FIVE MICE IN A MOUSE-TRAP, BY THE MAN IN THE MOON.
DONE IN VERNACULAR, FROM THE LUNACULAR,
BY LAURA E. RICHARDS,
Author of "Babyhood," Etc.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY KATE GREENAWAY, ADDIE LEDYARD, AND OTHERS.
* * * * *
BOSTON: PUBLISHED BY ESTES AND LAURIAT, 299 TO 305 WASHINGTON STREET, 1881.
Copyright, BY ESTES & LAURIAT, 1880.
CHAPTER I. THE MAN IN THE MOON, 9
CHAPTER II. THE MOUSE-TRAP, 14
CHAPTER III. THE MICE, 19
CHAPTER IV. JOLLYKALOO, 45
CHAPTER V. TOMTY, 64
CHAPTER VI. A NIGHT JOURNEY, 79
CHAPTER VII. A RAINY DAY AND WHAT CAME OF IT, 97
CHAPTER VIII. A STORY CHAPTER, 109
CHAPTER IX. A PICNIC, 123
CHAPTER X. THE CARRIAGE CLOUD, 138
CHAPTER XI. A BIRTHDAY PARTY, 154
CHAPTER XII. SICKNESS IN THE MOUSE-TRAP, 169
CHAPTER XIII. OFF TO THE SEA-SHORE, 179
CHAPTER XIV. STORIES AGAIN, 193
CHAPTER XV. FOLLOWING A SUNBEAM, 207
CHAPTER XVI. UNDER THE SEA, 215
CHAPTER XVII. GOOD-BYE, 227
THE MAN IN THE MOON.
CHILDREN, down on the planet which you call Earth, allow me to introduce myself to you! I am the Man in the Moon. I have no doubt that you know a good deal about me, in an indirect way, and that your nurses have told you all sorts of nonsense about my inquiring the way to Norwich—as if I didn't know the way to Norwich! and various things equally sensible. But now I am going to tell you a little about myself, and a great deal about yourselves, and about everything in general. In short, I am going to write you a book, and this is the beginning of it.
You see, I live very quietly up here, very quietly indeed, with only my dog to bear me company. He is a good dog, and very funny sometimes, but still I have a good deal of time on my hands, and nothing amuses me so much as to watch all that is going on down on your planet, and see what people in general, and children in particular, are doing, every day and all day. You may wonder how I can see so far, and see distinctly, but that is easily explained. I have a great, monstrous mirror, which is—oh! well, if I were to tell you how big it is, you would not believe me, so I will only say that it is very big indeed. This mirror has also the advantage of being a very strong magnifying glass, and as I can tip it in any direction I please, you will easily understand that I can see just what is going on in any part of the world that I happen to be interested in. For instance, Tommy Tiptop, the glass was tipped towards New York this morning, and I saw you take away your little sister's stick of candy, you greedy boy! Yes, and I saw you put in the closet for it, too, so that was well ended. Children are the same, I find, all the world over, for it was only yesterday that a little boy in Kamschatka (an ugly little Tartar he is, and not so very unlike you), named Patchko, while his father was out hunting, took away a tallow candle from his sister, which seemed just as good to her as the barley sugar did to little Katie.
But, children all, I beg your pardon! I am not writing this book for Tommy Tiptop, and I hope that most of the boys who read it will be better than he is. I do want, however, to tell you about some children of whom I am very particularly fond, and whom most of you do not know. These children live in the town of Nomatterwhat, which, as you are probably aware, is in the State of Nomatterwhere, which again is, or really ought to be, one of the United States of America. Perhaps these are Indian names; similarly, perhaps they are not. There are five of these children, and I call them my Five Mice; and the queer house that they live in I call the Mouse-trap. They are such funny children! I watch them sometimes all day long, their pranks are so amusing; and then when night comes, I slide down a moonbeam and sit by their pillows, and tell them stories and sing them songs. Ah! they like that, you may believe! And you all shall hear the stories and songs too, if you like, for I will write them down. So now, children all, listen! in America, Jennie and Johnny; in France, Marie and Emil; in Germany, Gretchen and Hans; in Italy, Tita and Nanni; in Kamschatka, Patchko and Tinka. Listen all, great and small, to the old
MAN IN THE MOON
MANY years ago, very many years as you would think, though the time seems short enough for me, there came to the little village (as it then was), of Nomatterwhat, an old man. He was a very queer old man, and nobody knew where he came from, or anything about him, except what he told them himself; and that was very little besides the fact that his name was Jonas Junk, that he had come to Nomatterwhat because he chose to come, and that he would stay exactly as long as it pleased him and no longer. The good people of the village, finding him such a very gruff and crusty old fellow, thought it best to let him alone; and this being exactly what old Jonas Junk wanted, he was well satisfied. Apparently what he wanted beside was to build a house for himself: at all events, that is what he did. He bought a large piece of ground and built a high wall all round it, and put the ugliest and most vicious looking iron spikes that you can imagine all along the top of the wall. Then he chose the sunniest and most sheltered spot he could find on the place, and there the old man built his house. Well, to be sure, what a queer house it was! in the first place, there were three separate flights of stairs, one for old Jonas himself, one for his cat, and one for his dog. His own staircase was very easy, with broad low steps, and two landings, though the distance was very short from the first story to the second; but the poor cat and dog must have had a hard time of it. The other two staircases were so crooked it seemed as if the carpenter must have built them in his sleep, and have had the nightmare to boot. Each step was set at a different angle from the one below it; and they were high, and steep, and dark—ugh! I don't like to think about them. I remember I tried to send a moonbeam down the cat's stairs once, through a little skylight over the landing; and the poor thing got lost and wandered about for an hour before it could find its way back again. There's a flight of stairs for you! and everything else in the house was just as queer. There were large rooms and small rooms, long rooms and square rooms; there were cupboards everywhere, you never saw so many cupboards in your life. Some close to the floor so that you bumped your head in looking into them, others so high up in the wall that nothing short of a step-ladder could reach them; cupboards in the chimneys, and cupboards under the stairs; yes, there was no end to them.
Well, Jonas Junk furnished his house, and there he lived for many a year, with his dog and his cat, and nobody else. All the ground about the house he made into a beautiful garden, full of pear trees and apple trees and all kinds of fruit trees. People used to say, by the way, that the reason these apple trees were so crooked, was because they tried to look like old Jonas himself; but I don't know how that was. Certainly, Jonas was not a beauty, and I am sorry to say the boys were disposed to make fun of him whenever he ventured out of his queer house into the village. "But what has all this to do with mice and a mouse-trap, you ask?" Patience! patience! we are coming to that very soon. I am an old man, older than all of you and all your great-grandmothers put together, so you must let me tell my story in my own way. If Jonas Junk had lived on till to-day, his house would never have been turned into a mouse-trap; but one dark night, you see, he fell down the dog's stairs and broke his neck, and there was an end of him. For a long time nobody lived in his house, and the garden was all going to rack and ruin, when one fine day a gentleman from a neighboring town came to see the old house and took a great fancy to it; and finally he bought it, cat-stairs, dog-stairs, cupboards, garden and all.
Now this gentleman happened to be Uncle Jack, the uncle and guardian of the Five Mice, whose father and mother were dead; and then it was, when he came to live in it with his five nephews and nieces, and Mrs. Posset the nurse, and Susan the cook, and Thomas the gardener, then it was, I say, that the old Junk-shop, as the villagers called it was turned into the most delightful house in the world, which I call my MOUSE-TRAP.
NIBBLE, Brighteyes, Fluff, Puff, and Downy the baby. There are the names of the mice, all written out nicely for you, and there in a corner is a glimpse of the mouse-trap. Of course the children have real names, just like other children; but I have given them mouse-names, which I very much prefer to Harry and Bessie, and—but oh! dear, I didn't mean to tell you any of their real names. Nibble is the oldest. He is now a fine bright boy-mouse of twelve, but when he first came to the mouse-trap he was only eight years old, and Brighteyes, the oldest girl-mouse, was seven. Then came Fluff and Puff, the twins, who were just five, and Downy the baby, a fat little fellow of three. You see their ages were quite near enough for them all to be great friends and playmates, and so they were. I never shall forget the day they came. It was a fine bright day in May, and Spring was just awake in the old garden. The short new grass was like emerald; the old gnarled apple-trees, which certainly did look like Jonas Junk when their branches were bare, had lost all trace of such likeness, for each was crowned with a pink and white snowdrift of blossoms. Down in the neglected flower-beds the crocuses and snowdrops were nodding and whispering to each other. "Yes," they said, "some new people are coming to live in the old house, and there are children among them. Mr. Breeze, the postman, knows all about them, but he could not stop to tell us much this morning, for he was in a hurry. Now we shall be cared for, and watered, and there will be some pleasure in blossoming. When the children come, we will tell them how those vulgar weeds pushed and crowded us last year." And they did tell the children, but children do not understand flower-talk, I find. And yet it is a very simple language. You see, I hear a great deal of flower-gossip, for my moonbeams are sad chatterboxes, and they bring me back all sorts of news when they come home in the morning. How the burglar-bees robbed old Madam Peony, how the daffodils in the long border had been flirting with the regiment of purple flags behind them, when the Tulip family are expected; yes, there is no end to the things I hear. But if I told all I know, everybody would be as wise as I am, so let us go on about the mice.
Well, at about three o'clock in the afternoon of this fine day that I have been describing, a large carriage, drawn by two fine black horses, drove through the old gateway and down the quiet, lovely lane, and stopped in front of the house. The very instant the wheels ceased to turn, the door of the carriage burst open with a crash, and out jumped, rolled, and tumbled my five mice. First came Nibble, in jacket and trousers and cap. One jump out of the carriage, another to the top of a post, and there he was. Next came Brighteyes, all flying, feet and curls and hat and ribbons. Then one of the twins rolled out, and the other tumbled out; and one was hurt, and the other was not. That is always the way with those two children. One is lucky, and one unlucky. Puff always falls on her feet. Fluff always falls on her head. Uncle Jack often calls them Hap and Hazard, and that is the only difference between them. However, when they got up and shook themselves, I saw that they were very pretty little girls. Now I will make you a picture of them. Yes, I can draw pictures too; in fact, there are very few things that I cannot do if I try. Here they are, Puff and Fluff, two of the dearest mice in the world.
