-like in the western horizon. Seems
as if it wuz early mornin'; everything is still, and it is so cold when we
boys crawl out o' bed that, if it wuzn't Thanksgivin' mornin', we'd crawl
back again an' wait for Mother to call us. But it _is_ Thanksgivin'
mornin', an' we're goin' skatin' down on the pond. The squealin' o' the
pigs has told us it is five o'clock, and we must hurry; we're goin' to
call by for the Dickerson boys an' Hiram Peabody, an' we've got to hyper!
Brother Amos gets on 'bout half o' my clo'es, an' I get on 'bout half o'
his, but it's all the same; they are stout, warm clo'es, and they're big
enough to fit any of us boys,--Mother looked out for that when she made
'em. When we go down-stairs we find the girls there, all bundled up nice
an' warm,--Mary an' Helen an' Cousin Irene. They're goin' with us, an' we
all start out tiptoe and quiet-like so's not to wake up the ol' folks. The
ground is frozen hard; we stub our toes on the frozen ruts in the road.
When we come to the minister's house, Laura is standin' on the front
stoop, a-waitin' for us. Laura is the minister's daughter. She's a friend
o' Sister Helen's--pretty as a dag'err'otype, an' gentle-like and tender.
Laura lets me carry her skates, an' I'm glad of it, although I have my
hands full already with the lantern, the hockies, and the rest. Hiram
Peabody keeps us waitin', for he has overslept himself, an' when he comes
trottin' out at last the girls make fun of him,--all except Sister Mary,
an' she sort o' sticks up for Hiram, an' we're all so 'cute we kind o'
calc'late we know the reason why.

"And now," said Ezra, softly, "the pictur' changes; seems as if I could
see the pond. The ice is like a black lookin'-glass, and Hiram Peabody
slips up the first thing, an' down he comes lickety-split, an' we all
laugh,--except Sister Mary, an' _she_ says it is very imp'lite to
laugh at other folks' misfortunes. Ough! how cold it is, and how my
fingers ache with the frost when I take off my mittens to strap on Laura's
skates! But, oh, how my cheeks burn! And how careful I am not to hurt
Laura, an' how I ask her if that's 'tight enough,' an' how she tells me
'jist a little tighter,' and how we two keep foolin' along till the others
hev gone an' we are left alone! An' how quick I get my _own_ skates
strapped on,--none o' your new-fangled skates with springs an' plates an'
clamps an' such, but honest, ol'-fashioned wooden ones with steel runners
that curl up over my toes an' have a bright brass button on the end! How I
strap 'em and lash 'em and buckle 'em on! An' Laura waits for me an' tells
me to be sure to get 'em on tight enough,--why, bless me! after I once got
'em strapped on, if them skates hed come off, the feet w'u'd ha' come with
'em! An' now away we go,--Laura an' me. Around the bend--near the medder
where Si Barker's dog killed a woodchuck last summer--we meet the rest. We
forget all about the cold. We run races an' play snap the whip, an' cut
all sorts o' didoes, an' we never mind the pick'rel weed that is froze in
on the ice an' trips us up every time we cut the outside edge; an' then we
boys jump over the airholes, an' the girls stan' by an' scream an' tell us
they know we're agoin' to drownd ourselves. So the hours go, an' it is
sun-up at last, an' Sister Helen says we must be gettin' home. When we
take our skates off, our feet feel as if they were wood. Laura has lost
her tippet; I lend her mine, an' she kind o' blushes. The old pond seems
glad to have us go, and the fire-hangbird's nest in the willer-tree waves
us good-by. Laura promises to come over to our house in the evenin', and
so we break up.

"Seems now," continued Ezra, musingly,--"seems now as if I could see us
all at breakfast. The race on the pond has made us hungry, and Mother says
she never knew anybody else's boys that had such capac'ties as hers. It is
the Yankee Thanksgivin' breakfast,--sausages an' fried potatoes, an'
buckwheat cakes an' syrup,--maple syrup, mind ye, for Father has his own
sugar-bush, and there was a big run o' sap last season. Mother says, 'Ezry
an' Amos, won't you never get through eatin'? We want to clear off the
table, for there's pies to make, an' nuts to crack, and laws sakes alive!
the turkey's got to be stuffed yit!' Then how we all fly round! Mother
sends Helen up into the attic to get a squash while Mary's makin' the
pie-crust. Amos an' I crack the walnuts,--they call 'em hickory nuts out
in this pesky country of sage-brush and pasture land. The walnuts are
hard, and it's all we can do to crack 'em. Ev'ry once 'n a while one on
'em slips outer our fingers an' goes dancin' over the floor or flies into
the pan Helen is squeezin' pumpkin into through the col'nder. Helen says
we're shif'less an' good for nothin' but frivollin'; but Mother tells us
how to crack the walnuts so's not to let 'em fly all over the room, an'
so's not to be all jammed to pieces like the walnuts was down at the party
at the Peasleys' last winter. An' now here comes Tryphena Foster, with her
gingham gown an' muslin apron on; her folks have gone up to Amherst for
Thanksgivin', an' Tryphena has come over to help our folks get dinner. She
thinks a great deal o' Mother, 'cause Mother teaches her Sunday-school
class an' says Tryphena oughter marry a missionary. There is bustle
everywhere, the rattle of pans an' the clatter of dishes; an' the new
kitch'n stove begins to warm up an' git red, till Helen loses her wits an'
is flustered, an' sez she never could git the hang o' that stove's
dampers.

"An' now," murmured Ezra, gently, as a tone of deeper reverence crept into
his voice, "I can see Father sittin' all by himself in the parlor.
Father's hair is very gray, and there are wrinkles on his honest old face.
He is lookin' through the winder at the Holyoke hills over yonder, and I
can guess he's thinkin' of the time when he wuz a boy like me an' Amos,
an' useter climb over them hills an' kill rattlesnakes an' hunt
partridges. Or doesn't his eyes quite reach the Holyoke hills? Do they
fall kind o' lovingly but sadly on the little buryin'-ground jest beyond
the village? Ah, Father knows that spot, an' he loves it, too, for there
are treasures there whose memory he wouldn't swap for all the world could
give. So, while there is a kind o' mist in Father's eyes, I can see he is
dreamin'-like of sweet an' tender things, and a-com-munin' with
memory,--hearin' voices I never heard an' feelin' the tech of hands I
never pressed; an' seein' Father's peaceful face I find it hard to think
of a Thanksgivin' sweeter than Father's is.

"The pictur' in the firelight changes now," said Ezra, "an' seems as if I
wuz in the old frame meetin'-house. The meetin'-house is on the hill, and
meetin' begins at half-pas' ten. Our pew is well up in front,--seems as if
I could see it now. It has a long red cushion on the seat, and in the
hymn-book rack there is a Bible an' a couple of Psalmodies. We walk up the
aisle slow, and Mother goes in first; then comes Mary, then me, then
Helen, then Amos, and then Father. Father thinks it is jest as well to
have one o' the girls set in between me an' Amos. The meetin'-house is
full, for everybody goes to meetin' Thanksgivin' day. The minister reads
the proclamation an' makes a prayer, an' then he gives out a psalm, an' we
all stan' up an' turn round an' join the choir. Sam Merritt has come up
from Palmer to spend Thanksgivin' with the ol' folks, an' he is singin'
tenor to-day in his ol' place in the choir. Some folks say he sings
wonderful well, but _I_ don't like Sam's voice. Laura sings soprano
in the choir, and Sam stands next to her an' holds the book.

