FIFTY FAMOUS STORIES RETOLD
AMERICAN BOOK COMPANY
NEW YORK CINCINNATI CHICAGO
COPYRIGHT, 1896, BY
AMERICAN BOOK COMPANY.
King Alfred and the Cakes
King Alfred and the Beggar
King Canute on the Seashore
The Sons of William the Conqueror
The White Ship
King John and the Abbot
A Story of Robin Hood
Bruce and the Spider
The Black Douglas
Three Men of Gotham
Other Wise Men of Gotham
The Miller of the Dee
Sir Philip Sidney
The Ungrateful Soldier
Sir Humphrey Gilbert
Sir Walter Raleigh
George Washington and his Hatchet
The Story of William Tell
The Bell of Atri
How Napoleon crossed the Alps
The Story of Cincinnatus
The Story of Regulus
Androclus and the Lion
Horatius at the Bridge
The Sword of Damocles
Damon and Pythias
A Laconic Answer
The Ungrateful Guest
Alexander and Bucephalus
Diogenes the Wise Man
The Brave Three Hundred
Socrates and his House
The King and his Hawk
The Barmecide Feast
The Endless Tale
The Blind Men and the Elephant
Maximilian and the Goose Boy
The Inchcape Rock
Whittington and his Cat
CONCERNING THESE STORIES.
There are numerous time-honored stories which have become so incorporated into the literature and thought of our race that a knowledge of them is an indispensable part of one's education. These stories are of several different classes. To one class belong the popular fairy tales which have delighted untold generations of children, and will continue to delight them to the end of time. To another class belong the limited number of fables that have come down to us through many channels from hoar antiquity. To a third belong the charming stories of olden times that are derived from the literatures of ancient peoples, such as the Greeks and the Hebrews. A fourth class includes the half-legendary tales of a distinctly later origin, which have for their subjects certain romantic episodes in the lives of well-known heroes and famous men, or in the history of a people.
It is to this last class that most of the fifty stories contained in the present volume belong. As a matter of course, some of these stories are better known, and therefore more famous, than others. Some have a slight historical value; some are useful as giving point to certain great moral truths; others are products solely of the fancy, and are intended only to amuse. Some are derived from very ancient sources, and are current in the literature of many lands; some have come to us through the ballads and folk tales of the English people; a few are of quite recent origin; nearly all are the subjects of frequent allusions in poetry and prose and in the conversation of educated people. Care has been taken to exclude everything that is not strictly within the limits of probability; hence there is here no trespassing upon the domain of the fairy tale, the fable, or the myth.
That children naturally take a deep interest in such stories, no person can deny; that the reading of them will not only give pleasure, but will help to lay the foundation for broader literary studies, can scarcely be doubted. It is believed, therefore, that the present collection will be found to possess an educative value which will commend it as a supplementary reader in the middle primary grades at school. It is also hoped that the book will prove so attractive that it will be in demand out of school as well as in.
Acknowledgments are due to Mrs. Charles A. Lane, by whom eight or ten of the stories were suggested.
FIFTY FAMOUS STORIES RETOLD.
KING ALFRED AND THE CAKES.
Many years ago there lived in Eng-land a wise and good king whose name was Al-fred. No other man ever did so much for his country as he; and people now, all over the world, speak of him as Alfred the Great.
In those days a king did not have a very easy life. There was war almost all the time, and no one else could lead his army into battle so well as he. And so, between ruling and fighting, he had a busy time of it indeed.
A fierce, rude people, called the Danes, had come from over the sea, and were fighting the Eng-lish. There were so many of them, and they were so bold and strong, that for a long time they gained every battle. If they kept on, they would soon be the masters of the whole country.
At last, after a great battle, the English army was broken up and scat-tered. Every man had to save himself in the best way he could. King Alfred fled alone, in great haste, through the woods and swamps.
Late in the day the king came to the hut of a wood-cut-ter. He was very tired and hungry, and he begged the wood-cut-ter's wife to give him something to eat and a place to sleep in her hut.
The wom-an was baking some cakes upon the hearth, and she looked with pity upon the poor, ragged fellow who seemed so hungry. She had no thought that he was the king.
"Yes," she said, "I will give you some supper if you will watch these cakes. I want to go out and milk the cow; and you must see that they do not burn while I am gone."
King Alfred was very willing to watch the cakes, but he had far greater things to think about. How was he going to get his army to-geth-er again? And how was he going to drive the fierce Danes out of the land? He forgot his hunger; he forgot the cakes; he forgot that he was in the woodcutter's hut. His mind was busy making plans for to-mor-row.
In a little while the wom-an came back. The cakes were smoking on the hearth. They were burned to a crisp. Ah, how angry she was!
"You lazy fellow!" she cried. "See what you have done! You want some-thing to eat, but you do not want to work!"
I have been told that she even struck the king with a stick; but I can hardly be-lieve that she was so ill-na-tured.
The king must have laughed to himself at the thought of being scolded in this way; and he was so hungry that he did not mind the woman's angry words half so much as the loss of the cakes.
I do not know whether he had any-thing to eat that night, or whether he had to go to bed without his supper. But it was not many days until he had gath-ered his men to-geth-er again, and had beaten the Danes in a great battle.
KING ALFRED AND THE BEGGAR.
At one time the Danes drove King Alfred from his kingdom, and he had to lie hidden for a long time on a little is-land in a river.
One day, all who were on the is-land, except the king and queen and one servant, went out to fish. It was a very lonely place, and no one could get to it except by a boat. About noon a ragged beggar came to the king's door, and asked for food.
The king called the servant, and asked, "How much food have we in the house?"
"My lord," said the servant, "we have only one loaf and a little wine."
Then the king gave thanks to God, and said, "Give half of the loaf and half of the wine to this poor man."
The servant did as he was bidden. The beggar thanked the king for his kindness, and went on his way.
In the after-noon the men who had gone out to fish came back. They had three boats full of fish, and they said, "We have caught more fish to-day than in all the other days that we have been on this island."
The king was glad, and he and his people were more hopeful than they had ever been before.
When night came, the king lay awake for a long time, and thought about the things that had happened that day. At last he fancied that he saw a great light like the sun; and in the midst of the light there stood an old man with black hair, holding an open book in his hand.
It may all have been a dream, and yet to the king it seemed very real indeed. He looked and wondered, but was not afraid.
"Who are you?" he asked of the old man.
"Alfred, my son, be brave," said the man; "for I am the one to whom you gave this day the half of all the food that you had. Be strong and joyful of heart, and listen to what I say. Rise up early in the morning and blow your horn three times, so loudly that the Danes may hear it. By nine o'clock, five hundred men will be around you ready to be led into battle. Go forth bravely, and within seven days your en-e-mies shall be beaten, and you shall go back to your kingdom to reign in peace."
Then the light went out, and the man was seen no more.
In the morning the king arose early, and crossed over to the mainland. Then he blew his horn three times very loudly; and when his friends heard it they were glad, but the Danes were filled with fear.
At nine o'clock, five hundred of his bravest soldiers stood around him ready for battle. He spoke, and told them what he had seen and heard in his dream; and when he had fin-ished, they all cheered loudly, and said that they would follow him and fight for him so long as they had strength.
So they went out bravely to battle; and they beat the Danes, and drove them back into their own place. And King Alfred ruled wisely and well over all his people for the rest of his days.
KING CANUTE ON THE SEASHORE.
A hundred years or more after the time of Alfred the Great there was a king of England named Ca-nute. King Canute was a Dane; but the Danes were not so fierce and cruel then as they had been when they were at war with King Alfred.
The great men and of-fi-cers who were around King Canute were always praising him.
"You are the greatest man that ever lived," one would say.
Then an-oth-er would say, "O king! there can never be an-oth-er man so mighty as you."
And another would say, "Great Canute, there is nothing in the world that dares to dis-o-bey you."
The king was a man of sense, and he grew very tired of hearing such foolish speeches.
One day he was by the sea-shore, and his of-fi-cers were with him. They were praising him, as they were in the habit of doing. He thought that now he would teach them a lesson, and so he bade them set his chair on the beach close by the edge of the water.
"Am I the greatest man in the world?" he asked.
"O king!" they cried, "there is no one so mighty as you."
"Do all things obey me?" he asked.
"There is nothing that dares to dis-o-bey you, O king!" they said. "The world bows before you, and gives you honor."
"Will the sea obey me?" he asked; and he looked down at the little waves which were lapping the sand at his feet.
The foolish officers were puzzled, but they did not dare to say "No."
"Command it, O king! and it will obey," said one.
"Sea," cried Canute, "I command you to come no farther! Waves, stop your rolling, and do not dare to touch my feet!"
But the tide came in, just as it always did. The water rose higher and higher. It came up around the king's chair, and wet not only his feet, but also his robe. His officers stood about him, alarmed, and won-der-ing whether he was not mad.
Then Canute took off his crown, and threw it down upon the sand.
"I shall never wear it again," he said. "And do you, my men, learn a lesson from what you have seen. There is only one King who is all-powerful; and it is he who rules the sea, and holds the ocean in the hollow of his hand. It is he whom you ought to praise and serve above all others."
THE SONS OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.