Next a gentleman stepped out of the carriage; a very, very tall gentleman, with very broad shoulders, and very bright eyes. That was Uncle Jack; and he helped Mrs. Posset to get out, for she had Downy asleep in her arms, and he was a pretty good armful. Then Uncle Jack took some bags and bundles out of the carriage; then he turned round and said "Now, children, we will"—There he stopped, for not a child was to be seen, except little fat Downy, fast asleep. Uncle Jack stared about him. Posts, trees, house, but no children. "Sure they're all gone, surr," said John the coachman. "'Twould be as aisy to ketch the wind and kape it still as thim childher." And John never said a truer word in his life. If my mirror were not so big, even I could not have seen them all. Nibble was up in a tree, of course, picking apple-blossoms, for which he ought to have been whipped. Indeed, the old tree did its best, for it caught him by the leg, and tore a hole in his new trousers, which was shocking to think of. Then he found an old bird's nest; and on the whole, the tree seemed so very "jolly" that he decided to stay there; so that was why Uncle Jack did not see him when he looked round. Brighteyes, after seeing her brother safely up in the tree, flew off like a bird, here and there and everywhere. First she filled both hands with dandelions. Then she saw a butterfly; down went the dandelions; off went her best hat to serve as a butterfly-net; and away she went. A pretty chase Master Butterfly led her, through last year's brambles and this year's mud, until at last he left her high and dry on the top of a fence, and flew off so fast that he was soon out of sight. There I left her too, for I wanted to see what the twin mice were about.
I looked this way and that, but they were nowhere to be seen. At length I caught a glimpse of something blue, among some very thick bushes. I looked closer, and saw a sight that was truly melancholy. Among these bushes stood a huge old wooden trough, which old Jonas had built to receive the water that bubbled out of a spring close by. So the trough was full of water, and this being the case, of course Fluff the unlucky had fallen into it. How she had done it I do not know, but there she was, splashing about in fine style.
"Give me your hand, Fluffy, and I'll pull you out!" said Puff.
"Oh! no, you can't!" cried poor little Fluff. "You're not any bigger as I am, Puffy, and I'm so wet I feel very heavy."
And no wonder she did, for she had on a long thick coat which was completely soaked. But Puffy was very sure about it. She gave a great pull, and Fluff made a scramble, and out she came, knocking Puff down and tumbling on top of her. Well, they were both wet enough when they got up. Just then a very loud and strange noise was heard. At least, it was strange to me, but the children cried "Oh! the rattle, the rattle!" and away they scampered towards the house, as fast as they could go.
Poor Uncle Jack! he had been working hard all the afternoon, with John and Thomas, (who had come in a cart with the other servants and the trunks and the dogs), clearing away rubbish and unpacking furniture, while Mrs. Posset and the maids were busy in the house. He had been rather glad to have the children out of the way for a little while, but now that it was six o'clock, and tea was laid in the dining-room, and a bright wood fire blazing in the great open fireplace, he began to wonder where his chickens were.
"Bless me!" he said. "Where is the rattle?" and opening a bag, he took out a huge watchman's rattle, and sprung it briskly, making the strange loud noise that Puff and Fluff had heard down by the spring. Presently he heard a voice, then another, and then another. "Here I am, Uncle!" "What is the matter, Uncle Jack?" "Hi! supper! come on, Brighteyes!" and up scampered from all directions, the four mice in about as pretty a plight as mice can well be in. Brighteyes was panting for breath and limping, one shoe gone, no hat, and any number of scratches. Puff and Fluff were wet, and muddy, and forlorn beyond description; while with Nibble the only question was, which was bigger, his knickerbockers or the hole in them.
Uncle Jack held up his hands in amazement, and then sat down on a packing-box and laughed till the tears ran down his cheeks. "Oh! you children, you children!" he cried. "This is what comes of bringing you to the country to keep you out of mischief. Go in to Mrs. Posset at once, give her my compliments, and tell her I wish her joy of you. And as soon as you are fit to be seen, come down to supper, or Downy and I will eat it all up."
Away went the mice into the house and upstairs, where Mrs. Posset scolded, and brushed, and washed, and wiped and mended to an alarming extent. The trunk in which Nibble's clothes were packed had not yet arrived, so the young gentleman had to wait after the others were gone down to tea, while Mary, the housemaid, mended his trousers.
Bread and butter and raspberry jam are always good, but they must have seemed particularly good that evening to those five hungry mice. Little Downy soon finished his bowl of bread and milk, and was just thinking about some jam when Mrs. Posset appeared in the doorway. I have a great respect for Mrs. Posset. She is very faithful, and as fond of the mice as if they were her own children; but I do wish she would not wear green and yellow ribbons in her cap. It makes her look so like a stout elderly daffodil, but that is neither here nor there. She appeared in the doorway and looked at Downy. Downy looked at her, but did not move. Then Mrs. Posset said, "Downy come with his Possy, and put on his ittle nightcoatie, and go to his 'ittle beddy-house?" (That's another thing, she always talks to that mouse as if he and she were both idiots). "No!" said Downy. "Not want any beddy-house. Possy go away!" "Come, Downy," said his uncle. "You have had a long day, little man, and bed is the best place for you. Nice bed! I wish I were in mine." "Not nice!" cried Downy. "Naughty bed! take it away! A-a-a-ah!" and the poor little boy, who was really tired out, began to scream and cry lustily. "Hush!" cried Uncle Jack hastily. "Hush, Downy! the bed will hear you, and then who knows what may happen?" Downy paused a moment and looked at his uncle in astonishment. "What do you mean, Uncle Jack?" asked Brighteyes. "Beds cannot hear."
"Perhaps their posts are their ears," said Fluff.
"Oh! Fluffy," said Puff, "you know their posts are their legs, so they can't be their ears."
But Uncle Jack looked very grave, and said, "Have you never heard the story of Little Willy and his bed? listen then, and I will tell it to you."
"One night, little Willy thought he did not want to go to bed. In fact, he felt very sure about the matter. He had had his supper and it was half past six o'clock. There was his bed, standing firmly on its four fluted yellow legs, the white sheet turned down, and the pillow plumped up, looking as inviting as a bed possibly could; but into it little Willy would not go. First he kicked, and then he screamed, and then he did both together. 'I won't go to bed!' he cried. 'I hate my bed! it's cold, and horrid, and ugly. I will never get into it! naughty bed!'
"He was lying on the floor, kicking the bed as hard as he could, when suddenly what do you think happened? I shall shock you very much, but it is best that you should know. The bed began to move! slowly it lifted its fluted yellow legs, slowly it marched across the room until it reached the window, and then, if you will believe me, it coolly marched out of the window, and thump! thump! thump! off it went down the street.
"Little Willy ran to the window, and looked out, with eyes and mouth wide open, in great surprise. Yes, it was really true. The bed was gone; there it went, tramping down the middle of the street. Its pillow had fallen a little to one side, which gave it a jaunty and rakish air. 'Humph!' said Willy. 'Well, I'm glad the ugly old thing is gone. Now I shall not have to go to bed at all.'
"That was all very well for an hour or so, but after that the little boy began to grow very sleepy in spite of himself. He rubbed his eyes, he yawned, he tried to shake himself broad awake, but it was of no use. For some time longer he fought against the sleepiness, but at last he went to his mother, looking very much ashamed, and said:
"'Please, mamma, I want to go to bed!' 'I am very sorry, Willy,' said his mother; 'but you have no bed to go to. You have driven away your good bed by ill-treatment, and now you must sit up all night.'
"Poor little Willy! he tried to go to sleep in a chair, but his head kept tumbling backward or forward and waking him. Oh! he was wretchedly uncomfortable, and finally he burst into tears. 'Oh! my dear bed!' cried he. 'My nice, soft, warm, pretty bed! why did I ever treat you so badly? oh! dear good bed, if you will only come back to me, I will never, never call you names again. Oh! oh! oh! how tired I am, and cold, and—' but suddenly he stopped crying, for he thought he heard a noise outside. He listened. Yes, through the open window came a faint sound—thump! thump! thump! Willy flew to the window. Oh joy! there was the bed, stumping back up the street on its fluted yellow legs. Back it came, in at the window and across the room, till it stood in its accustomed place. In about three minutes Willy's head was on the pillow, and I believe he has never called his bed names since."
"Why! bless me!" said Uncle Jack, looking down. "Here is Downy asleep too. Let us go upstairs and see if his bed is there all right. I hope it did not hear what he said about it, for you see they are sensitive fellows, these beds. Now then, up we go! I will carry Downy, Mrs. Posset, and do you bring Puff and Fluff with you, for it is high time that they were in bed too."
Well, Uncle Jack is a very wise man in most things, but I should have thought he would have known better than to try the cat-stairs for the first time at night, with a candle in one hand, and a child in his arms. At the first step he bumped his own head; at the second he bumped the child's head; at the third he bumped the candle, and put it out, so there he was in the dark. A sad plight he would have been in if it had not been for my beams; but two or three of the boldest and most skilful of them popped down through the skylight and showed him the way up: for which, by the way, he might have thanked them, but I dare say he did not think of it. After stumbling over a trunk, and a chair, and nearly breaking his nose against the edge of a door, poor Uncle Jack finally reached the large room which he had chosen to be the nursery. Puff and Fluff, who had tumbled up behind him, looked eagerly to see if Downy's bed was there. Yes, there it stood, drawing its white curtains primly round it, and looking very amiable. Fluff gave a sigh of relief.
"Oh," she said, "I was so afraid it had heard what Downy said."
"I think, perhaps, it is a little deaf," said Puff. "It never seems to mind, and yet he calls it all sorts of names sometimes."
"Can a thing be deaf in its legs, Uncle Jack?" asked Fluff.