"Seems as if I could hear the minister's voice, full of earnestness an'
melody, comin' from 'way up in his little round pulpit. He is tellin' us
why we should be thankful, an', as he quotes Scriptur' an' Dr. Watts, we
boys wonder how anybody can remember so much of the Bible. Then I get
nervous and worried. Seems to me the minister was never comin' to lastly,
and I find myself wonderin' whether Laura is listenin' to what the
preachin' is about, or is writin' notes to Sam Merritt in the back of the
tune-book. I get thirsty, too, and I fidget about till Father looks at me,
and Mother nudges Helen, and Helen passes it along to me with interest.

"An' then," continues Ezra in his revery, "when the last hymn is given out
an' we stan' up ag'in an' join the choir, I am glad to see that Laura is
singin' outer the book with Miss Hubbard, the alto. An' goin' out o'
meetin' I kind of edge up to Laura and ask her if I kin have the pleasure
of seen' her home.

"An' now we boys all go out on the Common to play ball. The Enfield boys
have come over, and, as all the Hampshire county folks know, they are
tough fellers to beat. Gorham Polly keeps tally, because he has got the
newest jack-knife,--oh, how slick it whittles the old broom-handle Gorham
picked up in Packard's store an' brought along jest to keep tally on! It
is a great game of ball; the bats are broad and light, and the ball is
small and soft. But the Enfield boys beat us at last; leastwise they make
70 tallies to our 58, when Heman Fitts knocks the ball over into Aunt
Dorcas Eastman's yard, and Aunt Dorcas comes out an' picks up the ball an'
takes it into the house, an' we have to stop playin'. Then Phineas Owens
allows he can flop any boy in Belchertown, an' Moses Baker takes him up,
an' they wrassle like two tartars, till at last Moses tuckers Phineas out
an' downs him as slick as a whistle.

"Then we all go home, for Thanksgivin' dinner is ready. Two long tables
have been made into one, and one of the big tablecloths Gran'ma had when
she set up housekeepin' is spread over 'em both. We all set round, Father,
Mother, Aunt Lydia Holbrook, Uncle Jason, Mary, Helen, Tryphena Foster,
Amos, and me. How big an' brown the turkey is, and how good it smells!
There are bounteous dishes of mashed potato, turnip, an' squash, and the
celery is very white and cold, the biscuits are light an' hot, and the
stewed cranberries are red as Laura's cheeks. Amos and I get the
drumsticks; Mary wants the wish-bone to put overthe door for Hiram, but
Helen gets it. Poor Mary, she always _did_ have to give up to
'rushin' Helen,' as we call her. The pies,--oh, what pies Mother makes; no
dyspepsia in 'em, but good-nature an' good health an' hospitality! Pumpkin
pies, mince an' apple too, and then a big dish of pippins an' russets an'
bellflowers, an', last of all, walnuts with cider from the Zebrina
Dickerson farm! I tell ye, there's a Thanksgivin' dinner for ye! that's
what we get in old Belchertown; an' that's the kind of livin' that makes
the Yankees so all-fired good an' smart.

"But the best of all," said Ezra, very softly to himself,--"oh, yes, the
best scene in all the pictur' is when evenin' comes, when the lamps are
lit in the parlor, when the neighbors come in, and when there is music
an' singin' an' games. An' it's this part o' the pictur' that makes me
homesick now and fills my heart with a longin' I never had before; an'
yet it sort o' mellows an' comforts me, too. Miss Serena Cadwell, whose
beau was killed in the war, plays on the melodeon, and we all sing,--all
on us, men, womenfolks, an' children. Sam Merritt is there, an' he sings
a tenor song about love. The women sort of whisper round that he's goin'
to be married to a Palmer lady nex' spring, an' I think to myself I
never heard better singin' than Sam's. Then we play games, proverbs,
buzz, clap-in-clap-out, copenhagen, fox-an'-geese, button-button-who's-
got-the-button, spin-the-platter, go-to-Jerusalem, my-ship's-come-in,
and all the rest. The ol' folks play with the young folks just as
nat'ral as can be; and we all laugh when Deacon Hosea Cowles hez to
measure six yards of love ribbon with Miss Hepsy Newton, and cut each
yard with a kiss; for the deacon hez been sort o' purrin' round Miss
Hepsy for goin' on two years. Then, aft'r a while, when Mary an' Helen
bring in the cookies, nut-cakes, cider, an' apples, Mother says: 'I
don't b'lieve we're goin' to hev enough apples to go round; Ezry, I
guess I'll have to get you to go down-cellar for some more.' Then I
says: 'All right, Mother, I'll go, providin' some one'll go along an'
hold the candle.' An' when I say this I look right at Laura and she
blushes. Then Helen, jest for meanness, says: 'Ezry, I s'pose you ain't
willin' to have your fav'rite sister go down-cellar with you an' catch
her death o' cold?' But Mary, who hez been showin' Hiram Peabody the
phot'graph album for more 'n an hour, comes to the rescue an' makes
Laura take the candle, and she shows Laura how to hold it so it won't go
out.

"The cellar is warm an' dark. There are cobwebs all between the rafters
an' everywhere else except on the shelves where Mother keeps the butter
an' eggs an' other things that would freeze in the butt'ry upstairs. The
apples are in bar'ls up against the wall, near the potater-bin. How fresh
an' sweet they smell! Laura thinks she sees a mouse, an' she trembles an'
wants to jump up on the pork-bar'l, but I tell her that there sha'n't no
mouse hurt her while I'm round; and I mean it, too, for the sight of Laura
a-tremblin' makes me as strong as one of Father's steers. 'What kind of
apples do you like best, Ezry?' asks Laura,--'russets or greenin's or
crow-eggs or bell-flowers or Baldwins or pippins?' 'I like the Baldwins
best,' says I, ''coz they've got red cheeks jest like yours.' 'Why, Ezry
Thompson! how you talk!' says Laura. 'You oughter be ashamed of yourself!'
But when I get the dish filled up with apples there ain't a Baldwin in all
the lot that can compare with the bright red of Laura's cheeks. An' Laura
knows it, too, an' she sees the mouse ag'in, an' screams, and then the
candle goes out, and we are in a dreadful stew. But I, bein' almost a man,
contrive to bear up under it, and knowin' she is an orph'n, I comfort an'
encourage Laura the best I know how, and we are almost up-stairs when
Mother comes to the door and wants to know what has kep' us so long. Jest
as if Mother doesn't know! Of course she does; an' when Mother kisses
Laura good-by that night there is in the act a tenderness that speaks more
sweetly than even Mother's words.

"It is so like Mother," mused Ezra; "so like her with her gentleness an'
clingin' love. Hers is the sweetest picture of all, and hers the best
love."

Dream on, Ezra; dream of the old home with its dear ones, its holy
influences, and its precious inspiration,--mother. Dream on in the
far-away firelight; and as the angel hand of memory unfolds these sacred
visions, with thee and them shall abide, like a Divine comforter, the
spirit of thanksgiving.

1885.

+LUDWIG AND ELOISE+

LUDWIG AND ELOISE

Once upon a time there were two youths named Herman and Ludwig; and they
both loved Eloise, the daughter of the old burgomaster. Now, the old
burgomaster was very rich, and having no child but Eloise, he was anxious
that she should be well married and settled in life. "For," said he,
"death is likely to come to me at any time: I am old and feeble, and I
want to see my child sheltered by another's love before I am done with
earth forever."

Eloise was much beloved by all the youth in the village, and there was not
one who would not gladly have taken her to wife; but none loved her so
much as did Herman and Ludwig. Nor did Eloise care for any but Herman and
Ludwig, and she loved Herman. The burgomaster said: "Choose whom you
will--I care not! So long as he be honest I will have him for a son and
thank Heaven for him."