There was once a great king of England who was called Wil-liam the Con-quer-or, and he had three sons.
One day King Wil-liam seemed to be thinking of something that made him feel very sad; and the wise men who were about him asked him what was the matter.
"I am thinking," he said, "of what my sons may do after I am dead. For, unless they are wise and strong, they cannot keep the kingdom which I have won for them. Indeed, I am at a loss to know which one of the three ought to be the king when I am gone."
"O king!" said the wise men, "if we only knew what things your sons admire the most, we might then be able to tell what kind of men they will be. Perhaps, by asking each one of them a few ques-tions, we can find out which one of them will be best fitted to rule in your place."
"The plan is well worth trying, at least," said the king. "Have the boys come before you, and then ask them what you please."
The wise men talked with one another for a little while, and then agreed that the young princes should be brought in, one at a time, and that the same ques-tions should be put to each.
The first who came into the room was Robert. He was a tall, willful lad, and was nick-named Short Stocking.
"Fair sir," said one of the men, "answer me this question: If, instead of being a boy, it had pleased God that you should be a bird, what kind of a bird would you rather be?"
"A hawk," answered Robert. "I would rather be a hawk, for no other bird reminds one so much of a bold and gallant knight."
The next who came was young William, his father's name-sake and pet. His face was jolly and round, and because he had red hair he was nicknamed Rufus, or the Red.
"Fair sir," said the wise man, "answer me this question: If, instead of being a boy, it had pleased God that you should be a bird, what kind of a bird would you rather be?"
"An eagle," answered William. "I would rather be an eagle, because it is strong and brave. It is feared by all other birds, and is there-fore the king of them all."
Lastly came the youngest brother, Henry, with quiet steps and a sober, thought-ful look. He had been taught to read and write, and for that reason he was nick-named Beau-clerc, or the Hand-some Schol-ar.
"Fair sir," said the wise man, "answer me this question: If, instead of being a boy, it had pleased God that you should be a bird, what kind of a bird would you rather be?"
"A star-ling," said Henry. "I would rather be a star-ling, because it is good-mannered and kind and a joy to every one who sees it, and it never tries to rob or abuse its neigh-bor."
Then the wise men talked with one another for a little while, and when they had agreed among themselves, they spoke to the king.
"We find," said they, "that your eldest son, Robert, will be bold and gallant. He will do some great deeds, and make a name for himself; but in the end he will be over-come by his foes, and will die in prison.
"The second son, William, will be as brave and strong as the eagle; but he will be feared and hated for his cruel deeds. He will lead a wicked life, and will die a shameful death.
"The youngest son, Henry, will be wise and prudent and peaceful. He will go to war only when he is forced to do so by his enemies. He will be loved at home, and re-spect-ed abroad; and he will die in peace after having gained great pos-ses-sions."
Years passed by, and the three boys had grown up to be men. King William lay upon his death-bed, and again he thought of what would become of his sons when he was gone. Then he re-mem-bered what the wise men had told him; and so he de-clared that Robert should have the lands which he held in France, that William should be the King of England, and that Henry should have no land at all, but only a chest of gold.
So it hap-pened in the end very much as the wise men had fore-told. Robert, the Short Stocking, was bold and reckless, like the hawk which he so much admired. He lost all the lands that his father had left him, and was at last shut up in prison, where he was kept until he died.
William Rufus was so over-bear-ing and cruel that he was feared and hated by all his people. He led a wicked life, and was killed by one of his own men while hunting in the forest.
And Henry, the Handsome Scholar, had not only the chest of gold for his own, but he became by and by the King of England and the ruler of all the lands that his father had had in France.
THE WHITE SHIP.
King Henry, the Handsome Scholar, had one son, named William, whom he dearly loved. The young man was noble and brave, and every-body hoped that he would some day be the King of England.
One summer Prince William went with his father across the sea to look after their lands in France. They were wel-comed with joy by all their people there, and the young prince was so gallant and kind, that he won the love of all who saw him.
But at last the time came for them to go back to England. The king, with his wise men and brave knights, set sail early in the day; but Prince William with his younger friends waited a little while. They had had so joyous a time in France that they were in no great haste to tear them-selves away.
Then they went on board of the ship which was waiting to carry them home. It was a beau-ti-ful ship with white sails and white masts, and it had been fitted up on purpose for this voyage.
The sea was smooth, the winds were fair, and no one thought of danger. On the ship, every-thing had been ar-ranged to make the trip a pleasant one. There was music and dancing, and everybody was merry and glad.
The sun had gone down before the white-winged vessel was fairly out of the bay. But what of that? The moon was at its full, and it would give light enough; and before the dawn of the morrow, the narrow sea would be crossed. And so the prince, and the young people who were with him, gave themselves up to mer-ri-ment and feasting and joy.
The ear-li-er hours of the night passed by; and then there was a cry of alarm on deck. A moment after-ward there was a great crash. The ship had struck upon a rock. The water rushed in. She was sinking. Ah, where now were those who had lately been so heart-free and glad?
Every heart was full of fear. No one knew what to do. A small boat was quickly launched, and the prince with a few of his bravest friends leaped into it. They pushed off just as the ship was be-gin-ning to settle beneath the waves. Would they be saved?
They had rowed hardly ten yards from the ship, when there was a cry from among those that were left behind.
"Row back!" cried the prince. "It is my little sister. She must be saved!"
The men did not dare to disobey. The boat was again brought along-side of the sinking vessel. The prince stood up, and held out his arms for his sister. At that moment the ship gave a great lurch forward into the waves. One shriek of terror was heard, and then all was still save the sound of the moaning waters.
Ship and boat, prince and prin-cess, and all the gay com-pa-ny that had set sail from France, went down to the bottom together. One man clung to a floating plank, and was saved the next day. He was the only person left alive to tell the sad story.
When King Henry heard of the death of his son his grief was more than he could bear. His heart was broken. He had no more joy in life; and men say that no one ever saw him smile again.
Here is a poem about him that your teacher may read to you, and perhaps, after a while, you may learn it by heart.
HE NEVER SMILED AGAIN.
The bark that held the prince went down, The sweeping waves rolled on; And what was England's glorious crown To him that wept a son? He lived, for life may long be borne Ere sorrow breaks its chain: Why comes not death to those who mourn? He never smiled again.
There stood proud forms before his throne, The stately and the brave; But who could fill the place of one,— That one beneath the wave? Before him passed the young and fair, In pleasure's reckless train; But seas dashed o'er his son's bright hair— He never smiled again.
He sat where festal bowls went round; He heard the minstrel sing; He saw the tour-ney's victor crowned Amid the knightly ring. A murmur of the restless deep Was blent with every strain, A voice of winds that would not sleep— He never smiled again.
Hearts, in that time, closed o'er the trace Of vows once fondly poured, And strangers took the kins-man's place At many a joyous board; Graves which true love had bathed with tears Were left to heaven's bright rain; Fresh hopes were born for other years— He never smiled again!
KING JOHN AND THE ABBOT.
I. THE THREE QUESTIONS.
There was once a king of England whose name was John. He was a bad king; for he was harsh and cruel to his people, and so long as he could have his own way, he did not care what became of other folks. He was the worst king that England ever had.
Now, there was in the town of Can'ter-bur-y a rich old abbot who lived in grand style in a great house called the Abbey. Every day a hundred noble men sat down with him to dine; and fifty brave knights, in fine velvet coats and gold chains, waited upon him at his table.
When King John heard of the way in which the abbot lived, he made up his mind to put a stop to it. So he sent for the old man to come and see him.
"How now, my good abbot?" he said. "I hear that you keep a far better house than I. How dare you do such a thing? Don't you know that no man in the land ought to live better than the king? And I tell you that no man shall."
"O king!" said the abbot, "I beg to say that I am spending nothing but what is my own. I hope that you will not think ill of me for making things pleasant for my friends and the brave knights who are with me."
"Think ill of you?" said the king. "How can I help but think ill of you? All that there is in this broad land is mine by right; and how do you dare to put me to shame by living in grander style than I? One would think that you were trying to be king in my place."
"Oh, do not say so!" said the abbot "For I"—
"Not another word!" cried the king. "Your fault is plain, and unless you can answer me three questions, your head shall be cut off, and all your riches shall be mine."
"I will try to answer them, O king!" said the abbot.
"Well, then," said King John, "as I sit here with my crown of gold on my head, you must tell me to within a day just how long I shall live. Sec-ond-ly, you must tell me how soon I shall ride round the whole world; and lastly, you shall tell me what I think."
"O king!" said the abbot, "these are deep, hard questions, and I cannot answer them just now. But if you will give me two weeks to think about them, I will do the best that I can."
"Two weeks you shall have," said the king; "but if then you fail to answer me, you shall lose your head, and all your lands shall be mine."
The abbot went away very sad and in great fear. He first rode to Oxford. Here was a great school, called a u-ni-ver'si-ty, and he wanted to see if any of the wise pro-fess-ors could help him. But they shook their heads, and said that there was nothing about King John in any of their books.
Then the abbot rode down to Cam-bridge, where there was another u-ni-ver-si-ty. But not one of the teachers in that great school could help him.