But Uncle Jack began to laugh, and that hurt Fluff's feelings, so she said nothing more. And now Mrs. Posset came, and the three dear little mice were soon snugly tucked up in bed; the twins together, with their arms round each other's necks, and little Downy curled up alone in his pretty white nest, the sweetest mouse that ever was seen.
Ah! now it was my turn. As soon as Mrs. Posset had left the room, down I came post-haste, on Flash, my swiftest beam. I sat down on Fluff's pillow, and soon introduced myself to the little mice. They were fast asleep, of course, but that is the best time to take children. In fact, I never can get on with them when they are awake, their heads are full of so many things. "Yes," I said, "I really am the Man in the Moon. I live in a silver palace——"
"Really silver?" asked Puff.
"Yes, really silver, from top to bottom, from roof to cellar, walls and floors, tables and chairs, dishes and spoons are all silver, as bright as Flash, who is dancing about the room here."
"I should think a silver bed would be rather hard," said Fluff.
"Not when it has a cloud mattress and pillow," I replied. "That makes it soft enough, I can tell you."
Then I told them how the clouds were divided into three classes, and how one kind was good to sleep on, and another good to ride on, and the third good (very good, too,) to eat.
"Does it taste like the white part in floating island?" asked Fluff.
"Rather like it, but a great, great deal nicer, more like whipped cream."
"And is that all you have to eat?"
"Oh, no! I have ice cream whenever I want it. All the mountains up here are covered with ice cream instead of snow, and I have only to send a beam out a few steps and I have all I want; pink or white, or any color I choose."
"Oh, how lovely!" sighed Fluff. "Tell us more, Mr. Moonman!"
So I told them about my neighbors, the stars, and my elder brother in the Sun, with his splendid palace of gold and diamond. We are very fond of each other, but we cannot often visit each other, so we send letters and messages by the comets, who come and go, or by the merry meteors.
Well, well, how many questions they did ask, those mice. I had been telling them about my big mirror, and "Oh!" cried Puff, "can you really see all the people in the world?"
"Yes, indeed, but not all at once. As I tip my glass this way or that, so I see this place or that place. Yesterday I saw a fine sight, I can tell you."
"Oh! what was it? what was it?" cried the three mice.
"You shall hear," I said, "if you will be quiet. Listen now, for it is nearly time for me to go home, and Flash is looking pale.
"Well, I saw some wolves go to a concert, and that is more than any of you ever saw, I'll warrant. In a certain wild part of northern Germany, there lived three good brothers whom I know very well. Their names are Hans, Karl, and Wilhelm; and they are musicians by trade; that is to say, Hans plays on the violoncello, which is a very big fiddle, about half as big as himself, while Wilhelm has a small fiddle, and Karl toots away on a kind of little brass trumpet called a cornet. So, now you know about the men as if you had seen them, for they do nothing in the world but play on their several instruments. Now, yesterday there was to be a wedding, and the three brothers were asked to come and play for the guests to dance. Their way led through a wild and gloomy forest, where many wild beasts roamed about; but the three started merrily, and strolled along singing and talking together. Suddenly they stopped singing, for they heard a noise that was not so pleasant as their song; it was a long, low howl, and soon came another, and another. Then they knew that the wolves were coming, and their hearts sank within them. Anxiously they looked about them. They were in an open space in the wood. Now a rustling was heard, and out came a gray wolf and looked at them. The teeth of the three brothers chattered in their heads; it was like the sound of castanets, as I hear them played in Spain by the black-eyed dancing-girls. Another wolf came out, and he came yet nearer, and then two more. 'If I had but my gun!' cried Hans. 'If I had but my hunting-knife!' said Karl. 'Ah! brothers,' said Wilhelm, 'we have nothing, so we must die. Nevertheless, let us die merrily, so take your instruments and we will play a tune for these beasts, that we may all dance together.'
"So the three brothers took their instruments, the big fiddle, and the little fiddle, and the trumpet, and began to play. As the first notes sounded the wolves stopped short. Seeing this, the brothers played the faster a merry waltz, which they had meant to play at the wedding. 'Tra-la-la! tra-la-la!' gaily rang out the notes in the clear air, while the musicians' teeth rattled like the castanets, and their limbs trembled, and their hands could scarcely hold the instruments; for they were playing for their lives, you see! yes, and they won the game, for the wolves, who were not used to concerts, did not know what to make of this sort of thing. They began to be frightened, to wonder what strange beasts these were, with such wild voices. They looked at each other and drew back a step or two, it was well to be near the forest in any case. Further and further they retired toward the shade of the trees, and finally, as the music changed to a furious jig, and the trumpet sounded out like the scream of a panther, the terrified wolves turned tail and ran as fast as their fright and their four legs could carry them. Off as fast in the opposite direction ran also Hans, Karl, and Wilhelm, playing as they went. They played and ran, ran and played till they reached the open fields and the houses; and then they sat down under a haystack and did not move for the rest of the day. Ah! that was a fine concert! but there was no music at the wedding, which is sad to think of."
With that I kissed my three mice, and bade them good-night, though it was nearly morning; then mounting my moonbeam I whisked away, and soon left mice and mouse-trap far behind.
Wake! wake! children, wake! Here we're singing for your sake. Chirrup! chirrup! chirrup! chee! Sweet a song as sweet can be.
Rise! rise! children, rise! Shake the poppies from your eyes. Sweet! sweet! chirrup! tweet! Morning blossoms at your feet.
Song and sweetness, dawn and dew, All are waiting now for you. Wake! wake! children, wake! Here we're singing for your sake.
NOW is not that a pretty song? and so simple, I should think a baby might understand it. And yet Downy did not seem to understand a word of it, though the birds that sang it were just outside his window in the great linden-tree.
He only said, "Oh! so pitty bird finging!" (he cannot say S, so he says F instead, which sounds very funny). And then he rolled out of bed; and then Fluff and Puff rolled out of bed. Puff ran to the window and put back the curtains. The birds were still singing, and the soft May breeze was blowing, and a perfect gust of song and sweetness came in at the little old window as she pushed it open.
"Oh! lovely, lovely!" cried Puff. "And look, Fluffy, from this other window. What a fine play-ground! Oh! Possy, do give us tubby-rubby quickly, and let us get out of the window!"
"Out of the window!" cried Mrs. Posset; "The child is mad!" but then she came and looked for herself.
Yes, it was indeed a fine place. One part of the house was lower than the rest, and this lower part had a flat roof, covered with gravel, and with an iron railing round it. Two of the nursery windows opened directly on this sunny flat place, so that it really was a most delightful spot. In a very few minutes there were three mice tumbling about on the gravel, and then presently there were two more, for other windows opened on the flat roof also, and Nibble and Brighteyes were not the mice to be behindhand when any fun was going on. Ah! that was the way to get an appetite for breakfast. Jump, dance, run, tumble, till the rattle sounded from below; then whirr! downstairs all like a flock of pigeons. They never lost any time in getting from one place to another, these mice.
"Uncle Jack," said Nibble, "What shall we call this place?"
"This dear, delightful place!" cried Brighteyes.
"Dis dear, 'lightful plafe!" murmured Downy, with his mouth full of bread-and-butter.
"Well," said Uncle Jack, "now let us see. It certainly ought to have a name."
"Oh! of course!" said all the mice very decidedly.
"Suppose we call it the Garden House," said Uncle Jack.
"Oh, no!" said Nibble. "That isn't jolly enough, Uncle Jacket! it's such a jolly place, you know. I want to call it Jollykaloo!"
And then in a chorus rose the five voices, "Jollykaloo! Jollykaloo!" so Jollykaloo it was named then and there, and it has been called so ever since.
"And now, children," said Uncle Jack, when breakfast was over, "We must go and see how our four-footed friends have passed the night. You may find some new friends too, I think, with two feet. Come Nibble, Brighteyes, Puff——"
"Uncle Jack," said Puff, very gravely; "Fluff and I have not unpacked the dolls yet, and I think it is both of our duty to take care of our children first, before we see the animals. Don't you think so, Uncle?"
"Both of your duty, eh?" said Uncle Jack, laughing. "Well, Puffsy, perhaps it is. It is also both of your duty to learn grammar, but you need not begin just yet. Off with you!"
So the twins went one way, and Uncle Jack went the other. Which way shall I take you first, all you other children? shall we follow the twins first, and take a peep at the dolls? by all means! I cannot say that I care much for dolls myself, but I always like to see what interests children, and certainly Puff and Fluff did take great interest in their china and wax babies. By and by I shall have some funny stories to tell you about these dolls, for they have seen more of life than any dolls that I have ever known, but we will not stop now, for we all want to go and see the animals, I am sure. We will just take a peep at them and see what they are like.
See, here they are, six of them. The one sitting in the chair, with curls and flowers, is Vashti Ann. She was the head doll at that time, and a person of great importance. Next to her is Tina, her daughter, a fine baby rather larger than her mother; and then comes Rosalie, a Swiss doll, with fine long hair. The doll in the lower left-hand corner is the unfortunate Sally Bradford, the maid-of-all-work; next comes Fanny Ellsler, the dancer, and the last is Katinka, a Polish lady of high rank.
The dear little twin mice unpacked all these creatures with the utmost care.
"I think they are all ill after the journey, Puff!" said Fluffy, with a sigh.
"We was better put them all to bed. Tina is very pale, and Rosalie is very red."
"Then one has a chill, and the other has a fever," said Puff.
"Yes, they must go to bed; and I will get the bed ready, Fluffy, if you will read them a story to amoose them."
"Oh! but, Puffy, if you put them both in the same bed it will be chills-and-fever, and then we shall catch it and be ill ourselves!" exclaimed Fluff with a distressed look.
"Fluff," said Miss Puff severely; "You are sometimes a foolish child!"
Well, Fluff knew that she was foolish, because she was often told so, and she was a child who always believed what was said to her, so she meekly sat down and read a story to the dolls. It was one of "Aunt Bathsheba's" stories, and they are so funny that I always write them down when I hear them. Listen to this, now!