So Eloise chose Herman, and all said she chose wisely; for Herman was
young and handsome, and by his valor had won distinction in the army, and
had thrice been complimented by the general. So when the brave young
captain led Eloise to the altar there was great rejoicing in the village.
The beaux, forgetting their disappointments, and the maidens, seeing the
cause of all their jealousy removed, made merry together; and it was said
that never had there been in the history of the province an event so
joyous as was the wedding of Herman and Eloise.

But in all the village there was one aching heart. Ludwig, the young
musician, saw with quiet despair the maiden he loved go to the altar with
another. He had known Eloise from childhood, and he could not say when his
love of her began, it was so very long ago; but now he knew his heart was
consumed by a hopeless passion. Once, at a village festival, he had begun
to speak to her of his love; but Eloise had placed her hand kindly upon
his lips and told him to say no further, for they had always been and
always would be brother and sister. So Ludwig never spoke his love after
that, and Eloise and he were as brother and sister; but the love of her
grew always within him, and he had no thought but of her.

And now, when Eloise and Herman were wed, Ludwig feigned that he had
received a message from a rich relative in a distant part of the kingdom
bidding him come thither, and Ludwig went from the village and was seen
there no more.

When the burgomaster died all his possessions went to Herman and Eloise;
and they were accounted the richest folk in the province, and so good and
charitable were they that they were beloved by all. Meanwhile Herman had
risen to greatness in the army, for by his valorous exploits he had become
a general, and he was much endeared to the king. And Eloise and Herman
lived in a great castle in the midst of a beautiful park, and the people
came and paid them reverence there.

And no one in all these years spoke of Ludwig. No one thought of him.
Ludwig was forgotten. And so the years went by.

It came to pass, however, that from a far-distant province there spread
the fame of a musician so great that the king sent for him to visit the
court. No one knew the musician's name nor whence he came, for he lived
alone and would never speak of himself; but his music was so tender and
beautiful that it was called heart-music, and he himself was called the
Master. He was old and bowed with infirmities, but his music was always of
youth and love; it touched every heart with its simplicity and pathos, and
all wondered how this old and broken man could create so much of
tenderness and sweetness on these themes.

But when the king sent for the Master to come to court the Master returned
him answer: "No, I am old and feeble. To leave my home would weary me unto
death. Let me die here as I have lived these long years, weaving my music
for hearts that need my solace."

Then the people wondered. But the king was not angry; in pity he sent the
Master a purse of gold, and bade him come or not come, as he willed. Such
honor had never before been shown any subject in the kingdom, and all the
people were dumb with amazement. But the Master gave the purse of gold to
the poor of the village wherein he lived.

In those days Herman died, full of honors and years, and there was a great
lamentation in the land, for Herman was beloved by all. And Eloise wept
unceasingly and would not be comforted.

On the seventh day after Herman had been buried there came to the castle
in the park an aged and bowed man who carried in his white and trembling
hands a violin. His kindly face was deeply wrinkled, and a venerable beard
swept down upon his breast. He was weary and foot-sore, but he heeded not
the words of pity bestowed on him by all who beheld him tottering on his
way. He knocked boldly at the castle gate, and demanded to be brought into
the presence of Eloise.

And Eloise said: "Bid him enter; perchance his music will comfort my
breaking heart."

Then, when the old man had come into her presence, behold! he was the
Master,--ay, the Master whose fame was in every land, whose heart-music
was on every tongue.

"If thou art indeed the Master," said Eloise, "let thy music be balm to my
chastened spirit."

The Master said: "Ay, Eloise, I will comfort thee in thy sorrow, and thy
heart shall be stayed, and a great joy will come to thee."

Then the Master drew his bow across the strings, and lo! forthwith there
arose such harmonies as Eloise had never heard before. Gently,
persuasively, they stole upon her senses and filled her soul with an
ecstasy of peace.

"Is it Herman that speaks to me?" cried Eloise. "It is his voice I hear,
and it speaks to me of love. With thy heart-music, O Master, all the
sweetness of his life comes back to comfort me!"

The Master did not pause; as he played, it seemed as if each tender word
and caress of Herman's life was stealing back on music's pinions to soothe
the wounds that death had made.

"It is the song of our love-life," murmured Eloise. "How full of memories
it is--what tenderness and harmony--and oh! what peace it brings! But tell
me, Master, what means this minor chord,--this undertone of sadness and of
pathos that flows like a deep, unfathomable current throughout it all, and
wailing, weaves itself about thy theme of love and happiness with its
weird and subtile influences?"

Then the Master said: "It is that shade of sorrow and sacrifice, O Eloise,
that ever makes the picture of love more glorious. An undertone of pathos
has been _my_ part in all these years to symmetrize the love of
Herman and Eloise. The song of thy love is beautiful, and who shall say it
is not beautified by the sad undertone of Ludwig's broken heart?"

"Thou art Ludwig!" cried Eloise. "Thou art Ludwig, who didst love me, and
hast come to comfort me who loved thee not!"

The Master indeed was Ludwig; but when they hastened to do him homage he
heard them not, for with that last and sweetest heart-song his head sank
upon his breast, and he was dead.

1885.

+FIDO'S LITTLE FRIEND+

FIDO'S LITTLE FRIEND

One morning in May Fido sat on the front porch, and he was deep in
thought. He was wondering whether the people who were moving into the next
house were as cross and unfeeling as the people who had just moved out. He
hoped they were not, for the people who had just moved out had never
treated Fido with that respect and kindness which Fido believed he was on
all occasions entitled to.

"The new-comers must be nice folks," said Fido to himself, "for their
feather-beds look big and comfortable, and their baskets are all ample and
generous,--and see, there goes a bright gilt cage, and there is a plump
yellow canary bird in it! Oh, how glad Mrs. Tabby will be to see it,--she
so dotes on dear little canary birds!"

Mrs. Tabby was the old brindled cat, who was the mother of the four
cunning little kittens in the hay-mow. Fido had heard her remark very
purringly only a few days ago that she longed for a canary bird, just to
amuse her little ones and give them correct musical ears. Honest old Fido!
There was no guile in his heart, and he never dreamed there was in all the
wide world such a sin as hypocrisy. So when Fido saw the little canary
bird in the cage he was glad for Mrs. Tabby's sake.

While Fido sat on the front porch and watched the people moving into the
next house another pair of eyes peeped out of the old hollow maple over
the way. This was the red-headed woodpecker, who had a warm, cosey nest
far down in the old hollow maple, and in the nest there were four
beautiful eggs, of which the red-headed woodpecker was very proud.

"Good-morning, Mr. Fido," called the red-headed woodpecker from her high
perch. "You are out bright and early to-day. And what do you think of our
new neighbors?"

"Upon my word, I cannot tell," replied Fido, wagging his tail cheerily,
"for I am not acquainted with them. But I have been watching them closely,
and by to-day noon I think I shall be on speaking terms with
them,--provided, of course, they are not the cross, unkind people our old
neighbors were."

"Oh, I do so hope there are no little boys in the family," sighed the
red-headed woodpecker; and then she added, with much determination and a
defiant toss of her beautiful head: "I hate little boys!"

"Why so?" inquired Fido. "As for myself, I love little boys. I have always
found them the pleasantest of companions. Why do _you_ dislike them?"

"Because they are wicked," said the redheaded woodpecker. "They climb
trees and break up the nests we have worked so hard to build, and they
steal away our lovely eggs--oh, I hate little boys!"

"Good little boys don't steal birds' eggs," said Fido, "and I'm sure I
never would play with a bad boy."

But the red-headed woodpecker insisted that all little boys were wicked;
and, firm in this faith, she flew away to the linden over yonder, where,
she had heard the thrush say, there lived a family of fat white grubs. The
red-headed woodpecker wanted her breakfast, and it would have been hard to
find a more palatable morsel for her than a white fat grub.