At last, sad and sor-row-ful, he rode toward home to bid his friends and his brave knights good-by. For now he had not a week to live.
II. THE THREE ANSWERS.
As the abbot was riding up the lane which led to his grand house, he met his shep-herd going to the fields.
"Welcome home, good master!" cried the shepherd. "What news do you bring us from great King John?"
"Sad news, sad news," said the abbot; and then he told him all that had happened.
"Cheer up, cheer up, good master," said the shepherd. "Have you never yet heard that a fool may teach a wise man wit? I think I can help you out of your trouble."
"You help me!" cried the abbot "How? how?"
"Well," answered the shepherd, "you know that everybody says that I look just like you, and that I have some-times been mis-tak-en for you. So, lend me your servants and your horse and your gown, and I will go up to London and see the king. If nothing else can be done, I can at least die in your place."
"My good shepherd," said the abbot, "you are very, very kind; and I have a mind to let you try your plan. But if the worst comes to the worst, you shall not die for me. I will die for myself."
So the shepherd got ready to go at once. He dressed himself with great care. Over his shepherd's coat he threw the abbot's long gown, and he bor-rowed the abbot's cap and golden staff. When all was ready, no one in the world would have thought that he was not the great man himself. Then he mounted his horse, and with a great train of servants set out for London.
Of course the king did not know him.
"Welcome, Sir Abbot!" he said. "It is a good thing that you have come back. But, prompt as you are, if you fail to answer my three questions, you shall lose your head."
"I am ready to answer them, O king!" said the shepherd.
"Indeed, indeed!" said the king, and he laughed to himself. "Well, then, answer my first question: How long shall I live? Come, you must tell me to the very day."
"You shall live," said the shepherd, "until the day that you die, and not one day longer. And you shall die when you take your last breath, and not one moment before."
The king laughed.
"You are witty, I see," he said. "But we will let that pass, and say that your answer is right. And now tell me how soon I may ride round the world."
"You must rise with the sun," said the shepherd, "and you must ride with the sun until it rises again the next morning. As soon as you do that, you will find that you have ridden round the world in twenty-four hours."
The king laughed again. "Indeed," he said, "I did not think that it could be done so soon. You are not only witty, but you are wise, and we will let this answer pass. And now comes my third and last question: What do I think?"
"That is an easy question," said the shepherd. "You think that I am the Abbot of Can-ter-bur-y. But, to tell you the truth, I am only his poor shepherd, and I have come to beg your pardon for him and for me." And with that, he threw off his long gown.
The king laughed loud and long.
"A merry fellow you are," said he, "and you shall be the Abbot of Canterbury in your master's place."
"O king! that cannot be," said the shepherd; "for I can neither read nor write."
"Very well, then," said the king, "I will give you something else to pay you for this merry joke. I will give you four pieces of silver every week as long as you live. And when you get home, you may tell the old abbot that you have brought him a free pardon from King John."
A STORY OF ROBIN HOOD.
In the rude days of King Rich-ard and King John there were many great woods in England. The most famous of these was Sher-wood forest, where the king often went to hunt deer. In this forest there lived a band of daring men called out-laws.
They had done something that was against the laws of the land, and had been forced to hide themselves in the woods to save their lives. There they spent their time in roaming about among the trees, in hunting the king's deer, and in robbing rich trav-el-ers that came that way.
There were nearly a hundred of these outlaws, and their leader was a bold fellow called Robin Hood. They were dressed in suits of green, and armed with bows and arrows; and sometimes they carried long wooden lances and broad-swords, which they knew how to handle well. When-ever they had taken anything, it was brought and laid at the feet of Robin Hood, whom they called their king. He then di-vid-ed it fairly among them, giving to each man his just share.
Robin never allowed his men to harm any-body but the rich men who lived in great houses and did no work. He was always kind to the poor, and he often sent help to them; and for that reason the common people looked upon him as their friend.
Long after he was dead, men liked to talk about his deeds. Some praised him, and some blamed him. He was, indeed, a rude, lawless fellow; but at that time, people did not think of right and wrong as they do now.
A great many songs were made up about Robin Hood, and these songs were sung in the cot-ta-ges and huts all over the land for hundreds of years after-ward.
Here is a little story that is told in one of those songs:—
Robin Hood was standing one day under a green tree by the road-side. While he was lis-ten-ing to the birds among the leaves, he saw a young man passing by. This young man was dressed in a fine suit of bright red cloth; and, as he tripped gayly along the road, he seemed to be as happy as the day.
"I will not trou-ble him," said Robin Hood, "for I think he is on his way to his wedding."
The next day Robin stood in the same place. He had not been there long when he saw the same young man coming down the road. But he did not seem to be so happy this time. He had left his scarlet coat at home, and at every step he sighed and groaned.
"Ah the sad day! the sad day!" he kept saying to himself.
Then Robin Hood stepped out from under the tree, and said,—
"I say, young man! Have you any money to spare for my merry men and me?"
"I have nothing at all," said the young man, "but five shil-lings and a ring."
"A gold ring?" asked Robin.
"Yes?" said the young man, "it is a gold ring. Here it is."
"Ah, I see!" said Robin: "it is a wedding ring."
"I have kept it these seven years," said the young man; "I have kept it to give to my bride on our wedding day. We were going to be married yes-ter-day. But her father has prom-ised her to a rich old man whom she never saw. And now my heart is broken."
"What is your name?" asked Robin.
"My name is Allin-a-Dale," said the young man.
"What will you give me, in gold or fee," said Robin, "if I will help you win your bride again in spite of the rich old man to whom she has been promised?"
"I have no money," said Allin, "but I will promise to be your servant."
"How many miles is it to the place where the maiden lives?" asked Robin.
"It is not far," said Allin. "But she is to be married this very day, and the church is five miles away."
Then Robin made haste to dress himself as a harper; and in the after-noon he stood in the door of the church.
"Who are you?" said the bishop, "and what are you doing here?"
"I am a bold harper," said Robin, "the best in the north country."
"I am glad you have come," said the bishop kindly. "There is no music that I like so well as that of the harp. Come in, and play for us."
"I will go in," said Robin Hood; "but I will not give you any music until I see the bride and bridegroom."
Just then an old man came in. He was dressed in rich clothing, but was bent with age, and was feeble and gray. By his side walked a fair young girl. Her cheeks were very pale, and her eyes were full of tears.
"This is no match," said Robin. "Let the bride choose for herself."
Then he put his horn to his lips, and blew three times. The very next minute, four and twenty men, all dressed in green, and car-ry-ing long bows in their hands, came running across the fields. And as they marched into the church, all in a row, the fore-most among them was Allin-a-Dale.
"Now whom do you choose?" said Robin to the maiden.
"I choose Allin-a-Dale," she said, blushing.
"And Allin-a-Dale you shall have," said Robin; "and he that takes you from Allin-a-Dale shall find that he has Robin Hood to deal with."
And so the fair maiden and Allin-a-Dale were married then and there, and the rich old man went home in a great rage.
"And thus having ended this merry wedding, The bride looked like a queen: And so they re-turned to the merry green wood, Amongst the leaves so green."
BRUCE AND THE SPIDER.
There was once a king of Scot-land whose name was Robert Bruce. He had need to be both brave and wise, for the times in which he lived were wild and rude. The King of England was at war with him, and had led a great army into Scotland to drive him out of the land.
Battle after battle had been fought. Six times had Bruce led his brave little army against his foes; and six times had his men been beaten, and driven into flight. At last his army was scat-tered, and he was forced to hide himself in the woods and in lonely places among the moun-tains.
One rainy day, Bruce lay on the ground under a rude shed, lis-ten-ing to the patter of the drops on the roof above him. He was tired and sick at heart, and ready to give up all hope. It seemed to him that there was no use for him to try to do anything more.
As he lay thinking, he saw a spider over his head, making ready to weave her web. He watched her as she toiled slowly and with great care. Six times she tried to throw her frail thread from one beam to another, and six times it fell short.
"Poor thing!" said Bruce: "you, too, know what it is to fail."
But the spider did not lose hope with the sixth failure. With still more care, she made ready to try for the seventh time. Bruce almost forgot his own troubles as he watched her swing herself out upon the slender line. Would she fail again? No! The thread was carried safely to the beam, and fas-tened there.
"I, too, will try a seventh time!" cried Bruce.
He arose and called his men together. He told them of his plans, and sent them out with mes-sa-ges of cheer to his dis-heart-ened people. Soon there was an army of brave Scotch-men around him. Another battle was fought, and the King of England was glad to go back into his own country.
I have heard it said, that, after that day, no one by the name of Bruce would ever hurt a spider. The lesson which the little crea-ture had taught the king was never for-got-ten.
THE BLACK DOUGLAS.
In Scotland, in the time of King Robert Bruce, there lived a brave man whose name was Doug-las. His hair and beard were black and long, and his face was tanned and dark; and for this reason people nicknamed him the Black Douglas. He was a good friend of the king, and one of his strongest helpers.
In the war with the English, who were trying to drive Bruce from Scotland, the Black Douglas did many brave deeds; and the English people became very much afraid of him. By and by the fear of him spread all through the land. Nothing could frighten an English lad more than to tell him that the Black Douglas was not far away. Women would tell their chil-dren, when they were naughty, that the Black Douglas would get them; and this would make them very quiet and good.