THE PUDDING-STICK AND THE ROLLING-PIN.
Said the Pudding-stick so the Rolling-pin, "Let's take a dip in the sugar-bin!" Said the Rolling-pin to the Pudding-stick, "We'll eat and we'll stuff till we make ourselves sick." Off they set with a fine bold stride, That brought them soon to the sugar-bin's side. "Oh! how shall we reach that keyhole high? We might as well try to storm the sky!"
"Let me mount on your shoulder thin, And I'll pick the lock!" said the bold Rolling-pin. The Pudding-stick swelled with angry pride, "That my figure is fine has ne'er been denied, I'll give you a slap for your impudence!" "Well!" said the Roller: "This is immense!" So they rolled and they fought, They thumped and they hit. Till they trod on the tail of the cook's pet kit. Then the cook rose up in dreadful wrath, And laid them out on the kitchen hearth.
There were fine doings in the garden all this time, as I found when I turned my eyes in that direction. Three mice and an uncle, (it would not be polite to call Uncle Jack a rat, and yet if a mouse's uncle is not a rat, what is he, I should like to know?) and John and Thomas, and three dogs and two horses and a donkey, there were enough to make things lively, you will confess.
The dogs interested me particularly, as I have a dog of my own, you know. Ah! he is a good fellow, that dog of mine! His name is Bmfkmgth, and none of you will be able to pronounce that, except the children who live in Wales. It is rather a hard name, but he came from the Dog Star, and the language there is somewhat difficult. Say it to your dogs, however, and see if they do not wag their tails. Yes, they understand each other. Bmfkmgth is green, a color that I never see in dogs on your planet; but that may be because he eats so freely of the green cheese which grows here instead of grass.
Well, there were three dogs at Jollykaloo, as perhaps I said before. There was Gruff the big dog, and Grim the middle-sized dog, and Grab, the little dog.
Gruff was a fine fellow, indeed; a great St. Bernard, clever and good-natured, and certainly with nothing gruff about him except his name and his bark. Indeed, it was well that he was of a cheerful turn of mind, for he had to take a good deal of rough usage, though it was only in play, to be sure.
Fancy trying to drive three dogs tandem, all of different sizes and dispositions! Yes, if you will believe me, that was what Nibble was trying to do when I looked down into the garden that morning. He had a very nice little cart which Thomas, the gardener, had made for him, and in this he often drove Gruff, who did not object at all to being harnessed, and in fact rather enjoyed dragging the children about. But when it came to having two other dogs harnessed in front of him, dogs who could run about twice as fast as he could, and who took a fancy to sit down and scratch their ears just as he had started into a good swinging trot—that was rather more than Gruff could endure. But Nibble was full of his new sport.
"Downy, baby!" he cried, "Come, Downy, and brother will give you a fine ride! come along, little man!"
So Downy came toddling up, and Nibble lifted him into the cart, and then got in himself, and took the reins and the whip.
"Now, Downy boy, you shall have the best ride that any one ever had. Hi! my gallant steeds! Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer! Oh, dear!" cried Nibble, "I wish I had eight reindeer like St. Nicholas, instead of only three dogs. But still I can say, 'Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!'" and the young charioteer stood up in the cart and waved the whip round his head, while Downy clapped his hands and shouted with glee. Yes, that was pride! but the fall also was not wanting.
Away went the three dogs, poor old Gruff forced into a lumbering gallop by the pace of the two others, who capered along, and let the big old dog do all the pulling. Round the house they went once and twice, the little cart rocking from side to side in rather an alarming way. Then, as they came round the third time—they saw a cat! Nibble saw it first, and tried like a clever mouse as he is, to turn his gallant steeds' heads away before they also saw it: but it was too late. "Yap! yap! yap!" went little Grab; "Woof! woof!" added Grim, struggling to free himself from the harness. Good old Gruff held out bravely for a moment or two; but finally he could not resist.
A mighty "Bow, wow WOW!" a leap and a plunge, and then for a moment I could see nothing but a cloud of dust, from which came barks and shrieks which were truly dreadful to hear. In a moment, however, the cart luckily was caught between two bushes, and there it stuck, while the dogs rushed to the foot of the nearest apple-tree, to leap and howl there in vain excitement, while the peaceful cat smiled at them in safety from the topmost bough.
At the moment the explosion took place, two people came upon the scene, one from the barn and one from the house. They were Uncle Jack and Mrs. Posset. The latter had happened to look out of the window just as the grand turn-out came round for the third time, and she had flown down stairs to rescue her Downy, but arrived only in time to snatch him from the ruins of the cart, very much frightened and covered with dust, and what was worse with blood, which flowed from a cut in his forehead. As for Uncle Jack, he had been very busy in the barn arranging matters with John and had supposed that Downy was quite safe with Nibble and Gruff to look after him.
"If you please, sir," cried Mrs. Posset in an angry tone, "what is to be done with Nibble? this blessed child's life is not safe with him for an instant, so it isn't! putting three dogs tantrum (Mrs. Posset meant tandem, but she was too much vexed to think about her words,) with an innocent baby behind them and the garden as full of cats as his head is of mischief!" and the good woman's breath fairly failed her, from haste and vexation combined. Uncle Jack looked very grave as he came up.
"How did this happen, Nibble?" he asked. "Mrs. Posset, if you will take Downy into the house and bathe his forehead, I will come in and find some court-plaster to put on that cut. Now my boy," he added, turning to Nibble, "tell me all about this!"
Nibble hung his head and looked very much ashamed.
"I—I did have them tandem," he said. "I never thought of cats, and Downy likes to ride so much!"
"I am very sorry, Nibble!" said Uncle Jack, "I certainly thought I could trust you to take care of your little brother for ten minutes. There are plenty of ways of amusing a little child without putting him in danger of his life; for Downy might have been very much hurt, perhaps even killed, and then you would never have forgiven yourself. Remember, my boy, that there is a great difference between three years and eight years, and that what may be harmless for you may be very dangerous for your little brother."
"Indeed, Uncle, I am very sorry!" said Nibble earnestly; "and I will try to be more careful. And—and what shall I do now, Uncle? there isn't any punishment tree here, is there?"
This question puzzled me at the time, but I found out afterwards that in the place where they had lived before, there was one special tree into which Nibble always had to climb when he had been naughty, and where he had spent many hours of penance.
Uncle Jack smiled kindly on the boy—I mean the mouse—and said "I have not found one yet, dear child! but I think that if you were to spend the rest of the morning in the house, and try to console Downy for his bumps and bruises, it would be a very good thing."
Nibble looked grave at this. He would have preferred sitting in a tree, and hearing the birds sing, and wondering where their nests might be, and how many eggs there might be in them, to spending the lovely, sunny morning in the house. But he went in without a word, remembering that Downy also had to stay in the house through his carelessness, and with aches and pains which he somehow had escaped.
He found the baby mouse curled up on the sofa in the library, looking very forlorn, with a handkerchief tied round his head. Mrs. Posset was sitting beside him, reading to him, for though Downy was a very little boy, he was very fond of stories. His eyes brightened when he saw Nibble. "Oh! Nibby!" he cried. "Did dey catf de cat?"
"Indeed, I hope not!" said Mrs. Posset. "It is a strange thing in the nature of boys, that they like to see cats tormented."
"But I don't like to see them hurt, Mrs. Posset!" said Nibble. "It is fun to see them run, but the dogs never catch them, so no harm is done. And it is good for the cats to have a little exercise, I am sure, for they are lazy creatures."
"Humph!" said Mrs. Posset. "Well, I am reading to Downy now, Master Nibble, so—"
"Wouldn't you like me to take the book, Mrs. Posset?" asked Nibble. "I must stay in the house till dinner, and I could read to Downy."
"Oh! yes, Nibby, read!" cried Downy.
"Very well, Master Nibble, and that is just what will please me, for I have not my spectacles by me, and the print troubles my eyes. Besides, the child's clothes are torn to shrivers, (this was a pet word of Mrs. Posset's, and I think she must have invented it herself,) and I must attend to them at once."
So Mrs. Posset, with an approving nod, trotted off to the nursery, and Nibble sat down by the sofa.
"What shall I read, Downy boy?" he asked.
"Wead Pinfkin!" said Downy very decidedly.
"'Princekin,' eh?" said Nibble, "Well, here it is, so listen! And perhaps, if you were to shut your eyes, Downy, you might see some of the pretty things that Princekin saw."
So Nibble opened the book, from which Mrs. Posset had been reading, and read this little rhyme:
"Princekin sits on his nursery throne, Prettiest Princekin, all alone, Sighing a sigh, and moaning a moan, 'Oh—dear—me! oh!' 'Princekin beautiful, Princekin dear, Tell us your troubles, and do not fear!' 'Nobody come, and nobody here, Nobody p'ay wiz me, oh!'
"'What! no little boys, and no little girls, To play with Princekin, pearl of pearls? Then lift your head, with its crown of curls, And we'll do better without, oh! Open the window and call the flowers Birds and beasts from their trees and bowers, To come and play with this Prince of ours, And make him with laughter shout, oh!'
"Princekin raises his sapphire eyes, Diamond tear-drop quickly dries, Stares and stares in such great surprise He doesn't know what to do, oh! In at the window, low and high, Hundreds of creatures creep and fly, Vines and flowerets clambering by, Of every shape and hue, oh!
"Doves are lighting on Princekin's knee, Close in his curls hums a honey bee, Roses are climbing around his wee Sweet hands, for to cling and kiss, oh! Beetles hover on gauzy wing, Blue-bells, lily-bells, chime and ring, Bull-frogs whistle and robins sing, And see, what an owl is this, oh!
"Squirrel is whispering in his ear, 'Princekin beautiful, Princekin dear, Leave this stupid close nursery here, Come to the woods with me, oh!' Daisy is murmuring at his feet, 'Princekin lovely, and Princekin sweet, Come live with us, 'mid the corn and wheat, Out in the field so free, oh!'