As for Fido, he sat on the front porch and watched the people moving in.
And as he watched them he thought of what the redheaded woodpecker had
said, and he wondered whether it could be possible for little boys to be
so cruel as to rob birds' nests. As he brooded over this sad possibility,
his train of thought was interrupted by the sound of a voice that fell
pleasantly on his ears.

"Goggie, goggie, goggie!" said the voice. "Tum here, 'ittle goggie--tum
here, goggie, goggie, goggie!"

Fido looked whence the voice seemed to come, and he saw a tiny figure on
the other side of the fence,--a cunning baby-figure in the yard that
belonged to the house where the new neighbors were moving in. A second
glance assured Fido that the calling stranger was a little boy not more
than three years old, wearing a pretty dress, and a broad hat that crowned
his yellow hair and shaded his big blue eyes and dimpled face. The sight
was a pleasing one, and Fido vibrated his tail,--very cautiously, however,
for Fido was not quite certain that the little boy meant his greeting for
him, and Fido's sad experiences with the old neighbors had made him wary
about scraping acquaintances too hastily.

"Turn, 'ittle goggie!" persisted the prattling stranger, and, as if to
encourage Fido, the little boy stretched his chubby arms through the fence
and waved them entreatingly.

Fido was convinced now, so he got up, and with many cordial gestures of
his hospitable tail, trotted down the steps and over the lawn to the
corner of the fence where the little stranger was.

"Me love oo," said the little stranger, patting Fido's honest brown back;
"me love oo, 'ittle goggie!"

Fido knew that, for there were caresses in every stroke of the dimpled
hands. Fido loved the little boy, too,--yes, all at once he loved the
little boy; and he licked the dimpled hands, and gave three short, quick
barks, and wagged his tail hysterically. So then and there began the
friendship of Fido and the little boy.

Presently Fido crawled under the fence into the next yard, and then the
little boy sat down on the grass, and Fido put his fore-paws in the little
boy's lap and cocked up his ears and looked up into the little boy's face,
as much as to say, "We shall be great friends, shall we not, little boy?"

"Me love oo," said the little boy; "me wan' to tiss oo, 'ittle goggie!"

And the little boy did kiss Fido,--yes, right on Fido's cold nose; and
Fido liked to have the little boy kiss him, for it reminded him of another
little boy who used to kiss him, but who was now so big that he was almost
ashamed to play with Fido any more.

"Is oo sit, 'ittle goggie?" asked the little boy, opening his blue eyes to
their utmost capacity and looking very piteous. "Oo nose be so told, oo
mus' be sit, 'ittle goggie!"

But no, Fido was not sick, even though his nose _was_ cold. Oh, no;
he romped and played all that morning in the cool, green grass with the
little boy; and the red-headed woodpecker, clinging to the bark on the
hickory-tree, laughed at their merry antics till her sides ached and her
beautiful head turned fairly livid. Then, at last, the little boy's mamma
came out of the house and told him he had played long enough; and neither
the red-headed woodpecker nor Fido saw him again that day.

But the next morning the little boy toddled down to the fence-corner,
bright and early, and called, "Goggie! goggie! goggie!" so loudly, that
Fido heard him in the wood-shed, where he was holding a morning chat with
Mrs. Tabby. Fido hastened to answer the call; the way he spun out of the
wood-shed and down the gravel walk and around the corner of the house was
a marvel.

"Mamma says oo dot f'eas, 'ittle goggie," said the little boy. "_Has_
oo dot f'eas?"

Fido looked crestfallen, for could Fido have spoken he would have
confessed that he indeed _was_ afflicted with fleas,--not with very
many fleas, but just enough to interrupt his slumbers and his meditations
at the most inopportune moments. And the little boy's guileless
impeachment set Fido to feeling creepy-crawly all of a sudden, and without
any further ado Fido turned deftly in his tracks, twisted his head back
toward his tail, and by means of several well-directed bites and plunges
gave the malicious Bedouins thereabouts located timely warning to behave
themselves. The little boy thought this performance very funny, and he
laughed heartily. But Fido looked crestfallen.

Oh, what play and happiness they had that day; how the green grass kissed
their feet, and how the smell of clover came with the springtime breezes
from the meadow yonder! The red-headed woodpecker heard them at play, and
she clambered out of the hollow maple and dodged hither and thither as if
she, too, shared their merriment. Yes, and the yellow thistle-bird, whose
nest was in the blooming lilac-bush, came and perched in the pear-tree and
sang a little song about the dear little eggs in her cunning home. And
there was a flower in the fence-corner,--a sweet, modest flower that no
human eyes but the little boy's had ever seen,--and she sang a little
song, too, a song about the kind old Mother Earth and the pretty sunbeams,
the gentle rain and the droning bees. Why, the little boy had never known
anything half so beautiful, and Fido,--he, too, was delighted beyond all
telling. If the whole truth must be told, Fido had such an exciting and
bewildering romp that day that when night came, and he lay asleep on the
kitchen floor, he dreamed he was tumbling in the green grass with the
little boy, and he tossed and barked and whined so in his sleep that the
hired man had to get up in the night and put him out of doors.

Down in the pasture at the end of the lane lived an old woodchuck. Last
year the freshet had driven him from his childhood's home in the
corn-field by the brook, and now he resided in a snug hole in the pasture.
During their rambles one day, Fido and his little boy friend had come to
the pasture, and found the old woodchuck sitting upright at the entrance
to his hole.

"Oh, I'm not going to hurt you, old Mr. Woodchuck," said Fido. "I have too
much respect for your gray hairs."

"Thank you," replied the woodchuck, sarcastically, "but I'm not afraid of
any bench-legged fyste that ever walked. It was only last week that I
whipped Deacon Skinner's yellow mastiff, and I calc'late I can trounce
you, you ridiculous little brown cur!"

The little boy did not hear this badinage. When he saw the woodchuck
solemnly perched at the entrance to his hole he was simply delighted.

"Oh, see!" cried the little boy, stretching out his fat arms and running
toward the woodchuck,--"oh, see,--'nuzzer 'ittle goggie! Turn here, 'ittle
goggie,--me love oo!"

But the old woodchuck was a shy creature, and not knowing what guile the
little boy's cordial greeting might mask, the old woodchuck discreetly
disappeared in his hole, much to the little boy's amazement.

Nevertheless, the old woodchuck, the little boy, and Fido became fast
friends in time, and almost every day they visited together in the
pasture. The old woodchuck--hoary and scarred veteran that he was--had
wonderful stories to tell,--stories of marvellous adventures, of narrow
escapes, of battles with cruel dogs, and of thrilling experiences that
were altogether new to his wondering listeners. Meanwhile the red-headed
woodpecker's eggs in the hollow maple had hatched, and the proud mother
had great tales to tell of her baby birds,--of how beautiful and knowing
they were, and of what good, noble birds they were going to be when they
grew up. The yellow-bird, too, had four fuzzy little babies in her nest in
the lilac-bush, and every now and then she came to sing to the little boy
and Fido of her darlings. Then, when the little boy and Fido were tired
with play, they would sit in the rowen near the fence-corner and hear the
flower tell a story the dew had brought fresh from the stars the night
before. They all loved each other,--the little boy, Fido, the old
woodchuck, the redheaded woodpecker, the yellow-bird, and the
flower,--yes, all through the days of spring and all through the summer
time they loved each other in their own honest, sweet, simple way.

But one morning Fido sat on the front porch and wondered why the little
boy had not come to the fence-corner and called to him. The sun was high,
the men had been long gone to the harvest fields, and the heat of the
early autumn day had driven the birds to the thickest foliage of the
trees. Fido could not understand why the little boy did not come; he felt,
oh' so lonesome, and he yearned for the sound of a little voice calling
"Goggie, goggie, goggie."