There was a large cas-tle in Scotland which the English had taken early in the war. The Scot-tish soldiers wanted very much to take it again, and the Black Douglas and his men went one day to see what they could do. It happened to be a hol-i-day, and most of the English soldiers in the cas-tle were eating and drinking and having a merry time. But they had left watch-men on the wall to see that the Scottish soldiers did not come upon them un-a-wares; and so they felt quite safe.
In the e-ven-ing, when it was growing dark, the wife of one of the soldiers went up on the wall with her child in her arms. As she looked over into the fields below the castle, she saw some dark objects moving toward the foot of the wall. In the dusk she could not make out what they were, and so she pointed them out to one of the watch-men.
"Pooh, pooh!" said the watchman. "Those are nothing to frighten us. They are the farmer's cattle, trying to find their way home. The farmer himself is en-joy-ing the hol-i-day, and he has forgotten to bring them in. If the Douglas should happen this way before morning, he will be sorry for his care-less-ness."
But the dark objects were not cattle. They were the Black Douglas and his men, creeping on hands and feet toward the foot of the castle wall. Some of them were dragging ladders behind them through the grass. They would soon be climbing to the top of the wall. None of the English soldiers dreamed that they were within many miles of the place.
The woman watched them until the last one had passed around a corner out of sight. She was not afraid, for in the dark-en-ing twi-light they looked indeed like cattle. After a little while she began to sing to her child:—
"Hush ye, hush ye, little pet ye, Hush ye, hush ye, do not fret ye, The Black Douglas shall not get ye."
All at once a gruff voice was heard behind her, saying, "Don't be so sure about that!"
She looked around, and there stood the Black Douglas himself. At the same moment a Scottish soldier climbed off a ladder and leaped upon the wall; and then there came another and another and another, until the wall was covered with them. Soon there was hot fighting in every part of the castle. But the English were so taken by surprise that they could not do much. Many of them were killed, and in a little while the Black Douglas and his men were the masters of the castle, which by right be-longed to them.
As for the woman and her child, the Black Douglas would not suffer any one to harm them. After a while they went back to England; and whether the mother made up any more songs about the Black Douglas I cannot tell.
THREE MEN OF GOTHAM.
There is a town in England called Go-tham, and many merry stories are told of the queer people who used to live there.
One day two men of Go-tham met on a bridge. Hodge was coming from the market, and Peter was going to the market.
"Where are you going?" said Hodge.
"I am going to the market to buy sheep," said Peter.
"Buy sheep?" said Hodge. "And which way will you bring them home?"
"I shall bring them over this bridge," said Peter.
"No, you shall not," said Hodge.
"Yes, but I will," said Peter.
"You shall not," said Hodge.
"I will," said Peter.
Then they beat with their sticks on the ground as though there had been a hundred sheep between them.
"Take care!" cried Peter. "Look out that my sheep don't jump on the bridge."
"I care not where they jump," said Hodge; "but they shall not go over it."
"But they shall," said Peter.
"Have a care," said Hodge; "for if you say too much, I will put my fingers in your mouth."
"Will you?" said Peter.
Just then another man of Gotham came from the market with a sack of meal on his horse. He heard his neigh-bors quar-rel-ing about sheep; but he could see no sheep between them, and so he stopped and spoke to them.
"Ah, you foolish fellows!" he cried. "It is strange that you will never learn wisdom.—Come here, Peter, and help me lay my sack on my shoul-der."
Peter did so, and the man carried his meal to the side of the bridge.
"Now look at me," he said, "and learn a lesson." And he opened the mouth of the sack, and poured all the meal into the river.
"Now, neighbors," he said, "can you tell how much meal is in my sack?"
"There is none at all!" cried Hodge and Peter together.
"You are right," said the man; "and you that stand here and quarrel about nothing, have no more sense in your heads than I have meal in my sack!"
OTHER WISE MEN OF GOTHAM.
One day, news was brought to Gotham that the king was coming that way, and that he would pass through the town. This did not please the men of Gotham at all. They hated the king, for they knew that he was a cruel, bad man. If he came to their town, they would have to find food and lodg-ing for him and his men; and if he saw anything that pleased him, he would be sure to take it for his own. What should they do?
They met together to talk the matter over.
"Let us chop down the big trees in the woods, so that they will block up all the roads that lead into the town," said one of the wise men.
"Good!" said all the rest.
So they went out with their axes, and soon all the roads and paths to the town were filled with logs and brush. The king's horse-men would have a hard time of it getting into Gotham. They would either have to make a new road, or give up the plan al-to-geth-er, and go on to some other place.
When the king came, and saw that the road had been blocked up, he was very angry.
"Who chopped those trees down in my way?" he asked of two country lads that were passing by.
"The men of Gotham," said the lads.
"Well," said the king, "go and tell the men of Gotham that I shall send my sher-iff into their town, and have all their noses cut off."
The two lads ran to the town as fast as they could, and made known what the king had said.
Every-body was in great fright. The men ran from house to house, carrying the news, and asking one another what they should do.
"Our wits have kept the king out of the town," said one; "and so now our wits must save our noses."
"True, true!" said the others. "But what shall we do?"
Then one, whose name was Dobbin, and who was thought to be the wisest of them all, said, "Let me tell you something. Many a man has been punished because he was wise, but I have never heard of any one being harmed because he was a fool. So, when the king's sher-iff comes, let us all act like fools."
"Good, good!" cried the others. "We will all act like fools."
It was no easy thing for the king's men to open the roads; and while they were doing it, the king grew tired of waiting, and went back to London. But very early one morning, the sheriff with a party of fierce soldiers rode through the woods, and between the fields, toward Gotham. Just before they reached the town, they saw a queer sight. The old men were rolling big stones up the hill, and all the young men were looking on, and grunting very loudly.
The sheriff stopped his horses, and asked what they were doing.
"We are rolling stones up-hill to make the sun rise," said one of the old men.
"You foolish fellow!" said the sheriff. "Don't you know that the sun will rise without any help?"
"Ah! will it?" said the old man. "Well, I never thought of that. How wise you are!"
"And what are you doing?" said the sheriff to the young men.
"Oh, we do the grunting while our fathers do the working," they answered.
"I see," said the sheriff. "Well, that is the way the world goes every-where." And he rode on toward the town.
He soon came to a field where a number of men were building a stone wall.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"Why, master," they answered, "there is a cuck-oo in this field, and we are building a wall around it so as to keep the bird from straying away."
"You foolish fellows!" said the sheriff. "Don't you know that the bird will fly over the top of your wall, no matter how high you build it?"
"Why, no," they said. "We never thought of that. How very wise you are!"
The sheriff next met a man who was carrying a door on his back.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"I have just started on a long jour-ney," said the man.
"But why do you carry that door?" asked the sheriff.
"I left my money at home."
"Then why didn't you leave the door at home too?"
"I was afraid of thieves; and you see, if I have the door with me, they can't break it open and get in."
"You foolish fellow!" said the sheriff. "It would be safer to leave the door at home, and carry the money with you."
"Ah, would it, though?" said the man. "Now, I never thought of that. You are the wisest man that I ever saw."
Then the sheriff rode on with his men; but every one that they met was doing some silly thing.
"Truly I believe that the people of Gotham are all fools," said one of the horsemen.
"That is true," said another. "It would be a shame to harm such simple people."
"Let us ride back to London, and tell the king all about them," said the sheriff.
"Yes, let us do so," said the horsemen.
So they went back, and told the king that Gotham was a town of fools; and the king laughed, and said that if that was the case, he would not harm them, but would let them keep their noses.
THE MILLER OF THE DEE.
Once upon a time there lived on the banks of the River Dee a miller, who was the hap-pi-est man in England. He was always busy from morning till night, and he was always singing as merrily as any lark. He was so cheerful that he made everybody else cheerful; and people all over the land liked to talk about his pleasant ways. At last the king heard about him.
"I will go down and talk with this won-der-ful miller," he said. "Perhaps he can tell me how to be happy."
As soon as he stepped inside of the mill, he heard the miller singing:—
"I envy no-body—no, not I!— For I am as happy as I can be; And nobody envies me."
"You're wrong, my friend," said the king. "You're wrong as wrong can be. I envy you; and I would gladly change places with you, if I could only be as light-hearted as you are."
The miller smiled, and bowed to the king.
"I am sure I could not think of changing places with you, sir," he said.
"Now tell me," said the king, "what makes you so cheerful and glad here in your dusty mill, while I, who am king, am sad and in trouble every day."
The miller smiled again, and said, "I do not know why you are sad, but I can eas-i-ly tell why I am glad. I earn my own bread; I love my wife and my children; I love my friends, and they love me; and I owe not a penny to any man. Why should I not be happy? For here is the River Dee, and every day it turns my mill; and the mill grinds the corn that feeds my wife, my babes, and me."
"Say no more," said the king. "Stay where you are, and be happy still. But I envy you. Your dusty cap is worth more than my golden crown. Your mill does more for you than my kingdom can do for me. If there were more such men as you, what a good place this world would be! Good-by, my friend!"