"Round they flutter, and round they dance, Wheel and hover and creep and prance, Bird, beast, blossom, all bent on the chance Of winning the pearl of boys, oh! Clinging and kissing o'er and o'er, Singing, chattering, more and more,— But oh!—who slammed the nursery door, And made such a dreadful noise, oh!
* * * * *
"Princekin sits on his nursery throne, Prettiest Princekin, all alone. Sighing a sigh and moaning a moan, 'Oh—dear—me, oh! Had such a bootiful, bootiful p'ay! No! I not been as'eep, I say! And now dem's everyone gone away, Nobody left but me, oh!'"
Then Nibble stopped reading, and closed the book softly, for Downy was just as fast asleep as Princekin had been.
"That is always the way!" he said to himself. "I never saw a child sleep so much in the daytime. In fact, there is no use in reading to him, unless you want him to go to sleep. But perhaps," he added "that is just what Mrs. Posset did want, and it is the best thing to do when one cannot go out of doors. Heigh ho! how pleasant it is out there! I wonder where Brighteyes is! She might come in and stay with me, I think, if she knows I am in the house." And Nibble sat down by the window, and looked mournfully out into the garden.
I also had been wondering where Brighteyes was, for I had not seen her since breakfast. I was just going to look in another part of the mirror, (for I can see the whole of the garden in it, and more too,) when I heard a deep sigh at my elbow. I turned, and saw my dog standing by, gazing into the mirror with a very wistful look. I followed the direction of his eyes, and saw that the cat was still up in the tree, and the dogs still at the foot of it. Gruff was tired of jumping, which indeed was not exactly in his line; and had gone quietly to sleep; but Grim and Grab kept up the game, occasionally lying down to rest and take breath, and then going at it again.
"What ails thee, Bmfkmgth?" I asked. "Doth the sight of the other dogs grieve thee?"
"Nay, master!" he answered. "But oh! I fain would have a cat to chase. Is there no Cat-Star, good master, whence thou couldst get me a cat? see now, how merry these dogs have been!"
"Truly," I replied, "there is no Cat-Star; and if there were, thou wouldst be none the better off, for I would not have such noise and strife in my quiet home. Art thou not happy? here thou hast no work to do; canst eat green cheese all day, if it please thee, and sport with the merry beams which my brother Sun sends over. Perhaps thou wouldst like to go back to the Dog Star, whence thou camest. There thou hadst work enough and to spare, for thou wast servant to Prince Canis, and he is a hard master." And I tipped the mirror, so that we could see Sirius (which is the name of that star,) and what was going on in it. There sat Prince Canis on his throne, richly dressed. Hundreds of servants bowed before him, or hurried hither and thither to do his bidding. He spoke harshly to them, and flourished a huge whip, which was his sceptre, about their ears, making them howl with pain.
"Wilt thou go back?" I asked.
"Oh, no, no!" cried the dog, shrinking back. "Tip the glass away, my master, lest he see me and carry me off! I promise thee I will never complain again!"
"That is well!" I said. "And if thou wantest something to chase, thou mayest chase me, though that would not be very exciting. So now, we will look for Brighteyes, and see what has become of the child."
I tipped the glass, and again the garden blossomed before me, sunny and bright, shining with grass-emerald and dandelion gold, under the drifts of apple-blossoms. Yes, it was a pretty sight, and whichever way I may tip my glass, I see no prettier sight than this garden, in the spring of the year.
BRIGHTEYES had been spending the morning with Tomty of course; anyone might have known that, for she was always with Tomty whenever she could not be found anywhere else. Tomty was the gardener, and his real name was Thomas Wilson, but the mice thought that Tomty was a much better name, and I think so too. He was the kindest gardener that ever lived, I think, and I have seen a good many. He liked nothing better than to have all the five mice trotting at his heels while he went about his work. They might hide his shears, and run off with his trowel, and take his rake and hoe for hobbyhorses, but Tomty was never out of patience with them.
"Sure, they're young things!" he used to say. "Let them enjoy themselves now, for they'll be older before they're younger!" Which was a very sensible remark.
"Tomty!" said Brighteyes.
"I want to go into the barn-yard again to see Jose."
"And that is just where I am going, miss," said Tomty; "so if you will sit in the wheelbarrow, I'll give you a ride!" so Brighteyes jumped into the wheelbarrow and was wheeled off in fine style.
"Do you know who invented the wheelbarrow, Tomty?" she asked as they went along.
"Yes miss," replied Tomty. "Hiram Deluce made this one, miss."
"I don't mean this one," said Brighteyes. "I mean the first one that ever was made. It was a great painter, one of the greatest painters that ever lived, only I can't remember his name. Uncle Jack told me about him."
"Yes Miss!" said Tomty. "More likely a car-painter, Miss. I don't know what a painter would want of a barrow, unless to paint it, and that's soon done."
A car-painter! Brighteyes thought that was very funny, and she thought Tomty was very clever.
But now they were in the barn-yard, and she straightway forgot about wheel-barrows and painters, for Jose, the little brown donkey, was loose, and was trying with might and main to open the further gate of the yard, a trick of which he was extremely fond, and in which he certainly excelled.
"Oh! Tomty," cried Brighteyes, "shut the gate, and let us catch Jose. Naughty donkey, how did you get out? Come here, good Jose! come here, poor fellow!" But Jose (that is a Spanish name, by the way, and is pronounced Hosay,) had no idea of going there.
"I wont!" he said. "I wo-hon't! go away-hay!" and up went his heels, higher than ever. It must be very provoking to animals to have human beings pay absolutely no attention to their remarks. Really, it is so stupid sometimes. There was Jose, speaking quite distinctly for a donkey, and Brighteyes only clapped her hands to her ears and cried "Oh! what a dreadful bray!" and in the barn, meanwhile, Pollux, the off horse, was saying to John, over and over again, "I don't like this stall, John! please give me another. And do loosen this strap a little, for it makes my head ache." To which John replied, "So, boy! quiet now!" which must have been extremely aggravating.
Why, I saw a little girl once,—a little German girl she was, named Hannchen,—sit for half an hour listening with great delight to a bird which was singing away with all its might, perched on a neighboring twig. And what do you think the bird was saying in its song?
"You horrid little monster, why will you not go away? I want to get some caterpillars from that tree behind you, and I cannot get at them while you are there. My children are waiting for their dinner, and though I have asked you fifty times, as politely as I could, to move, you will not stir, but just sit there and look silly. Oh! you provoking little creature! I should like to peck you!" And little Hannchen, smiling, said "thank you, pretty bird, for your sweet song!"
It was quite a piece of work to catch Master Jose, but John came out to help Thomas and finally the obstinate little brown gentleman was fairly cornered, and had to submit to the halter.
"Poor fellow!" said Brighteyes. "It must seem very hard to be tied up all the time. I am sure I should not like to have a strap round my nose, Tomty, and stand all day with nothing but the barn walls to look at."
"And indeed you would not, Miss!" replied Tomty gravely. "But sure no one would go for to put a strap round a little lady's nose, Miss, let alone putting her in the barn."
"Oh! you funny Tomty!" cried Brighteyes. "I meant, if I were a donkey, of course!"
"Yes, Miss! but you see you are not a donkey," said Tomty placidly. "And now I must go back to the flower-beds again, Miss Brighteyes," he added. "And will you go with me, Miss, or shall I leave you here?"
"Well, Tomty, I think I will stay here for a little while and talk to the chickabiddies. I don't think they know me yet, and I want them to know me and love me, for Uncle Jack says I may feed them every morning. You won't be lonely without me, will you, Tomty?"
"Well, Miss, I'll do my best!" said Tomty.
With which rather vague remark the good man took up his wheelbarrow and departed, leaving Brighteyes alone in the barn-yard. Alone, that is, except for the fowls. They had just arrived that morning, and they evidently did not feel at home in their new quarters. The hens were scratching and bustling about in great excitement, while one of the roosters, standing on top of the fence, preached them a sermon on keeping their tempers.
"Be calm!" he said. "Be calm, my dears! haste makes waste. Observe my tranquil demeanor! the truly great are calm in the midst of strife."
And he shut one eye, and looked at Brighteyes with the other, as much as to say "What do you think of that? it's nothing to what I can do if I try!" but Brighteyes burst out laughing, and said "Chook-a-raw-che-raw! I can say that too, Mr. Rooster, so you need not be so proud."
At this the rooster was deeply offended, and withdrew to a corner of the yard, muttering to himself.
Presently Brighteyes spied three fowls, two hens and an old rooster, who apparently were too sleepy to care where they were, for they had all gone to sleep, sitting side by side on a rail, and very funny they looked.
"Oh!" said Brighteyes. "Don't they look just like the sixty-five parrots asleep in a row, in the 'Four Little Children who went round the world?' Don't you remember?" she went on, half to herself and half to the other fowls, "the Pussy-Cat and the Quangle-Wangle crept softly, and bit off the tail-feathers of all the sixty-five parrots; for which Violet reproved them both severely. Notwithstanding which, she proceeded to insert all the feathers—two-hundred and sixty in number—in her bonnet; thereby causing it to have a lovely and glittering appearance, highly—well, I forget the rest," said she, "for the words are very long."
"How pretty some of those tail-feathers would look in my hat!" she continued. "I shouldn't like to bite them off, but I might pull some out, for there are so many they would never be missed. Just a few out of each tail, you know; and I am sure they wouldn't mind, if they knew it was to make my hat have a lovely and glittering appearance. One good smart pull, now—" and suiting the action to the word, she tugged with might and main at the tail of the old rooster. But the old rooster had apparently never read the story about Violet and the sixty-five parrots; for instead of submitting meekly to having his tail-feathers pulled out, he woke up in a great rage and fright, and uttering a tempest of "ka-ka-kaaa-ka-raws" he flew directly in Brighteye's face.
Greatly terrified, Brighteyes staggered backward, and sat down violently in a tub filled with hay.
Yes, that would have been very well, if there had been nothing beside hay in it. But, unfortunately, Uncle Jack had bought with these fowls some eggs of a peculiar kind, from which he hoped to get a very fine brood of chickens; and he had made a fine nest for them in this tub and left them till one of the hens should take a fancy to them.