The red-headed woodpecker could not explain it, nor could the yellow-bird.
Fido trotted leisurely down to the fence-corner and asked the flower if
she had seen the little boy that morning. But no, the flower had not laid
eyes on the little boy, and she could only shake her head doubtfully when
Fido asked her what it all meant. At last in desperation Fido braced
himself for an heroic solution of the mystery, and as loudly as ever he
could, he barked three times,--in the hope, you know, that the little boy
would hear his call and come. But the little boy did not come.

Then Fido trotted sadly down the lane to the pasture to talk with the old
woodchuck about this strange thing. The old woodchuck saw him coming and
ambled out to meet him.

"But where is our little boy?" asked the old woodchuck.

"I do not know," said Fido. "I waited for him and called to him again and
again, but he never came."

Ah, those were sorry days for the little boy's friends, and sorriest for
Fido. Poor, honest Fido, how lonesome he was and how he moped about! How
each sudden sound, how each footfall, startled him! How he sat all those
days upon the front door-stoop, with his eyes fixed on the fence-corner
and his rough brown ears cocked up as if he expected each moment to see
two chubby arms stretched out toward him and to hear a baby voice calling
"Goggie, goggie, goggie."

Once only they saw him,--Fido, the flower, and the others. It was one day
when Fido had called louder than usual. They saw a little figure in a
night-dress come to an upper window and lean his arms out. They saw it was
the little boy, and, oh! how pale and ill he looked. But his yellow hair
was as glorious as ever, and the dimples came back with the smile that
lighted his thin little face when he saw Fido; and he leaned on the window
casement and waved his baby hands feebly, and cried: "Goggie! goggie!"
till Fido saw the little boy's mother come and take him from the window.

One morning Fido came to the fence-corner--how very lonely that spot
seemed now--and he talked with the flower and the woodpecker; and the
yellow-bird came, too, and they all talked of the little boy. And at that
very moment the old woodchuck reared his hoary head by the hole in the
pasture, and he looked this way and that and wondered why the little boy
never came any more.

"Suppose," said Fido to the yellow-bird,--"suppose you fly to the window
'way up there and see what the little boy is doing. Sing him one of your
pretty songs, and tell him we are lonesome without him; that we are
waiting for him in the old fence-corner."

Then the yellow-bird did as Fido asked,--she flew to the window where they
had once seen the little boy, and alighting upon the sill, she peered into
the room. In another moment she was back on the bush at Fido's side.

"He is asleep," said the yellow-bird.

"Asleep!" cried Fido.

"Yes," said the yellow-bird, "he is fast asleep. I think he must be
dreaming a beautiful dream, for I could see a smile on his face, and his
little hands were folded on his bosom. There were flowers all about him,
and but for their sweet voices the chamber would have been very still."

"Come, let us wake him," said Fido; "let us all call to him at once. Then
perhaps he will hear us and awaken and answer; perhaps he will come."

So they all called in chorus,--Fido and the other honest friends. They
called so loudly that the still air of that autumn morning was strangely
startled, and the old woodchuck in the pasture 'way off yonder heard the
echoes and wondered.

"Little boy! little boy!" they called, "why are you sleeping? Why are you
sleeping, little boy?"

Call on, dear voices! but the little boy will never hear. The dimpled
hands that caressed you are indeed folded upon his breast; the lips that
kissed your honest faces are sealed; the baby voice that sang your
playtime songs with you is hushed, and all about him are the fragrance and
the beauty of flowers. Call on, O honest friends! but he shall never hear
your calling; for, as if he were aweary of the love and play and sunshine
that were all he knew of earth, our darling is asleep forever.

1885.

+THE OLD MAN+

THE OLD MAN

I called him the Old Man, but he wuzn't an old man; he wuz a little
boy--our fust one; 'nd his gran'ma, who'd had a heap of experience in sich
matters, allowed that he wuz for looks as likely a child as she'd ever
clapped eyes on. Bein' our fust, we sot our hearts on him, and Lizzie
named him Willie, for that wuz the name she liked best, havin' had a
brother Willyum killed in the war. But I never called him anything but the
Old Man, and that name seemed to fit him, for he wuz one of your sollum
babies,--alwuz thinkin' 'nd thinkin' 'nd thinkin', like he wuz a jedge,
and when he laffed it wuzn't like other children's laffs, it wuz so
sad-like.

Lizzie 'nd I made it up between us that when the Old Man growed up we'd
send him to collige 'nd give him a lib'ril edication, no matter though we
had to sell the farm to do it. But we never c'u'd exactly agree as to what
we was goin' to make of him; Lizzie havin' her heart sot on his bein' a
preacher like his gran'pa Baker, and I wantin' him to be a lawyer 'nd git
rich out'n the corporations, like his uncle Wilson Barlow. So we never
come to no definite conclusion as to what the Old Man wuz goin' to be bime
by; but while we wuz thinkin' 'nd debatin' the Old Man kep' growin' 'nd
growin', and all the time he wuz as serious 'nd sollum as a jedge.

Lizzie got jest wrapped up in that boy; toted him round ever'where 'nd
never let on like it made her tired,--powerful big 'nd hearty child too,
but heft warn't nothin' 'longside of Lizzie's love for the Old Man. When
he caught the measles from Sairy Baxter's baby Lizzie sot up day 'nd night
till he wuz well, holdin' his hands 'nd singin' songs to him, 'nd cryin'
herse'f almost to death because she dassent give him cold water to drink
when he called f'r it. As for me, _my_ heart wuz wrapped up in the
Old Man, _too_, but, bein' a man, it wuzn't for me to show it like
Lizzie, bein' a woman; and now that the Old Man is--wall, now that he has
gone, it wouldn't do to let on how much I sot by him, for that would make
Lizzie feel all the wuss.

Sometimes, when I think of it, it makes me sorry that I didn't show the
Old Man some way how much I wuz wrapped up in him. Used to hold him in my
lap 'nd make faces for him 'nd alder whistles 'nd things; sometimes I'd
kiss him on his rosy cheek, when nobody wuz lookin'; oncet I tried to sing
him a song, but it made him cry, 'nd I never tried my hand at singin'
again. But, somehow, the Old Man didn't take to me like he took to his
mother: would climb down outern my lap to git where Lizzie wuz; would hang
on to her gownd, no matter what she wuz doin',--whether she wuz makin'
bread, or sewin', or puttin' up pickles, it wuz alwuz the same to the Old
Man; he wuzn't happy unless he wuz right there, clost beside his mother.

'Most all boys, as I've heern tell, is proud to be round with their
father, doin' what _he_ does 'nd wearin' the kind of clothes
_he_ wears. But the Old Man wuz different; he allowed that his mother
was his best friend, 'nd the way he stuck to her--wall, it has alwuz been
a great comfort to Lizzie to recollect it.

The Old Man had a kind of confidin' way with his mother. Every oncet in a
while, when he'd be playin' by hisself in the front room, he'd call out,
"Mudder, mudder;" and no matter where Lizzie wuz,--in the kitchen, or in
the wood-shed, or in the yard, she'd answer: "What is it, darlin'?" Then
the Old Man 'u'd say: "Turn here, mudder, I wanter tell you sumfin'."
Never could find out what the Old Man wanted to tell Lizzie; like 's not
he didn't wanter tell her nothin'; maybe he wuz lonesome 'nd jest wanted
to feel that Lizzie wuz round. But that didn't make no diff'rence; it wuz
all the same to Lizzie. No matter where she wuz or what she wuz a-doin',
jest as soon as the Old Man told her he wanted to tell her somethin' she
dropped ever'thing else 'nd went straight to him. Then the Old Man would
laff one of his sollum, sad-like laffs, 'nd put his arms round Lizzie's
neck 'nd whisper--or pertend to whisper--somethin' in her ear, 'nd Lizzie
would laff 'nd say, "Oh, what a nice secret we have atween us!" and then
she would kiss the Old Man 'nd go back to her work.