The king turned about, and walked sadly away; and the miller went back to his work singing:—
"Oh, I'm as happy as happy can be, For I live by the side of the River Dee!"
SIR PHILIP SIDNEY.
A cruel battle was being fought. The ground was covered with dead and dying men. The air was hot and stifling. The sun shone down without pity on the wounded soldiers lying in the blood and dust.
One of these soldiers was a no-ble-man, whom everybody loved for his gen-tle-ness and kindness. Yet now he was no better off than the poorest man in the field. He had been wounded, and would die; and he was suf-fer-ing much with pain and thirst.
When the battle was over, his friends hurried to his aid. A soldier came running with a cup in his hand.
"Here, Sir Philip," he said, "I have brought you some clear, cool water from the brook. I will raise your head so that you can drink."
The cup was placed to Sir Philip's lips. How thank-ful-ly he looked at the man who had brought it! Then his eyes met those of a dying soldier who was lying on the ground close by. The wist-ful look in the poor man's face spoke plainer than words.
"Give the water to that man," said Sir Philip quickly; and then, pushing the cup toward him, he said, "Here, my comrade, take this. Thy need is greater than mine."
What a brave, noble man he was! The name of Sir Philip Sidney will never be for-got-ten; for it was the name of a Chris-tian gen-tle-man who always had the good of others in his mind. Was it any wonder that everybody wept when it was heard that he was dead?
It is said, that, on the day when he was carried to the grave, every eye in the land was filled with tears. Rich and poor, high and low, all felt that they had lost a friend; all mourned the death of the kindest, gentlest man that they had ever known.
THE UNGRATEFUL SOLDIER.
Here is another story of the bat-tle-field, and it is much like the one which I have just told you.
Not quite a hundred years after the time of Sir Philip Sidney there was a war between the Swedes and the Danes. One day a great battle was fought, and the Swedes were beaten, and driven from the field. A soldier of the Danes who had been slightly wounded was sitting on the ground. He was about to take a drink from a flask. All at once he heard some one say,—
"O sir! give me a drink, for I am dying."
It was a wounded Swede who spoke. He was lying on the ground only a little way off. The Dane went to him at once. He knelt down by the side of his fallen foe, and pressed the flask to his lips.
"Drink," said he, "for thy need is greater than mine."
Hardly had he spoken these words, when the Swede raised himself on his elbow. He pulled a pistol from his pocket, and shot at the man who would have be-friend-ed him. The bullet grazed the Dane's shoulder, but did not do him much harm.
"Ah, you rascal!" he cried. "I was going to befriend you, and you repay me by trying to kill me. Now I will punish you. I would have given you all the water, but now you shall have only half." And with that he drank the half of it, and then gave the rest to the Swede.
When the King of the Danes heard about this, he sent for the soldier and had him tell the story just as it was.
"Why did you spare the life of the Swede after he had tried to kill you?" asked the king.
"Because, sir," said the soldier, "I could never kill a wounded enemy."
"Then you deserve to be a no-ble-man," said the king. And he re-ward-ed him by making him a knight, and giving him a noble title.
SIR HUMPHREY GILBERT.
More than three hundred years ago there lived in England a brave man whose name was Sir Humphrey Gil-bert. At that time there were no white people in this country of ours. The land was covered with forests; and where there are now great cities and fine farms there were only trees and swamps among which roamed wild In-di-ans and wild beasts.
Sir Hum-phrey Gilbert was one of the first men who tried to make a set-tle-ment in A-mer-i-ca. Twice did he bring men and ships over the sea, and twice did he fail, and sail back for England. The second time, he was on a little ship called the "Squirrel." Another ship, called the "Golden Hind," was not far away. When they were three days from land, the wind failed, and the ships lay floating on the waves. Then at night the air grew very cold. A breeze sprang up from the east. Great white ice-bergs came drifting around them. In the morning the little ships were almost lost among the floating mountains of ice. The men on the "Hind" saw Sir Humphrey sitting on the deck of the "Squirrel" with an open book in his hand. He called to them and said,—
"Be brave, my friends! We are as near heaven on the sea as on the land."
Night came again. It was a stormy night, with mist and rain. All at once the men on the "Hind" saw the lights on board of the "Squirrel" go out. The little vessel, with brave Sir Humphrey and all his brave men, was swal-lowed up by the waves.
SIR WALTER RALEIGH.
There once lived in England a brave and noble man whose name was Walter Ra-leigh. He was not only brave and noble, but he was also handsome and polite; and for that reason the queen made him a knight, and called him Sir Walter Ra-leigh.
I will tell you about it.
When Raleigh was a young man, he was one day walking along a street in London. At that time the streets were not paved, and there were no sidewalks. Raleigh was dressed in very fine style, and he wore a beau-ti-ful scar-let cloak thrown over his shoulders.
As he passed along, he found it hard work to keep from stepping in the mud, and soiling his hand-some new shoes. Soon he came to a puddle of muddy water which reached from one side of the street to the other. He could not step across. Perhaps he could jump over it.
As he was thinking what he should do, he happened to look up. Who was it coming down the street, on the other side of the puddle?
It was E-liz-a-beth, the Queen of England, with her train of gen-tle-wom-en and waiting maids. She saw the dirty puddle in the street. She saw the handsome young man with the scar-let cloak, stand-ing by the side of it. How was she to get across?
Young Raleigh, when he saw who was coming, forgot about himself. He thought only of helping the queen. There was only one thing that he could do, and no other man would have thought of that.
He took off his scarlet cloak, and spread it across the puddle. The queen could step on it now, as on a beautiful carpet.
She walked across. She was safely over the ugly puddle, and her feet had not touched the mud. She paused a moment, and thanked the young man.
As she walked onward with her train, she asked one of the gen-tle-wom-en, "Who is that brave gen-tle-man who helped us so handsomely?"
"His name is Walter Raleigh," said the gentle-woman.
"He shall have his reward," said the queen.
Not long after that, she sent for Raleigh to come to her pal-ace.
The young man went, but he had no scarlet cloak to wear. Then, while all the great men and fine ladies of England stood around, the queen made him a knight. And from that time he was known as Sir Walter Raleigh, the queen's favorite.
Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Humphrey Gilbert about whom I have already told you, were half-broth-ers.
When Sir Humphrey made his first voy-age to America, Sir Walter was with him. After that, Sir Walter tried sev-er-al times to send men to this country to make a set-tle-ment.
But those whom he sent found only great forests, and wild beasts, and sav-age In-di-ans. Some of them went back to England; some of them died for want of food; and some of them were lost in the woods. At last Sir Walter gave up trying to get people to come to America.
But he found two things in this country which the people of England knew very little about. One was the po-ta-to, the other was to-bac-co.
If you should ever go to Ireland, you may be shown the place where Sir Walter planted the few po-ta-toes which he carried over from America. He told his friends how the Indians used them for food; and he proved that they would grow in the Old World as well as in the New.
Sir Walter had seen the Indians smoking the leaves of the to-bac-co plant. He thought that he would do the same, and he carried some of the leaves to England. Englishmen had never used tobacco before that time; and all who saw Sir Walter puff-ing away at a roll of leaves thought that it was a strange sight.
One day as he was sitting in his chair and smoking, his servant came into the room. The man saw the smoke curling over his master's head, and he thought that he was on fire.
He ran out for some water. He found a pail that was quite full. He hurried back, and threw the water into Sir Walter's face. Of course the fire was all put out.
After that a great many men learned to smoke. And now tobacco is used in all countries of the world. It would have been well if Sir Walter Raleigh had let it alone.
There was once a very brave man whose name was John Smith. He came to this country many years ago, when there were great woods everywhere, and many wild beasts and Indians. Many tales are told of his ad-ven-tures, some of them true and some of them untrue. The most famous of all these is the fol-low-ing:—
One day when Smith was in the woods, some Indians came upon him, and made him their pris-on-er. They led him to their king, and in a short time they made ready to put him to death.
A large stone was brought in, and Smith was made to lie down with his head on it. Then two tall Indians with big clubs in their hands came forward. The king and all his great men stood around to see. The Indians raised their clubs. In another moment they would fall on Smith's head.
But just then a little Indian girl rushed in. She was the daugh-ter of the king, and her name was Po-ca-hon'tas. She ran and threw herself between Smith and the up-lift-ed clubs. She clasped Smith's head with her arms. She laid her own head upon his.
"O father!" she cried, "spare this man's life. I am sure he has done you no harm, and we ought to be his friends."
The men with the clubs could not strike, for they did not want to hurt the child. The king at first did not know what to do. Then he spoke to some of his war-riors, and they lifted Smith from the ground. They untied the cords from his wrists and feet, and set him free.
The next day the king sent Smith home; and several Indians went with him to protect him from harm.
After that, as long as she lived, Po-ca-hon-tas was the friend of the white men, and she did a great many things to help them.
GEORGE WASHINGTON AND HIS HATCHET.
When George Wash-ing-ton was quite a little boy, his father gave him a hatchet. It was bright and new, and George took great delight in going about and chopping things with it.
He ran into the garden, and there he saw a tree which seemed to say to him, "Come and cut me down!"