Well, that was all over now. Brighteyes heard the crash, and knew that something dreadful must have happened. The angry rooster was fluttering and pecking at her feet, and the poor mouse, half-wild with fright, sprang up once more and rushed out of the barn-yard, forgetting in her haste to shut the gate behind her. She never stopped till she had gained the shade of the apple-trees, and there she sat down panting on the grass.
"Oh dear!" she cried, "I will never try to do things out of story-books again as long as I live. Whenever I do it, I am sure to get into trouble. The other day Uncle Jack showed me a picture in Punch, of some children putting out their tongues when they met the doctor, and he laughed, and said it was very funny, and so it was: so then the next time I met our doctor, I put out my tongue, but he didn't laugh, and Mrs. Posset put red pepper on my tongue, to teach me better manners. And now, just because I wanted to do what Violet did, all these dreadful things have happened. But oh!" and she sprang to her feet, "I must do something about my dress, or Mrs. Posset will say, I am 'a sight to behold!' She always says that, and I am so tired of hearing it. If I were to roll on the grass, now! we always wipe our shoes on the grass, when they are muddy, before we go into the house."
Certainly, the dress was in a very forlorn condition, being covered with egg behind, while the front of the skirt showed a number of dismal rents made by the beak and claws of the angry rooster. I did not think it would be improved by rolling on the grass, but I could not well do anything about it.
A pretty sight Miss Brighteyes was when she got up again. Egg and grass and mud were worked and rolled together into an even tint of brownish green, all over her skirts, while through the holes her scarlet petticoat looked out indignantly, blushing for its owner's misdeeds. At least, that is what my dog said about it, and he has a very pretty way of putting things. However, Missy Mouse was quite satisfied that she had done all she could in the matter, so she went on her way rejoicing.
Presently she heard voices, and she came upon Puff and Fluff, who, having put all their children to sleep, had come out to spend the rest of the bright, sunny morning in the garden. They had got out their gardening tools, and were hard at work in one of the flower-beds.
"What are you doing, Twinnies?" asked Brighteyes as she came up. "And where is Tomty?"
"Tomty is gone to his dinner," answered Puff. "And we are trying to do all his work for him before he comes back."
"Yes!" said Fluff, "because he often helps us, you know, and so we ought to help him."
"But what are all those funny-looking things sticking up?" Brighteyes asked, stooping over the bed.
"Well, sister, those are the roots of the plants," said Puff. "We heard Tomty say that what the plants needed now was sun, and so we thought the roots ought to have some sun too. So we have been turning them upside down to save Tomty the trouble."
"Save Tomty the trouble, indeed!" said Brighteyes. "Why, you naughty little mice, you have made twice as much trouble for him. The roots don't want any sun, they like to be in the dark, just like owls and bats. Now you have been naughty, and Uncle Jack will punish you."
Poor little twin mice! they looked very grave indeed. Fluffy's eyes filled with tears, and she began to rub them with her little grimy hands, which did not improve her appearance. But Puff said bravely:
"They do not look a bit like owls, Brighteyes, or like bats either; but if you are really sure that they ought to be in the ground, we will put them back again."
"Well, here comes Tomty himself!" cried Brighteyes, "and you will see what he says. See, Tomty!" she went on. "These naughty twinnies have been turning the plants upside down, and spoiling them!"
"But we didn't mean to spoil them, Tomty!" cried the twins eagerly. "We thought the roots ought to have the sun, and we only wanted to save you the trouble, Tomty dear! and we are so sorry!"
Tomty rubbed his left ear, which he always did when he was put out. At least a dozen of his best plants were ruined, but he could not scold the little mice, whose little piteous faces were turned up to him imploringly.
"Well, well!" he said. "To be sure! isn't that a pity now! but they're young things, they're young things! never you mind, Missies, this time, for there are plenty more plants. But remember:
"'Roots and moles, where'er they're found, Like to burrow in the ground.'"
"Oh! yes, you good Tomty, we will remember!" cried the twins. "And we will turn them all back again as quickly as we can."
"Well, Missies, you may do that," replied Tomty, "though it's all one now to them plants if they're on their heads or their heels. But Miss Brighteyes," he continued, turning to the elder mouse, who was looking on with an air of superior wisdom: "it's not my place to speak about the little ladies' clothes, Miss, but whatever will Mrs. Posset say when she sees your frock? and the barn-yard gate open, too, and the fowls all over the place!"
Brighteyes hung down her head and blushed as red as her petticoat: then, without saying a word, she turned away, and walked slowly toward the house.
Yes, she had been very naughty, much naughtier than the twins, whom she had been blaming; and now she would go directly in to Mrs. Posset and tell her all about it, and say she was very sorry.
That was what she thought as she walked along, and that was what she meant to do, doubtless; but dear me! sometimes I think that you people on the earth never do what you mean to do. I know a gentleman in London, if you will believe it, who has been trying for five years to see the sun rise. Every night when he goes to bed he says, "Aha! to-morrow morning I shall be up bright and early, sir! Want to see the sun rise. Haven't seen it since I was a boy. Ha! ha! ha!" and then he goes to bed, and knows nothing till nine o'clock the next morning, when the sunbeams flirt gold-dust into his eyes and wake him up. Then he rubs his eyes, and says "Bless me! overslept myself again, hey? well, I never was so sleepy before in my life! the sun will have to see me rise this morning, hey? ha! ha! ha!"
Yes, that is the way with you all, and that was the way with Brighteyes that day. I did but turn away from the mirror for five minutes, to chat with a passing meteor, and ask him how his grandmother was; and when I turned back, where was that bright-eyed mouse but up at the very top of a tree: trying with all her might to catch a small cat, the very same cat which the dogs had been chasing an hour before.
"Dear little Pusscat!" cried Brighteyes in her most winning tones. "I wouldn't hurt you for the world. Do come, and let me take you down, and you shall be my own dear little pet, and I will love you very much indeed!" and she stretched out one arm toward the kitten, while the other clasped a branch of the tree.
The kitten looked hard at her, and on the whole seemed to approve of her, for it advanced slowly, and finally allowed itself to be captured. Yes, that was very nice; but how about getting down?
"Oh! that is easily managed!" said Brighteyes, thinking aloud as usual. "I'll hold my kitty so, you see, with one hand, and with the other I just swing myself down to that great big huge branch, so—" as she started, there was a sound of something tearing, and this was very natural, for the skirt of her unlucky frock was caught on a small bough and refused to accompany her to the lower branch; but it was too late for Brighteyes to stop herself. Down she went, alighting safely on the big branch, from which she could easily swing herself down to the ground. But, alas! more than half of her skirt had remained on the upper branch. There it hung, and flapped about in a most unpleasant way, and there stood Brighteyes, gazing ruefully at the ruin she had wrought, but still clasping the kitten tightly in her arms.
Now I want to ask you if you think Mrs. Posset could possibly have chosen a worse time for looking out of the window? she did, however, think it proper to look out just at that particular moment; and as I saw from her face that she meant mischief, and as I have the strongest possible objection to seeing children punished, I just tipped my glass and saw the people of Nankin ringing the bells on the Porcelain Tower, to celebrate the Emperor's birthday.
A NIGHT JOURNEY.
"THIS has been a fine day!" I said, as I sat down by Brighteyes' pillow. "Certainly it cannot be said that you five mice spend your time in idleness. The only wonder is that your uncle's hair has not turned gray from anxiety, long before this. I never saw such mice. Positively, Pun-Chin is nothing to you."
"And who is Pun-Chin?" asked Brighteyes. "And who are you, if you please?"
"Pun-Chin is a Chinese mouse—I mean boy," I replied. "And I am the Man in the Moon. I live in a silver palace—" and then I told her all about myself, as I had told Downy and the twins the night before. But Brighteyes was much more excited about it all than the little ones had been. Very little children take everything for granted I find, like my friend little Mary West, who, when a great green frog jumped right into her lap the other day, as she was sitting by the brook, merely said "Poor frog wanted to sit down, was tired!"
"Oh!" cried Brighteyes. "How delightful! how perfectly delightful! and are you really true, or am I only dreaming you? and what is your name? and may I call Nibble?"
"One thing at a time!" I replied. "I certainly am true, as true as moonshine. As for dreaming me, why, that depends on what you call dreaming, you know. And as for my name—humph! can you pronounce Bmfkmgth, for example? that is the name of my dog, and it is a good name, too."
"No!" said Brighteyes. "I certainly cannot. It sounds like sneezing and barking and whistling all at once."
"Exactly!" I replied. "That is the language of the dog-star. But my name is very much harder than that, so there really would be no use in my telling it to you. There are twenty-four j's in it, and seventeen g's, so you may imagine that it is difficult. The other children call me Mr. Moonman, and you may as well do so too. As for Nibble," I continued, "if he sleeps in this little room close by, it is an easy matter to call him. Whisk, just ask that boy's bed if it will please step in here, will you?" The good beam did his errand quickly, and in another moment the two beds stood side by side, and shook castors in a very friendly manner. Nibble, who was as fast asleep as heart could desire, was very much astonished as Brighteyes introduced him to me, and told him all the wonderful things she had heard.
"But how did you get down here?" he asked. "Did you come on a falling star?"
"No!" I replied. "I always ride on my own beams, which are much more manageable, and swifter as well. Why, I can go round the world in two whisks of a comet's tail."
"Oh! oh!" cried Nibble. "Mr. Moonman, don't you think you could let me ride on one some time? I can ride very well, indeed I can! Uncle Jack lets me ride Castor sometimes, and even Jose never can get me off, unless he lies down and rolls! oh! please let me ride on a moonbeam! it would be so jolly!"
"Jolly enough, but not quite safe enough, my young friend!" said I. "It is very easy to ride on a moonbeam when one knows how, but very different when one does not. There are, however, other ways of getting about. A nice little cloud is what you want." I looked out of the window, but not a cloud was to be seen in the sky.