Time changes all things,--all things but memory, nothin' can change
_that_. Seems like it was only yesterday or the day before that I
heern the Old Man callin', "Mudder, mudder, I wanter tell you sumfin',"
and that I seen him put his arms around her neck 'nd whisper softly to
her.

It had been an open winter, 'nd there wuz fever all around us. The Baxters
lost their little girl, and Homer Thompson's children had all been taken
down. Ev'ry night 'nd mornin' we prayed God to save our darlin'; but one
evenin' when I come up from the wood-lot, the Old Man wuz restless 'nd his
face wuz hot 'nd he talked in his sleep. Maybe you've been through it
yourself,--maybe you've tended a child that's down with the fever; if so,
maybe you know what we went through, Lizzie 'nd me. The doctor shook his
head one night when he come to see the Old Man; we knew what that meant. I
went out-doors,--I couldn't stand it in the room there, with the Old Man
seein' 'nd talkin' about things that the fever made him see. I wuz too big
a coward to stay 'nd help his mother to bear up; so I went out-doors 'nd
brung in wood,--brung in wood enough to last all spring,--and then I sat
down alone by the kitchen fire 'nd heard the clock tick 'nd watched the
shadders flicker through the room.

I remember Lizzie's comin' to me and sayin': "He's breathin' strange-like,
'nd his little feet is cold as ice." Then I went into the front chamber
where he lay. The day wuz breakin'; the cattle wuz lowin' outside; a beam
of light come through the winder and fell on the Old Man's face,--perhaps
it wuz the summons for which he waited and which shall some time come to
me 'nd you. Leastwise the Old Man roused from his sleep 'nd opened up his
big blue eyes. It wuzn't me he wanted to see.

"Mudder! mudder!" cried the Old Man, but his voice warn't strong 'nd clear
like it used to be. "Mudder, where _be_ you, mudder?"

Then, breshin' by me, Lizzie caught the Old Man up 'nd held him in her
arms, like she had done a thousand times before.

"What is it, darlin'? _Here_ I be," says Lizzie.

"Tum here," says the Old Man,--"tum here; I wanter tell you sumfin'."

The Old Man went to reach his arms around her neck 'nd whisper in her ear.
But his arms fell limp and helpless-like, 'nd the Old Man's curly head
drooped on his mother's breast.

1889.

+BILL, THE LOKIL EDITOR+

BILL, THE LOKIL EDITOR

Bill wuz alluz fond uv children 'nd birds 'nd flowers. Ain't it kind o'
curious how sometimes we find a great, big, awkward man who loves sech
things? Bill had the biggest feet in the township, but I'll bet my wallet
that he never trod on a violet in all his life. Bill never took no slack
from enny man that wuz sober, but the children made him play with 'em, and
he'd set for hours a-watchin' the yaller-hammer buildin' her nest in the
old cottonwood.

Now I ain't defendin' Bill; I'm jest tellin' the truth about him. Nothink
I kin say one way or t'other is goin' to make enny difference now; Bill's
dead 'nd buried, 'nd the folks is discussin' him 'nd wond'rin' whether his
immortal soul is all right. Sometimes I _hev_ worried 'bout Bill, but
I don't worry 'bout him no more. Uv course Bill had his faults,--I never
liked that drinkin' business uv his'n, yet I allow that Bill got more good
out'n likker, and likker got more good out'n Bill, than I ever see before
or sence. It warn't when the likker wuz in Bill that Bill wuz at his best,
but when he hed been on to one uv his bats 'nd had drunk himself sick 'nd
wuz comin' out uv the other end of the bat, then Bill wuz one uv the
meekest 'nd properest critters you ever seen. An' po'try? Some uv the most
beautiful po'try I ever read wuz writ by Bill when he wuz recoverin'
himself out'n one uv them bats. Seemed like it kind uv exalted an'
purified Bill's nachur to git drunk an' git over it. Bill c'u'd drink more
likker 'nd be sorrier for it than any other man in seven States. There
never wuz a more penitent feller than he wuz when he wuz soberin'. The
trubble with Bill seemed to be that his conscience didn't come on watch
quite of'n enuff.

It'll be ten years come nex' spring sence Bill showed up here. I don't
know whar he come from; seemed like he didn't want to talk about his past.
I allers suspicioned that he had seen trubble--maybe, sorrer. I reecollect
that one time he got a telegraph,--Mr. Ivins told me 'bout it
afterwards,--and when he read it he put his hands up to his face 'nd
groaned, like. That day he got full uv likker 'nd he kep' full uv likker
for a week; but when he come round all right he wrote a pome for the
paper, 'nd the name uv the pome wuz "Mary," but whether Mary wuz his
sister or his wife or an old sweetheart uv his'n I never knew. But it
looked from the pome like she wuz dead 'nd that he loved her.

Bill wuz the best lokil the paper ever had. He didn't hustle around much,
but he had a kind er pleasin' way uv dishin' things up. He c'u'd be mighty
comical when he sot out to be, but his best holt was serious pieces.
Nobody could beat Bill writing obituaries. When old Mose Holbrook wuz
dyin' the minister sez to him: "Mr. Holbrook, you seem to be sorry that
you're passin' away to a better land?"

"Wall, no; not exactly _that_," sez Mose, "but to be frank with you,
I _hev_ jest one regret in connection with this affair."

"What's that?" asked the minister.

"I can't help feelin' sorry," sez Mose, "that I ain't goin' to hev the
pleasure uv readin' what Bill Newton sez about me in the paper. I know
it'll be sumthin' uncommon fine; I loant him two dollars a year ago last
fall."

The Higginses lost a darned good friend when Bill died. Bill wrote a pome
'bout their old dog Towze when he wuz run over by Watkins's hay-wagon
seven years ago. I'll bet that pome is in every scrap-book in the county.
You couldn't read that pome without cryin',--why, that pome w'u'd hev
brought a dew out on the desert uv Sary. Old Tim Hubbard, the meanest man
in the State, borrered a paper to read the pome, and he wuz so 'fected by
it that he never borrered anuther paper as long as he lived. I don't
more'n half reckon, though, that the Higginses appreciated what Bill had
done for 'em. I never heerd uv their givin' him anythink more'n a basket
uv greenin' apples, and Bill wrote a piece 'bout the apples nex' day.

But Bill wuz at his best when he wrote things about the children,--about
the little ones that died, I mean. Seemed like Bill had a way of his own
of sayin' things that wuz beautiful 'nd tender; he said he loved the
children because they wuz innocent, and I reckon--yes, I know he did, for
the pomes he writ about 'em showed he did.

When our little Alice died I started out for Mr. Miller's; he wuz the
undertaker. The night wuz powerful dark, 'nd it wuz all the darker to me,
because seemed like all the light hed gone out in my life. Down near the
bridge I met Bill; he weaved round in the road, for he wuz in likker.

"Hello, Mr. Baker," sez he, "whar be you goin' this time o' night?"

"Bill," sez I, "I'm goin' on the saddest errand uv my life."

"What d' ye mean?" sez he, comin' up to me as straight as he c'u'd.

"Why, Bill," sez I, "our little girl--my little girl--Allie, you
know--she's dead."

I hoarsed up so I couldn't say much more. And Bill didn't say nothink at
all; he jest reached me his hand, and he took my hand and seemed like in
that grasp his heart spoke many words of comfort to mine. And nex' day he
had a piece in the paper about our little girl; we cut it out and put it
in the big Bible in the front room. Sometimes when we get to fussin',
Martha goes 'nd gets that bit of paper 'nd reads it to me; then us two
kind uv cry to ourselves, 'nd we make it up between us for the dead
child's sake.