George had often seen his father's men chop down the great trees in the forest, and he thought that it would be fine sport to see this tree fall with a crash to the ground. So he set to work with his little hatchet, and, as the tree was a very small one, it did not take long to lay it low.
Soon after that, his father came home.
"Who has been cutting my fine young cherry tree?" he cried. "It was the only tree of its kind in this country, and it cost me a great deal of money."
He was very angry when he came into the house.
"If I only knew who killed that cherry tree," he cried, "I would—yes, I would"—
"Father!" cried little George. "I will tell you the truth about it. I chopped the tree down with my hatchet."
His father forgot his anger.
"George," he said, and he took the little fellow in his arms, "George, I am glad that you told me about it. I would rather lose a dozen cherry trees than that you should tell one false-hood."
It was a dark Sep-tem-ber morning. There was a storm at sea. A ship had been driven on a low rock off the shores of the Farne Islands. It had been broken in two by the waves, and half of it had been washed away. The other half lay yet on the rock, and those of the crew who were still alive were cling-ing to it. But the waves were dashing over it, and in a little while it too would be carried to the bottom.
Could any one save the poor, half-drowned men who were there?
On one of the islands was a light-house; and there, all through that stormy night, Grace Darling had listened to the storm.
Grace was the daughter of the light-house keeper, and she had lived by the sea as long as she could re-mem-ber.
In the darkness of the night, above the noise of the winds and waves, she heard screams and wild cries. When day-light came, she could see the wreck, a mile away, with the angry waters all around it. She could see the men clinging to the masts.
"We must try to save them!" she cried. "Let us go out in the boat at once!"
"It is of no use, Grace," said her father. "We cannot reach them."
He was an old man, and he knew the force of the mighty waves.
"We cannot stay here and see them die," said Grace. "We must at least try to save them."
Her father could not say, "No."
In a few minutes they were ready. They set off in the heavy lighthouse boat. Grace pulled one oar, and her father the other, and they made straight toward the wreck. But it was hard rowing against such a sea, and it seemed as though they would never reach the place.
At last they were close to the rock, and now they were in greater danger than before. The fierce waves broke against the boat, and it would have been dashed in pieces, had it not been for the strength and skill of the brave girl.
But after many trials, Grace's father climbed upon the wreck, while Grace herself held the boat. Then one by one the worn-out crew were helped on board. It was all that the girl could do to keep the frail boat from being drifted away, or broken upon the sharp edges of the rock.
Then her father clam-bered back into his place. Strong hands grasped the oars, and by and by all were safe in the lighthouse. There Grace proved to be no less tender as a nurse than she had been brave as a sailor. She cared most kindly for the ship-wrecked men until the storm had died away and they were strong enough to go to their own homes.
All this happened a long time ago, but the name of Grace Darling will never be forgotten. She lies buried now in a little church-yard by the sea, not far from her old home. Every year many people go there to see her grave; and there a mon-u-ment has been placed in honor of the brave girl. It is not a large mon-u-ment, but it is one that speaks of the noble deed which made Grace Darling famous. It is a figure carved in stone of a woman lying at rest, with a boat's oar held fast in her right hand.
THE STORY OF WILLIAM TELL.
The people of Swit-zer-land were not always free and happy as they are to-day. Many years ago a proud tyrant, whose name was Gessler, ruled over them, and made their lot a bitter one indeed.
One day this tyrant set up a tall pole in the public square, and put his own cap on the top of it; and then he gave orders that every man who came into the town should bow down before it. But there was one man, named William Tell, who would not do this. He stood up straight with folded arms, and laughed at the swinging cap. He would not bow down to Gessler himself.
When Gessler heard of this, he was very angry. He was afraid that other men would disobey, and that soon the whole country would rebel against him. So he made up his mind to punish the bold man.
William Tell's home was among the mountains, and he was a famous hunter. No one in all the land could shoot with bow and arrow so well as he. Gessler knew this, and so he thought of a cruel plan to make the hunter's own skill bring him to grief. He ordered that Tell's little boy should be made to stand up in the public square with an apple on his head; and then he bade Tell shoot the apple with one of his arrows.
Tell begged the tyrant not to have him make this test of his skill. What if the boy should move? What if the bow-man's hand should tremble? What if the arrow should not carry true?
"Will you make me kill my boy?" he said.
"Say no more," said Gessler. "You must hit the apple with your one arrow. If you fail, my sol-diers shall kill the boy before your eyes."
Then, without another word, Tell fitted the arrow to his bow. He took aim, and let it fly. The boy stood firm and still. He was not afraid, for he had all faith in his father's skill.
The arrow whistled through the air. It struck the apple fairly in the center, and carried it away. The people who saw it shouted with joy.
As Tell was turning away from the place, an arrow which he had hidden under his coat dropped to the ground.
"Fellow!" cried Gessler, "what mean you with this second arrow?"
"Tyrant!" was Tell's proud answer, "this arrow was for your heart if I had hurt my child."
And there is an old story, that, not long after this, Tell did shoot the tyrant with one of his arrows; and thus he set his country free.
A great army was marching into Swit-zer-land. If it should go much farther, there would be no driving it out again. The soldiers would burn the towns, they would rob the farmers of their grain and sheep, they would make slaves of the people.
The men of Switzerland knew all this. They knew that they must fight for their homes and their lives. And so they came from the mountains and valleys to try what they could do to save their land. Some came with bows and arrows, some with scythes and pitch-forks, and some with only sticks and clubs.
But their foes kept in line as they marched along the road. Every soldier was fully armed. As they moved and kept close together, nothing could be seen of them but their spears and shields and shining armor. What could the poor country people do against such foes as these?
"We must break their lines," cried their leader; "for we cannot harm them while they keep together."
The bowmen shot their arrows, but they glanced off from the soldiers' shields. Others tried clubs and stones, but with no better luck. The lines were still un-bro-ken. The soldiers moved stead-i-ly onward; their shields lapped over one another; their thousand spears looked like so many long bris-tles in the sun-light. What cared they for sticks and stones and hunts-men's arrows?
"If we cannot break their ranks," said the Swiss, "we have no chance for fight, and our country will be lost!"
Then a poor man, whose name was Ar-nold Wink'el-ried, stepped out.
"On the side of yonder moun-tain," said he, "I have a happy home. There my wife and chil-dren wait for my return. But they will not see me again, for this day I will give my life for my country. And do you, my friends, do your duty, and Switzerland shall be free."
With these words he ran forward. "Follow me!" he cried to his friends. "I will break the lines, and then let every man fight as bravely as he can."
He had nothing in his hands, neither club nor stone nor other weapon. But he ran straight on-ward to the place where the spears were thickest.
"Make way for lib-er-ty!" he cried, as he dashed right into the lines.
A hundred spears were turned to catch him upon their points. The soldiers forgot to stay in their places. The lines were broken. Arnold's friends rushed bravely after him. They fought with whatever they had in hand. They snatched spears and shields from their foes. They had no thought of fear. They only thought of their homes and their dear native land. And they won at last.
Such a battle no one ever knew before. But Switzerland was saved, and Arnold Wink-el-ried did not die in vain.
THE BELL OF ATRI.
A-tri is the name of a little town in It-a-ly. It is a very old town, and is built half-way up the side of a steep hill.
A long time ago, the King of Atri bought a fine large bell, and had it hung up in a tower in the market place. A long rope that reached almost to the ground was fas-tened to the bell. The smallest child could ring the bell by pulling upon this rope.
"It is the bell of justice," said the king.
When at last everything was ready, the people of Atri had a great holiday. All the men and women and children came down to the market place to look at the bell of justice. It was a very pretty bell, and was, pol-ished until it looked almost as bright and yellow as the sun.
"How we should like to hear it ring!" they said.
Then the king came down the street.
"Perhaps he will ring it," said the people; and everybody stood very still, and waited to see what he would do.
But he did not ring the bell. He did not even take the rope in his hands. When he came to the foot of the tower, he stopped, and raised his hand.
"My people," he said, "do you see this beautiful bell? It is your bell; but it must never be rung except in case of need. If any one of you is wronged at any time, he may come and ring the bell; and then the judges shall come together at once, and hear his case, and give him justice. Rich and poor, old and young, all alike may come; but no one must touch the rope unless he knows that he has been wronged."
Many years passed by after this. Many times did the bell in the market place ring out to call the judges together. Many wrongs were righted, many ill-doers were punished. At last the hempen rope was almost worn out. The lower part of it was un-twist-ed; some of the strands were broken; it became so short that only a tall man could reach it.
"This will never do," said the judges one day. "What if a child should be wronged? It could not ring the bell to let us know it."
They gave orders that a new rope should be put upon the bell at once,—a rope that should hang down to the ground, so that the smallest child could reach it. But there was not a rope to be found in all Atri. They would have to send across the mountains for one, and it would be many days before it could be brought. What if some great wrong should be done before it came? How could the judges know about it, if the in-jured one could not reach the old rope?
"Let me fix it for you," said a man who stood by.
He ran into his garden, which was not far away, and soon came back with a long grape-vine in his hands.
"This will do for a rope," he said; and he climbed up, and fastened it to the bell. The slender vine, with its leaves and ten-drils still upon it, trailed to the ground.