"Oh dear!" said the mice. "We should so like to have a ride, Mr. Moonman. Couldn't you take us on your moonbeam? we would sit very still, and not say a word!"
"And you shall have a ride," I said; "but not on Whisk. Run now to your uncle's bureau, and bring me from the top drawer two of his largest silk handkerchiefs." Yes, that was soon done. "Now 'Whisk,'" said I, "there must be some little Winds about here with nothing special to do. See if you cannot find some who are willing to give these mice a ride."
Off went Whisk through the window, and back he came in a moment with seven merry little Winds, all ready for a frolic.
They had sung all the birds and all the flowers to sleep, they said, and had been sitting under a tree, whistling for something to do, and now nothing would give them greater pleasure than to blow the two little heavy ones (for I am sorry to tell you, children, that you are all known by that name among the lively spirits of the air,) wherever they liked to go.
"That is well then," said I. "And where will you go, you two mice?"
"To China!" said Nibble.
"Oh! yes, to China!" cried Brighteyes. "Then we can see Pun-Chin, the naughty boy you spoke of, and you can tell us more about him as we go along!"
"Yes! yes! to China," said Nibble, again; and he began to dance wildly around the room, as if nothing would stop him. At last the two mice were ready for their long journey through the air.
"China it is then!" I said. "Spread the handkerchiefs out on the window-sill. That's right! Now sit down on them—so! now, little Winds, blow steadily and off we go!"
Ah! that was a ride worth taking, you may believe. Away through the soft May night, over the tree-tops, over the hill-tops, the two mice, half frightened, half delighted, sitting cross-legged on their handkerchiefs, like two little Turks, and the merry little Winds puffing away with might and main, while Whisk and I led the way, and lighted it too. Yes, it was a pretty sight, had there been any one there to see it. But if you had been there yourself, you would only have said "See those two great white owls! how fast they fly."
Now we came to the sea. Hundreds of my beams were there sparkling over the shining water, and playing with the little waves, which put up their faces, each in its white nightcap, and laughed and danced merrily. They called to the seven Winds and said:
"Come down and play with us!"
But the Winds said "No! no! we have work to do now. We can be very steady fellows when we choose, though you might not think it."
And they puffed away bravely, to the great relief of Nibble and Brighteyes, who had been wondering what would become of them if the merry Winds should take a fancy to play with the waves.
Now they began to sing, the seven Winds, and the waves answered them as they leaped and danced. And this is the song they sang:
"Ever singing, ever sighing, Ever floating, ever flying Over land and sea. Bringing summer's glow and gladness, Bringing winter's snow and sadness, Merry winds are we!
"Greeting all with soft caresses, Shaking out the maiden's tresses Till she laughs with glee. Whispering to the bonny flowers, Fanning them through sultry hours, Merry winds are we!"
Then the waves tossed up their nightcaps and sang:
"Ever coming, ever going, Ever ebbing, ever flowing, Children of the sea. Creeping o'er the silver beaches, Foaming o'er the rocky reaches, Merry waves are we!
"Blue and golden in the sunlight, Gray and silver in the moonlight, Beautiful to see. Giving back each star its brightness, Giving back each cloud its whiteness, Merry waves are we!"
"That is charming!" said Brighteyes. "Dear little Winds, how sweetly you sing! and how strange that we have never heard you before."
"Look!" cried Nibble. "What is that, that shines so over yonder? is it a sail?"
Yes, it was a sail, and as we came nearer we saw a stately ship, sailing slowly along. All her crew seemed to be asleep, except one man, who was pacing up and down the deck.
He looked up as we passed, and cried "Hi! albatrosses! how queerly they are flying! wake up, shipmate, and look at those birds!"
But before any of the sailors were awake, we were flying far away, while the Winds and the Waves sang together:
"Wake the ship! And shake the ship! And over the sea we will take the ship! Filled with oranges, candy, and toys, Some for the girls and some for the boys."
"Oh! is it really?" asked Nibble. "I wish I had some! this flying makes one hungry."
But here now was the land again. We bade farewell to the merry Waves, and flew along over the sleeping country. The lights of a great city lay before us.
"Let us fly lower," said Brighteyes, "and then we can peep into some of the windows and see the people asleep."
"That is not very safe!" I replied. "In these great cities there are plenty of people awake all night; and it would never do for us to be shot at, you know."
Just then a puff of smoke from a tall chimney came up, and got into the children's eyes and noses, so that they were glad to fly higher, where the air was pure, and fresh.
We passed over vast and gloomy forests, where the solemn pines bowed slightly as the seven Winds swept by; and over green meadows, where flocks of sheep lay huddled together, fast asleep. As we went further and further eastward, the darkness began to fade.
"In China it will be broad daylight," I said, "and Whisk and I shall fade almost out of sight; but we shall still be with you, so you need feel no alarm."
"Are we near China now?" asked Brighteyes. "And you have not told us about Pun-Chin, Mr. Moonman!"
"To be sure!" I answered. "What an excellent memory this mouse has! well, we may very likely see Pun-Chin, and then you shall judge for yourself. The last time I saw him, he had just painted his little brother bright green from head to foot, and was telling him that his father would chop him up into little bits and sow him for grass-seed. The poor little boy was very much frightened, as you may imagine. Yes, he is a bad fellow for mischief, that boy.
"But now we must fly lower," I added, "for we are over China now. Use your eyes well, my little mice, and see all that you can see, for there is no knowing when you will be here again."
The mice did use their eyes well; and indeed there were many strange things to look at. Green rice-fields, with bright streams of water flowing through them, made the country beautiful. Pagodas and temples, gaily painted, and gilded, glittered in the sun, and the queer, narrow streets were filled with people dressed in strange garments of blue, red, and yellow. They all carried large paper umbrellas covered with gay figures.
In one street we saw a boy sitting on a queer sort of gate. Three dogs were fastened to this gate by their tails, and as they leaped about in their efforts to free themselves, the gate swung to and fro, thus saving the boy the trouble of swinging himself.
Now a man came slowly along the street, reading a paper attentively, and thinking of nothing else. Just as he was passing by the gate, however, the boy made a sudden spring, and alighting on the man's shoulders, knocked him flat in the muddy street; then springing up again like a flash, he resumed his place on the gate, and looked as innocent as a lamb. But the man picked himself up slowly, and turning round, poured a torrent of angry words on the sportive youth.
"Child of perdition!" he cried, "may the Red Dragon make his next meal of thee, and use thy bones for chopsticks! my life is of no value to me, on account of thy tormentings. Am I never to be left in peace?"
The boy, smiling sweetly, was about to reply; but at that moment a woman, who was passing by, happened to look up, and caught sight of the two red silk handkerchiefs in the air, with Nibble and Brighteyes on them. Me they could not see, nor the seven Winds, but the children were plainly visible, and very funny they must have looked.
"Hop-Wang!" cried the woman. "Look up quickly, and see these strange things in the sky! it is some fearful sign from the gods, I fear."
Hop-Wang looked up, and started; but instead of being frightened, he showed every sign of delight.
"The Red Dragon! the Red Dragon!" he cried. "Do you not see the fluttering of his wings?" (Indeed, the Winds were blowing the corners of the handkerchiefs, which were almost as large as small tablecloths, in every direction, to screen the two children, so that they really did look rather like flapping wings.) "I have prayed to the Big Idol," he continued, addressing the woman, "ever since this imp of wickedness here set fire to my beautiful pig-tail and burned it off, to send one of his strong dragons to carry off my tormentor. And now my prayers are answered, and the Red Dragon, strongest of all, is here! Hokkaloo! hokkaloo!" and he danced with delight.
But his joy was shortlived. The boy, as soon as he heard the words "Red Dragon," and saw the fluttering wings, turned three somersaults in succession, and was out of sight in the twinkling of a satellite; and I, thinking that distance would lend enchantment to the view, and to be out of danger, begged the Winds to blow the handkerchiefs up a mile or so. Accordingly the bright vision receded gradually from the sight of the disappointed Chinaman, and finally vanished, leaving him very disconsolate, and once more at the mercy of his tormentor.
"Mr Moonman!" said Brighteyes, as we rose slowly through the clear air.
"Well, Mouse Brighteyes!" I said, "what is it?"
"Was that Pun-Chin?"
"That was Pun-Chin!" I replied.
"I thought so!" said Brighteyes. And she was silent for some time, thinking, perhaps, of the tail-feathers of the sixty-five parrots.
"How delightful it will be," said Nibble; "to tell Uncle Jack and the twinnies about this wonderful ride. Just think how surprised they will be!" "There is a slight difficulty about that," I replied, "which is that you will not remember in the morning a single thing that has happened to-night." "Oh! Oh!" cried both the children, "how can that be possible, Mr. Moonman? we could not forget all these wonderful things, even if we tried, and we do not want to try." "That is all very well," I replied, "but it will make no difference whether you try or not, for all will be as I say. If you had carried a sprig of the sea-flower in your hands it might have been otherwise; but I take care never to give that to children, remembering what trouble my cousin Patty once had from doing that very thing."
"Who is your cousin Patty?" asked Nibble. "Pray tell us about her." The little Winds nodded their heads.
"We know all about her!" they said. "She is the Sea Fairy, and lives in the palace which is hollowed out of a single pearl, under the Indian Ocean. There are fine things there, Father Moonman!"
"You are right!" I said, "and some night these two mice shall pay her a visit, and see for themselves. But as I was saying, she got into trouble once, by giving a sprig of the sea-flower to a little boy of whom she was very fond. I took him down to see her one night, and she gave him many beautiful things, among them a pair of diamond trousers."
"Diamond trousers!" exclaimed Nibble. "Who ever heard of such things!"
"There are many things which you have not heard of," I replied, "and one seems to be that you are not to interrupt when other people are speaking."
Nibble hung his head and was silent.