Well, you kin see how it wuz that so many uv us liked Bill; he had soothed
our hearts,--there's nothin' like sympathy after all. Bill's po'try hed
heart in it; it didn't surprise you or scare you; it jest got down in
under your vest, 'nd before you knew it you wuz all choked up. I know all
about your fashionable po'try and your famous potes,--Martha took Godey's
for a year. Folks that live in the city can't write po'try,--not the real,
genuine article. To write po'try, as I figure it, the heart must have
somethin' to feed on; you can't get that somethin' whar there ain't trees
'nd grass 'nd birds 'nd flowers. Bill loved these things, and he fed his
heart on 'em, and that's why his po'try wuz so much better than anybody
else's.

I ain't worryin' much about Bill now; I take it that everythink is for the
best. When they told me that Bill died in a drunken fit I felt that his
end oughter have come some other way,--he wuz too good a man for that. But
maybe, after all, it was ordered for the best. Jist imagine Bill
a-standin' up for jedgment; jist imagine that poor, sorrowful, shiverin'
critter waitin' for his turn to come. Pictur', if you can, how full of
penitence he is, 'nd how full uv po'try 'nd gentleness 'nd misery. The
Lord ain't a-goin' to be too hard on that poor wretch. Of course we can't
comprehend Divine mercy; we only know that it is full of compassion,--a
compassion infinitely tenderer and sweeter than ours. And the more I think
on 't, the more I reckon that Bill will plead to win that mercy, for, like
as not, the little ones--my Allie with the rest--will run to him when they
see him in his trubble and will hold his tremblin' hands 'nd twine their
arms about him, and plead, with him, for compassion.

You've seen an old sycamore that the lightnin' has struck; the ivy has
reached up its vines 'nd spread 'em all around it 'nd over it, coverin'
its scars 'nd splintered branches with a velvet green 'nd fillin' the air
with fragrance. You've seen this thing and you know that it is beautiful.

That's Bill, perhaps, as he stands up f'r jedgment,--a miserable,
tremblin', 'nd unworthy thing, perhaps, but twined about, all over, with
singin' and pleadin' little children--and that is pleasin' in God's sight,
I know.

What would you--what would _I_--say, if we wuz settin' in jedgment
then?

Why, we'd jest kind uv bresh the moisture from our eyes 'nd say: "Mister
recordin' angel, you may nolly pros this case 'nd perseed with the
docket."

1888.

+THE LITTLE YALLER BABY+

THE LITTLE YALLER BABY

I hev allus hed a good opinion uv the wimmin folks. I don't look at 'em as
some people do; uv course they're a necessity--just as men are. Uv course
if there warn't no wimmin folks there wouldn't be no men folks--leastwise
that's what the medikil books say. But I never wuz much on discussin'
humin economy; what I hev allus thought 'nd said wuz that wimmin folks wuz
a kind uv luxury, 'nd the best kind, too. Maybe it's because I hain't hed
much to do with 'em that I'm sot on 'em. Never did get real well
acquainted with more'n three or four uv 'em in all my life; seemed like it
wuz meant that I shouldn't hev 'em round me as most men hev. Mother died
when I wuz a little tyke, an' Aunt Mary raised me till I wuz big enuff to
make my own livin'. Down here in the Southwest, you see, most uv the girls
is boys; there ain't none uv them civilizin' influences folks talk
uv,--nothin' but flowers 'nd birds 'nd such things as poetry tells about.
So I kind uv growed up with the curi's notion that wimmin folks wuz too
good for our part uv the country, 'nd I hevn't quite got that notion out'n
my head yet.

One time--wall, I reckon 't wuz about four years ago--I got a letter frum
ol' Col. Sibley to come up to Saint Louey 'nd consult with him 'bout some
stock int'rests we hed together. Railroad travellin' wuz no new thing to
me. I hed been prutty prosperous,--hed got past hevin' to ride in a
caboose 'nd git out at every stop to punch up the steers. Hed money in the
Hoost'n bank 'nd used to go to Tchicargo oncet a year; hed met Fill Armer
'nd shook hands with him, 'nd oncet the city papers hed a colume article
about my bein' a millionnaire; uv course 't warn't so, but a feller kind
uv likes that sort uv thing, you know.

The mornin' after I got that letter from Col. Sibley I started for Saint
Louey. I took a bunk in the Pullman car, like I hed been doin' for six
years past; 'nd I reckon the other folks must hev thought I wuz a heap uv
a man, for every haff-hour I give the nigger ha'f a dollar to bresh me
off. The car wuz full uv people,--rich people, too, I reckon, for they
wore good clo'es 'nd criticized the scenery. Jest across frum me there wuz
a lady with a big, fat baby,--the pruttiest woman I hed seen in a month uv
Sundays; and the baby! why, doggone my skin, when I wuzn't payin' money to
the nigger, darned if I didn't set there watchin' the big, fat little
cuss, like he wuz the only baby I ever seen. I ain't much of a hand at
babies, 'cause I hain't seen many uv 'em, 'nd when it comes to handlin'
'em--why, that would break me all up, 'nd like 's not 't would break the
baby all up too. But it has allus been my notion that nex' to the wimmin
folks babies wuz jest about the nicest things on earth. So the more I
looked at that big, fat little baby settin' in its mother's lap 'cross the
way, the more I wanted to look; seemed like I wuz hoodooed by the little
tyke; 'nd the first thing I knew there wuz water in my eyes; don't know
why it is, but it allus makes me kind ur slop over to set 'nd watch a baby
cooin' 'nd playin' in its mother's lap.

"Look a' hyar, Sam," says I to the nigger, "come hyar 'nd bresh me off
ag'in! Why ain't you 'tendin' to bizness?"

But it didn't do no good 't all; pertendin' to be cross with the nigger
might fool the other folks in the car, but it didn't fool me. I wuz dead
stuck on that baby--gol durn his pictur'! And there the little tyke set in
its mother's lap, doublin' up its fists 'nd tryin' to swaller 'em, 'nd
talkin' like to its mother in a lingo I couldn't understan', but which the
mother could, for she talked back to the baby in a soothin' lingo which I
couldn't understand, but which I liked to hear, 'nd she kissed the baby
'nd stroked its hair 'nd petted it like wimmin do.

It made me mad to hear them other folks in the car criticizin' the scenery
'nd things. A man's in mighty poor bizness, anyhow, to be lookin' at
scenery when there's a woman in sight,--a woman _and_ a baby!

Prutty soon--oh, maybe in a hour or two--the baby began to fret 'nd
worrit. Seemed to me like the little critter wuz hungry. Knowin' that
there wuz no eatin'-house this side of Bowieville, I jest called the
train-boy, 'nd says I to him: "Hev you got any victuals that will do for a
baby?"

"How is oranges 'nd bananas?" says he.

"That ought to do," says I. "Jist do up a dozen uv your best oranges 'nd a
dozen uv your best bananas 'nd take 'em over to that baby with my
complerments."

But before he could do it, the lady hed laid the baby on one uv her arms
'nd hed spread a shawl over its head 'nd over her shoulder, 'nd all uv a
suddint the baby quit worritin' and seemed like he hed gone to sleep.

When we got to York Crossin' I looked out'n the winder 'nd seen some men
carryin' a long pine box up towards the baggage-car. Seein' their hats
off, I knew there wuz a dead body in the box, 'nd I couldn't help feelin'
sorry for the poor creetur that hed died in that lonely place uv York
Crossin'; but I mought hev felt a heap sorrier for the creeters that hed
to live there, for I'll allow that York Crossin' is a _leetle_ the
durnedest lonesomest place I ever seen.