"Yes," said the judges, "it is a very good rope. Let it be as it is."
Now, on the hill-side above the village, there lived a man who had once been a brave knight. In his youth he had ridden through many lands, and he had fought in many a battle. His best friend through all that time had been his horse,—a strong, noble steed that had borne him safe through many a danger.
But the knight, when he grew older, cared no more to ride into battle; he cared no more to do brave deeds; he thought of nothing but gold; he became a miser. At last he sold all that he had, except his horse, and went to live in a little hut on the hill-side. Day after day he sat among his money bags, and planned how he might get more gold; and day after day his horse stood in his bare stall, half-starved, and shiv-er-ing with cold.
"What is the use of keeping that lazy steed?" said the miser to himself one morning. "Every week it costs me more to keep him than he is worth. I might sell him; but there is not a man that wants him. I cannot even give him away. I will turn him out to shift for himself, and pick grass by the roadside. If he starves to death, so much the better."
So the brave old horse was turned out to find what he could among the rocks on the barren hill-side. Lame and sick, he strolled along the dusty roads, glad to find a blade of grass or a thistle. The boys threw stones at him, the dogs barked at him, and in all the world there was no one to pity him.
One hot afternoon, when no one was upon the street, the horse chanced to wander into the market place. Not a man nor child was there, for the heat of the sun had driven them all indoors. The gates were wide open; the poor beast could roam where he pleased. He saw the grape-vine rope that hung from the bell of justice. The leaves and tendrils upon it were still fresh and green, for it had not been there long. What a fine dinner they would be for a starving horse!
He stretched his thin neck, and took one of the tempting morsels in his mouth. It was hard to break it from the vine. He pulled at it, and the great bell above him began to ring. All the people in Atri heard it. It seemed to say,—
"Some one has done me wrong! Some one has done me wrong! Oh! come and judge my case! Oh! come and judge my case! For I've been wronged!"
The judges heard it. They put on their robes, and went out through the hot streets to the market place. They wondered who it could be who would ring the bell at such a time. When they passed through the gate, they saw the old horse nibbling at the vine.
"Ha!" cried one, "it is the miser's steed. He has come to call for justice; for his master, as everybody knows, has treated him most shame-ful-ly."
"He pleads his cause as well as any dumb brute can," said another.
"And he shall have justice!" said the third.
Mean-while a crowd of men and women and children had come into the market place, eager to learn what cause the judges were about to try. When they saw the horse, all stood still in wonder. Then every one was ready to tell how they had seen him wan-der-ing on the hills, unfed, un-cared for, while his master sat at home counting his bags of gold.
"Go bring the miser before us," said the judges.
And when he came, they bade him stand and hear their judg-ment.
"This horse has served you well for many a year," they said. "He has saved you from many a peril. He has helped you gain your wealth. Therefore we order that one half of all your gold shall be set aside to buy him shelter and food, a green pasture where he may graze, and a warm stall to comfort him in his old age."
The miser hung his head, and grieved to lose his gold; but the people shouted with joy, and the horse was led away to his new stall and a dinner such as he had not had in many a day.
HOW NAPOLEON CROSSED THE ALPS.
About a hundred years ago there lived a great gen-er-al whose name was Na-po'le-on Bo'na-parte. He was the leader of the French army; and France was at war with nearly all the countries around. He wanted very much to take his soldiers into It-a-ly; but between France and Italy there are high mountains called the Alps, the tops of which are covered with snow.
"Is it pos-si-ble to cross the Alps?" said Na-po-le-on.
The men who had been sent to look at the passes over the mountains shook their heads. Then one of them said, "It may be possible, but"—
"Let me hear no more," said Napoleon. "Forward to Italy!"
People laughed at the thought of an army of sixty thousand men crossing the Alps where there was no road. But Napoleon waited only to see that everything was in good order, and then he gave the order to march.
The long line of soldiers and horses and cannon stretched for twenty miles. When they came to a steep place where there seemed to be no way to go farther, the trum-pets sounded "Charge!" Then every man did his best, and the whole army moved right onward.
Soon they were safe over the Alps. In four days they were marching on the plains of Italy.
"The man who has made up his mind to win," said Napoleon, "will never say 'Im-pos-si-ble.'"
THE STORY OF CINCINNATUS.
There was a man named Cin-cin-na'tus who lived on a little farm not far from the city of Rome. He had once been rich, and had held the highest office in the land; but in one way or another he had lost all his wealth. He was now so poor that he had to do all the work on his farm with his own hands. But in those days it was thought to be a noble thing to till the soil.
Cin-cin-na-tus was so wise and just that every-body trusted him, and asked his advice; and when any one was in trouble, and did not know what to do, his neighbors would say,—
"Go and tell Cincinnatus. He will help you."
Now there lived among the mountains, not far away, a tribe of fierce, half-wild men, who were at war with the Roman people. They per-suad-ed another tribe of bold war-riors to help them, and then marched toward the city, plun-der-ing and robbing as they came. They boasted that they would tear down the walls of Rome, and burn the houses, and kill all the men, and make slaves of the women and children.
At first the Romans, who were very proud and brave, did not think there was much danger. Every man in Rome was a soldier, and the army which went out to fight the robbers was the finest in the world. No one staid at home with the women and children and boys but the white-haired "Fathers," as they were called, who made the laws for the city, and a small company of men who guarded the walls. Everybody thought that it would be an easy thing to drive the men of the mountains back to the place where they belonged.
But one morning five horsemen came riding down the road from the mountains. They rode with great speed; and both men and horses were covered with dust and blood. The watchman at the gate knew them, and shouted to them as they gal-loped in. Why did they ride thus? and what had happened to the Roman army?
They did not answer him, but rode into the city and along the quiet streets; and everybody ran after them, eager to find out what was the matter. Rome was not a large city at that time; and soon they reached the market place where the white-haired Fathers were sitting. Then they leaped from their horses, and told their story.
"Only yes-ter-day," they said, "our army was marching through a narrow valley between two steep mountains. All at once a thou-sand sav-age men sprang out from among the rocks before us and above us. They had blocked up the way; and the pass was so narrow that we could not fight. We tried to come back; but they had blocked up the way on this side of us too. The fierce men of the mountains were before us and behind us, and they were throwing rocks down upon us from above. We had been caught in a trap. Then ten of us set spurs to our horses; and five of us forced our way through, but the other five fell before the spears of the mountain men. And now, O Roman Fathers! send help to our army at once, or every man will be slain, and our city will be taken."
"What shall we do?" said the white-haired Fathers. "Whom can we send but the guards and the boys? and who is wise enough to lead them, and thus save Rome?"
All shook their heads and were very grave; for it seemed as if there was no hope. Then one said, "Send for Cincinnatus. He will help us."
Cincinnatus was in the field plowing when the men who had been sent to him came in great haste. He stopped and greeted them kindly, and waited for them to speak.
"Put on your cloak, Cincinnatus," they said, "and hear the words of the Roman people."
Then Cincinnatus wondered what they could mean. "Is all well with Rome?" he asked; and he called to his wife to bring him his cloak.
She brought the cloak; and Cincinnatus wiped the dust from his hands and arms, and threw it over his shoulders. Then the men told their errand.
They told him how the army with all the noblest men of Rome had been en-trapped in the mountain pass. They told him about the great danger the city was in. Then they said, "The people of Rome make you their ruler and the ruler of their city, to do with everything as you choose; and the Fathers bid you come at once and go out against our enemies, the fierce men of the mountains."
So Cincinnatus left his plow standing where it was, and hurried to the city. When he passed through the streets, and gave orders as to what should be done, some of the people were afraid, for they knew that he had all power in Rome to do what he pleased. But he armed the guards and the boys, and went out at their head to fight the fierce mountain men, and free the Roman army from the trap into which it had fallen.
A few days afterward there was great joy in Rome. There was good news from Cincinnatus. The men of the mountains had been beaten with great loss. They had been driven back into their own place.
And now the Roman army, with the boys and the guards, was coming home with banners flying, and shouts of vic-to-ry; and at their head rode Cincinnatus. He had saved Rome.
Cincinnatus might then have made himself king; for his word was law, and no man dared lift a finger against him. But, before the people could thank him enough for what he had done, he gave back the power to the white-haired Roman Fathers, and went again to his little farm and his plow.
He had been the ruler of Rome for sixteen days.
THE STORY OF REGULUS.
On the other side of the sea from Rome there was once a great city named Car-thage. The Roman people were never very friendly to the people of Car-thage, and at last a war began between them. For a long time it was hard to tell which would prove the stronger. First the Romans would gain a battle, and then the men of Car-thage would gain a battle; and so the war went on for many years.
Among the Romans there was a brave gen-er-al named Reg'u-lus,—a man of whom it was said that he never broke his word. It so happened after a while, that Reg-u-lus was taken pris-on-er and carried to Carthage. Ill and very lonely, he dreamed of his wife and little children so far away beyond the sea; and he had but little hope of ever seeing them again. He loved his home dearly, but he believed that his first duty was to his country; and so he had left all, to fight in this cruel war.