"She gave him," I continued, "a pair of diamond trousers, which shone as brightly as Whisk does when he shakes himself. The boy, a little English fellow named Arthur, was of course, very much delighted, and putting the trousers on, he capered all about the palace, kicking his little legs up and down, to make the diamonds sparkle more and more. 'Now there is a rule among all the Light Ones (as we are called to distinguish us from human beings,) that no heavy one shall ever be allowed to take anything away with him when he comes to see us. It is a very necessary rule, for there would be all kinds of trouble without it. So on this occasion, if Patty had not given little Arthur the sea-flower, all would have been well. He would have enjoyed his diamond trousers while he was under the sea, and when he woke up in the morning he would not have known anything about them. But the poor little boy, having the sea-flower in his hand, woke up with his head full of the past night, and fully expecting to find the diamond trousers hanging over the back of a chair close by his bed. When he looked, therefore, and saw nothing but his little brown knickerbockers, with a patch on each knee, it was a bitter disappointment. His first thought was that his beautiful present was stolen, and he began to scream and cry: 'Where are my diamond trousers? somebody has stolen them! stop thief! they are mine, and Patty gave them to me!'
"Well, his mother hearing those cries, came in, and on hearing the child's story she thought he had gone mad, and was very anxious about him. Still he cried and screamed for his diamond trousers; but suddenly, as he raised his hand to push away the chair on which the despised brown knickerbockers lay, he dropped the sea-flower! Instantly everything about Patty and the diamond trousers passed out of his mind like a flash of lightning, and looking up at his mother, he said: 'What was I crying about, Mamma? Isn't it time to get up?' And his mother said: 'Yes, my darling, it is high time to get up, and I think you have had the nightmare, Arthur dear.'
"So you see," I continued, "that it is not at all a wise thing to give the sea-flower to little people like you. But, bless me! here we are at the Mouse-trap again. Now, my mice, creep into your nests! say good-by to the little Winds, and thank them for blowing you so far, for they must be tired."
"Oh! thank you! thank you! dear little Winds!" cried the two mice. "We have had such a glorious ride, and we are so much obliged! and thank you too, dear Mr. Moonman! will you come every night, please, and tell us more wonderful things?"
"We will see about that!" I replied. "Every night is very often, and there are many other children who look for me. But I will come soon again, I promise you. Now good night, and a pleasant waking to you!" and as Whisk and I flew upward, we heard the seven little Winds singing softly, as they swung to and fro in the grape-vine outside the nursery window:
The birds may sleep, but the winds must wake Early and late, for the birdies' sake; Kissing them, fanning them, soft and sweet, E'en till the dark and the dawning meet.
The flowers may sleep, but the winds must wake Early and late, for the flowers' sake; Rocking the buds on the rose-mother's breast, Swinging the hyacinth-bells to rest.
The children may sleep, but the winds must wake Early and late, for the children's sake; Singing so sweet in each little one's ear, He thinks his mother's own song to hear.
The rain came down from the sky, And we asked it the reason why It would ne'er stay away On washing-day, To let our poor clothes get dry.
The rain came down to the ground, With a chattering, pelting sound. "Indeed, if I stayed Till you called me," it said, "I should not come all the year round!"
A RAINY DAY AND WHAT CAME OF IT.
"WELL, I suppose that is true!" said Brighteyes, who had been singing this little song as she stood by the dining-room window after breakfast, watching the rain. "I suppose it must rain some time. But I do wish it would always rain at night, Uncle Jacket. Just think how nice it would be!"
"Very nice for you," replied Uncle Jack. "But how about the owls and bats, and watchmen and cats, who have to be out all night? they might not fancy it quite so much. They might not like it," he continued, "any more than I like to have a great boy and girl stand and look out of the window, when my fire is hungry. Look at the poor thing, almost starved for want of food!"
"Hi! Brighteyes," cried Nibble. "Which will get to the wood-box first?" That was certainly a question, and it was also a question whose neck would be broken first, to judge from the way in which they rushed out of the room. But they came back safely, strange to say, Nibble in advance, with a huge stick of yellow birch nearly as large as himself, while Brighteyes followed closely with another.
"Ah!" said Uncle Jack, rubbing his hands. "Now we shall see a fire, for it is cold this morning, if it is the end of May. There," he continued, placing the logs carefully, and heaping the coals over them. "So my fire-spirit has his breakfast, as well as the rest of us. He is an excellent fellow, and should be well treated. Did you ever hear of the old woman who poked her fire-spirit till he ran away and left her?"
"No!" cried the two mice. "Please tell us about her, Uncle."
"She was a very cross old woman," said Uncle Jack. "She lived all alone, for she was so cross that nobody could live with her. She scolded her children till they went away, and she scolded her bird till it flew away, and she scolded her cat till it ran away. So there she lived all alone, with only the fire-spirit to keep her company. Now her fire-spirit was very good natured, and had borne very patiently with his mistress' ill-temper. One day, however, she came in looking and feeling particularly savage. She sat down before the fire and took up the poker. 'Ugh!' she said. 'What a miserable attempt at a fire! why don't you burn, you stupid, sulky thing?' and she gave it a vicious poke.
"How can I burn," said the fire, "when you don't give me anything to burn with? nobody can make a good blaze with only two sticks, and these two are as cross as you are, which is saying a great deal."
"You shall burn!" cried the old hag, "whether you want to or not!" and she began to poke and poke most unmercifully.
"Take care!" said the fire-spirit. "I can't stand much more of this. I am growing black in the face."
"I'll teach you to answer me!" cried the woman, poking away harder than ever. But suddenly she gave a shriek, and dropped the poker. A puff of smoke came out of the fire-place. A shower of cinders and sparks fell all over her, filling her eyes and nose and mouth; a rushing sound, like a gust of wind, followed, and the house-door was shut with a violent bang. Then all was silent. And when the old hag had wiped the cinders out of her eyes, she saw only a black cold hearth, with two cross sticks lying on it, and scowling at each other. The fire-spirit was gone; and what was more, he never came back, and the old woman had nothing to keep her warm, except her own temper.
"And now, chickens," said Uncle Jack, "run away and study your lessons, for this is our working-time, you know, and holidays are over."
"Oh dear!" said Brighteyes, "I wish we might have one more story, Uncle Jack!"
"No! no!" said Uncle Jack. "There will be plenty of time for stories to-day, for you will not be able to go out of doors. Trot, now, for I have work to do as well as you."
Nibble and Brighteyes left the room slowly, and made their way to the school-room.
"I say, Brighteyes!" said Nibble, "suppose we play we are somebody else, and then perhaps we shall like studying better."
"What do you mean, Nibble?" asked Brighteyes.
"Why," said Nibble, "I have a geography lesson to study, and you know I detest geography. But if I were to play I was Christopher Columbus, I should have to play I liked it, because he must have liked geography very much indeed, you know. So then it might be easier, don't you think so?"
"Ye-es," said Brighteyes, doubtfully. "It would be easier for geography, certainly. But I have my arithmetic to study, and nobody could ever have liked arithmetic, Nibble."
"You might be Mr. Colburn," suggested Nibble. "I suppose he must have liked it, or he would not have written so much about it."
"Well, I will try," said Brighteyes; "though I don't think Mr. Colburn is half as nice as Christopher Columbus. But if he had been very nice, he would not have written arithmetic books, so it can't be helped, I suppose."
By this time they had reached the school-room, and Nibble, sitting down by the big table and opening his atlas, began, in a loud voice: "O King of Spain, let me inform your Majesty that Alabama is bounded on the north by Tennessee, on the east by Georgia, on the"—
"But, Nibble! I Mean Christopher!" interrupted Mr. Colburn, in a piteous tone. "How can I do anything if you study out loud?"
"Oh dear!" said the great discoverer, rather impatiently. "Well, go ahead, Mr. Colburn, and write your book, while I go on a new voyage of discovery. Let us see which will finish first."
And now, seeing that the mice were settling down to their books in good earnest, I turned my attention to the nursery, where I rightly judged that I should find the three younger mice.
Well, to be sure, what fine sport they were having, those three little things! they had evidently been washing the dolls' clothes, for small clothes-lines of string were all about the room, and Downy's pinafore looked as if it had been in the tub: but now the wash was all hung out, and the mice were "playing wind," as they called it: that is to say, they were running to and fro, puffing out their little fat cheeks, and blowing at the clothes with might and main, in the hope of making them dry sooner.
"I am the North Wind!" said Puff. "Whoop! whoop!"
"I am the South Wind!" cried Fluff.
"And I'm some kind of wind, ivn't I?" asked Downy, who was blowing as hard as any of them.
"Yes, dear, you are the West Wind; whoop! whoop! whoop!" said Puff, as she pranced about.
Now presently the door opened, and Mrs. Posset came in, with her basket of stockings to mend. One of the clothes-lines was directly in her way, and the good woman stumbled over it, and knocked her head against the mantel-piece and dropped all the stockings. This she did not like, as you may imagine. "Dear me! children," she cried, "it's as much as my life is worth to enter this nursery, with all your crinkum-crankums! my stars! will you look at the strings now, all over the room, fit to break a body's neck! Whatever are you doing now, Miss Puff?"
"We washed the dolls' clothes, Possy dear," said Puff, "because they were dirty, and you said this morning dirt was a sin."
"So we couldn't have our children dirty and sinful too, you know, Possy!" cried Fluff, earnestly. "And now we are playing wind, and drying the clothes beautifully."
"Well, dears," said Mrs. Posset, resignedly, as she sat down with her mending, "'tis a very nice play, no doubt; but if you could play something that would not shake the room quite so much, the stockings would be mended sooner, that's all."
"Well, Puffy," said Fluff, "what shall we play?"
"Oh! let us play 'Five Little Princesses'!" said Puff.
"But there are only three of us!" Fluff objected. "Unless Mrs. Posset will be one, and that would only be four. Would you mind being a princess, Possy?"
"Oh! Miss Fluffy, dear, indeed I have not time, now," said the good nurse; "but you might play that one of the princesses was lame, and could not walk."
So the three mice began to walk slowly about, with their eyes shut, singing, as they went:
Five little princesses started off to school, Following their noses because it was the rule. But one nose turned up, and another nose turned down, So all the little princesses were lost in the town.