Well, just afore the train started ag'in, who should come into the car but
Bill Woodson, and he wuz lookin' powerful tough. Bill herded cattle for me
three winters, but hed moved away when he married one uv the waiter-girls
at Spooner's Hotel at Hoost'n.

"Hello, Bill," says I; "what air you totin' so kind uv keerful-like in
your arms there?"

"Why, I've got the baby," says he; 'nd as he said it the tears come up
into his eyes.

"Your own baby, Bill?" says I.

"Yes," says he. "Nellie took sick uv the janders a fortnight ago, 'nd--'nd
she died, 'nd I'm takin' her body up to Texarkany to bury. She lived
there, you know, 'nd I'm goin' to leave the baby there with its gran'ma."

Poor Bill! it wuz his wife that the men were carryin' in that pine box to
the baggage-car.

"Likely-lookin'baby, Bill," says I, cheerful like. "Perfect pictur' uv its
mother; kind uv favors you round the lower part uv the face, tho'."

I said this to make Bill feel happier. If I'd told the truth, I'd 've said
the baby wuz a sickly, yaller-lookin' little thing, for so it wuz; looked
haff-starved, too. Couldn't help comparin' it with that big, fat baby in
its mother's arms over the way.

"Bill," says I, "here's a ten-dollar note for the baby, 'nd God bless
you!"

"Thank ye, Mr. Goodhue," says he, 'nd he choked all up as he moved off
with that yaller little baby in his arms. It warn't very fur up the road
he wuz goin', 'nd he found a seat in one uv the front cars.

But along about an hour after that back come Bill, moseyin' through the
car like he wuz huntin' for somebody. Seemed like he wuz in trubble and
wuz huntin' for a friend.

"Anything I kin do for you, Bill?" says I, but he didn't make no answer.
All uv a suddint he sot his eyes on the prutty lady that had the fat baby
sleepin' in her arms, 'nd he made a break for her like he wuz crazy. He
took off his hat 'nd bent down over her 'nd said somethin' none uv the
rest uv us could hear. The lady kind uv started like she wuz frightened,
'nd then she looked up at Bill 'nd looked him right square in the
countenance. She saw a tall, ganglin', awkward man, with long yaller hair
'nd frowzy beard, 'nd she saw that he wuz tremblin' 'nd hed tears in his
eyes. She looked down at the fat baby in her arms, 'nd then she looked
out'n the winder at the great stretch uv prairie land, 'nd seemed like she
wuz lookin' off further 'n the rest uv us could see. Then at last she
turnt around 'nd said, "Yes," to Bill, 'nd Bill went off into the front
car ag'in.

None uv the rest uv us knew what all this meant, but in a minnit Bill come
back with his little yaller baby in his arms, 'nd you never heerd a baby
squall 'nd carry on like that baby wuz squallin' 'nd carryin' on. Fact is,
the little yaller baby wuz hungry, hungrier 'n a wolf, 'nd there wuz its
mother dead in the car up ahead 'nd its gran'ma a good piece up the road.
What did the lady over the way do but lay her own sleepin' baby down on
the seat beside her 'nd take Bill's little yaller baby 'nd hold it on one
arm 'nd cover up its head 'nd her shoulder with a shawl, jist like she had
done with the fat baby not long afore. Bill never looked at her; he took
off his hat and held it in his hand, 'nd turnt around 'nd stood guard over
that mother, 'nd I reckon that ef any man bed darst to look that way jist
then Bill would 've cut his heart out.

The little yaller baby didn't cry very long. Seemed like it knowed there
wuz a mother holdin' it,--not its own mother, but a woman whose life hed
been hallowed by God's blessin' with the love 'nd the purity 'nd the
sanctity uv motherhood.

Why, I wouldn't hev swapped that sight uv Bill an' them two babies 'nd
that sweet woman for all the cattle in Texas! It jest made me know that
what I'd allus thought uv wimmin was gospel truth. God bless that lady! I
say, wherever she is to-day, 'nd God bless all wimmin folks, for they're
all alike in their unselfishness 'nd gentleness 'nd love!

Bill said, "God bless ye!" too, when she handed him back his poor little
yaller baby. The little creeter wuz fast asleep, 'nd Bill darsent speak
very loud for fear he'd wake it up. But his heart wuz 'way up in his mouth
when he says "God bless ye!" to that dear lady; 'nd then he added, like he
wanted to let her know that he meant to pay her back when he could: "I'll
do the same for you some time, marm, if I kin."

1888.

+THE CYCLOPEEDY+

THE CYCLOPEEDY

Havin' lived next door to the Hobart place f'r goin' on thirty years, I
calc'late that I know jest about ez much about the case ez anybody else
now on airth, exceptin' perhaps it's ol' Jedge Baker, and he's so plaguy
old 'nd so powerful feeble that _he_ don't know nothin'.

It seems that in the spring uv '47--the year that Cy Watson's oldest boy
wuz drownded in West River--there come along a book-agent sellin' volyumes
'nd tracks f'r the diffusion uv knowledge, 'nd havin' got the recommend of
the minister 'nd uv the selectmen, he done an all-fired big business in
our part uv the county. His name wuz Lemuel Higgins, 'nd he wuz ez likely
a talker ez I ever heerd, barrin' Lawyer Conkey, 'nd everybody allowed
that when Conkey wuz round he talked so fast that the town pump 'u'd have
to be greased every twenty minutes.

One of the first uv our folks that this Lemuel Higgins struck wuz Leander
Hobart. Leander had jest marr'd one uv the Peasley girls, 'nd had moved
into the old homestead on the Plainville road,--old Deacon Hobart havin'
give up the place to him, the other boys havin' moved out West (like a lot
o' darned fools that they wuz!). Leander wuz feelin' his oats jest about
this time, 'nd nuthin' wuz too good f'r him.

"Hattie," sez he, "I guess I'll have to lay in a few books f'r readin' in
the winter time, 'nd I've half a notion to subscribe f'r a cyclopeedy. Mr.
Higgins here says they're invalerable in a family, and that we orter have
'em, bein' as how we're likely to have the fam'ly bime by."

"Lor's sakes, Leander, how you talk!" sez Hattie, blushin' all over, ez
brides allers does to heern tell uv sich things.

Waal, to make a long story short, Leander bargained with Mr. Higgins for a
set uv them cyclopeedies, 'nd he signed his name to a long printed paper
that showed how he agreed to take a cyclopeedy oncet in so often, which
wuz to be ez often ez a new one uv the volyumes wuz printed. A cyclopeedy
isn't printed all at oncet, because that would make it cost too much;
consekently the man that gets it up has it strung along fur apart, so as
to hit folks oncet every year or two, and gin'rally about harvest time. So
Leander kind uv liked the idee, and he signed the printed paper 'nd made
his affidavit to it afore Jedge Warner.

The fust volyume of the cyclopeedy stood on a shelf in the old seckertary
in the settin'-room about four months before they had any use f'r it. One
night Squire Turner's son come over to visit Leander 'nd Hattie, and they
got to talkin' about apples, 'nd the sort uv apples that wuz the best.
Leander allowed that the Rhode Island greenin' wuz the best, but Hattie
and the Turner boy stuck up f'r the Roxbury russet, until at last a happy
idee struck Leander, and sez he: "We'll leave it to the cyclopeedy,
b'gosh! Whichever one the cyclopeedy sez is the best will settle it."

"But you can't find out nothin' 'bout Roxbury russets nor Rhode Island
greenin's in _our_ cyclopeedy," sez Hattie.

"Why not, I'd like to know?" sez Leander, kind uv indignant like.

"'Cause ours hain't got down to the R yet," sez Hattie. "All ours tells
about is things beginnin' with A."

"Well, ain't we talkin' about Apples?" sez Leander. "You aggervate me

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