He had lost a battle, it is true, and had been taken prisoner. Yet he knew that the Romans were gaining ground, and the people of Carthage were afraid of being beaten in the end. They had sent into other countries to hire soldiers to help them; but even with these they would not be able to fight much longer against Rome.
One day some of the rulers of Carthage came to the prison to talk with Regulus.
"We should like to make peace with the Roman people," they said, "and we are sure, that, if your rulers at home knew how the war is going, they would be glad to make peace with us. We will set you free and let you go home, if you will agree to do as we say."
"What is that?" asked Regulus.
"In the first place," they said, "you must tell the Romans about the battles which you have lost, and you must make it plain to them that they have not gained any-thing by the war. In the second place, you must promise us, that, if they will not make peace, you will come back to your prison."
"Very well," said Regulus, "I promise you, that, if they will not make peace, I will come back to prison."
And so they let him go; for they knew that a great Roman would keep his word.
When he came to Rome, all the people greeted him gladly. His wife and children were very happy, for they thought that now they would not be parted again. The white-haired Fathers who made the laws for the city came to see him. They asked him about the war.
"I was sent from Carthage to ask you to make peace," he said. "But it will not be wise to make peace. True, we have been beaten in a few battles, but our army is gaining ground every day. The people of Carthage are afraid, and well they may be. Keep on with the war a little while longer, and Carthage shall be yours. As for me, I have come to bid my wife and children and Rome fare-well. To-morrow I will start back to Carthage and to prison; for I have promised."
Then the Fathers tried to persuade him to stay.
"Let us send another man in your place," they said.
"Shall a Roman not keep his word?" answered Regulus. "I am ill, and at the best have not long to live. I will go back, as I promised."
His wife and little children wept, and his sons begged him not to leave them again.
"I have given my word," said Regulus. "The rest will be taken care of."
Then he bade them good-by, and went bravely back to the prison and the cruel death which he ex-pect-ed.
This was the kind of courage that made Rome the greatest city in the world.
It was a bright morning in the old city of Rome many hundred years ago. In a vine-covered summer-house in a beautiful garden, two boys were standing. They were looking at their mother and her friend, who were walking among the flowers and trees.
"Did you ever see so handsome a lady as our mother's friend?" asked the younger boy, holding his tall brother's hand. "She looks like a queen."
"Yet she is not so beautiful as our mother," said the elder boy. "She has a fine dress, it is true; but her face is not noble and kind. It is our mother who is like a queen."
"That is true," said the other. "There is no woman in Rome so much like a queen as our own dear mother."
Soon Cor-ne'li-a, their mother, came down the walk to speak with them. She was simply dressed in a plain white robe. Her arms and feet were bare, as was the custom in those days; and no rings nor chains glit-tered about her hands and neck. For her only crown, long braids of soft brown hair were coiled about her head; and a tender smile lit up her noble face as she looked into her sons' proud eyes.
"Boys," she said, "I have something to tell you."
They bowed before her, as Roman lads were taught to do, and said, "What is it, mother?"
"You are to dine with us to-day, here in the garden; and then our friend is going to show us that wonderful casket of jewels of which you have heard so much."
The brothers looked shyly at their mother's friend. Was it possible that she had still other rings besides those on her fingers? Could she have other gems besides those which sparkled in the chains about her neck?
When the simple out-door meal was over, a servant brought the casket from the house. The lady opened it. Ah, how those jewels dazzled the eyes of the wondering boys! There were ropes of pearls, white as milk, and smooth as satin; heaps of shining rubies, red as the glowing coals; sap-phires as blue as the sky that summer day; and di-a-monds that flashed and sparkled like the sunlight.
The brothers looked long at the gems.
"Ah!" whis-pered the younger; "if our mother could only have such beautiful things!"
At last, how-ever, the casket was closed and carried care-ful-ly away.
"Is it true, Cor-ne-li-a, that you have no jewels?" asked her friend. "Is it true, as I have heard it whis-pered, that you are poor?"
"No, I am not poor," answered Cornelia, and as she spoke she drew her two boys to her side; "for here are my jewels. They are worth more than all your gems."
I am sure that the boys never forgot their mother's pride and love and care; and in after years, when they had become great men in Rome, they often thought of this scene in the garden. And the world still likes to hear the story of Cornelia's jewels.
ANDROCLUS AND THE LION.
In Rome there was once a poor slave whose name was An'dro-clus. His master was a cruel man, and so unkind to him that at last An-dro-clus ran away.
He hid himself in a wild wood for many days; but there was no food to be found, and he grew so weak and sick that he thought he should die. So one day he crept into a cave and lay down, and soon he was fast asleep.
After a while a great noise woke him up. A lion had come into the cave, and was roaring loudly. Androclus was very much afraid, for he felt sure that the beast would kill him. Soon, however, he saw that the lion was not angry, but that he limped as though his foot hurt him.
Then Androclus grew so bold that he took hold of the lion's lame paw to see what was the matter. The lion stood quite still, and rubbed his head against the man's shoulder. He seemed to say,—
"I know that you will help me."
Androclus lifted the paw from the ground, and saw that it was a long, sharp thorn which hurt the lion so much. He took the end of the thorn in his fingers; then he gave a strong, quick pull, and out it came. The lion was full of joy. He jumped about like a dog, and licked the hands and feet of his new friend.
Androclus was not at all afraid after this; and when night came, he and the lion lay down and slept side by side.
For a long time, the lion brought food to Androclus every day; and the two became such good friends, that Androclus found his new life a very happy one.
One day some soldiers who were passing through the wood found Androclus in the cave. They knew who he was, and so took him back to Rome.
It was the law at that time that every slave who ran away from his master should be made to fight a hungry lion. So a fierce lion was shut up for a while without food, and a time was set for the fight.
When the day came, thousands of people crowded to see the sport. They went to such places at that time very much as people now-a-days go to see a circus show or a game of base-ball.
The door opened, and poor Androclus was brought in. He was almost dead with fear, for the roars of the lion could al-read-y be heard. He looked up, and saw that there was no pity in the thou-sands of faces around him.
Then the hungry lion rushed in. With a single bound he reached the poor slave. Androclus gave a great cry, not of fear, but of gladness. It was his old friend, the lion of the cave.
The people, who had ex-pect-ed to see the man killed by the lion, were filled with wonder. They saw Androclus put his arms around the lion's neck; they saw the lion lie down at his feet, and lick them lov-ing-ly; they saw the great beast rub his head against the slave's face as though he wanted to be petted. They could not un-der-stand what it all meant.
After a while they asked Androclus to tell them about it. So he stood up before them, and, with his arm around the lion's neck, told how he and the beast had lived together in the cave.
"I am a man," he said; "but no man has ever befriended me. This poor lion alone has been kind to me; and we love each other as brothers."
The people were not so bad that they could be cruel to the poor slave now. "Live and be free!" they cried. "Live and be free!"
Others cried, "Let the lion go free too! Give both of them their liberty!"
And so Androclus was set free, and the lion was given to him for his own. And they lived together in Rome for many years.
HORATIUS AT THE BRIDGE.
Once there was a war between the Roman people and the E-trus'cans who lived in the towns on the other side of the Ti-ber River. Por'se-na, the King of the E-trus-cans, raised a great army, and marched toward Rome. The city had never been in so great danger.
The Romans did not have very many fighting men at that time, and they knew that they were not strong enough to meet the Etruscans in open battle. So they kept themselves inside of their walls, and set guards to watch the roads.
One morning the army of Por-se-na was seen coming over the hills from the north. There were thousands of horsemen and footmen, and they were marching straight toward the wooden bridge which spanned the river at Rome.
"What shall we do?" said the white-haired Fathers who made the laws for the Roman people. "If they once gain the bridge, we cannot hinder them from crossing; and then what hope will there be for the town?"
Now, among the guards at the bridge, there was a brave man named Ho-ra'ti-us. He was on the farther side of the river, and when he saw that the Etruscans were so near, he called out to the Romans who were behind him.
"Hew down the bridge with all the speed that you can!" he cried. "I, with the two men who stand by me, will keep the foe at bay."
Then, with their shields before them, and their long spears in their hands, the three brave men stood in the road, and kept back the horsemen whom Porsena had sent to take the bridge.
On the bridge the Romans hewed away at the beams and posts. Their axes rang, the chips flew fast; and soon it trembled, and was ready to fall.
"Come back! come back, and save your lives!" they cried to Ho-ra-ti-us and the two who were with him.
But just then Porsena's horsemen dashed toward them again.
"Run for your lives!" said Horatius to his friends. "I will keep the road."
They turned, and ran back across the bridge. They had hardly reached the other side when there was a crashing of beams and timbers. The bridge toppled over to one side, and then fell with a great splash into the water.
When Horatius heard the sound, he knew that the city was safe. With his face still toward Porsena's men, he moved slowly back-ward till he stood on the river's bank. A dart thrown by one of Porsena's soldiers put out his left eye; but he did not falter. He cast his spear at the fore-most horseman, and then he turned quickly around. He saw the white porch of his own home among the trees on the other side of the stream;
"And he spake to the noble river That rolls by the walls of Rome: 'O Tiber! father Tiber! To whom the Romans pray, A Roman's life, a Roman's arms, Take thou in charge to-day.'"