Prepared by Bebra Knutson
Mother Goose in Prose
by L. Frank Baum
Illustrated by Maxfield Parrish
New York MCMI
Contents Introduction Sing a Song o' Sixpence The Story of Little Boy Blue Cat and the Fiddle The Black Sheep Old King Cole Mistress Mary The Wond'rous Wise Man What Jack Horner Did The Man in the Moon The Jolly Miller The Little Man and His Little Gun Hickory Dickory Dock Little Bo-Peep The Story of Tommy Tucker Pussy-cat Mew How the Beggars Came to Town Tom, the Piper's Son Humpty Dumpty The Woman Who Lived in a Shoe Little Miss Muffet Three Wise Men of Gotham Little Bun Rabbit
Illustrations "There was a little man and he had a little gun"—Frontispiece Little Boy Blue The Black Sheet Old King Cole The Wond'rous Wise Man Jack Horner The Man in the Moon Little Bo-Peep Tommy Tucker Tom, the Piper's Son Humpty Dumpty Three Wise Men of Gotham
None of us, whether children or adults, needs an introduction to Mother Goose. Those things which are earliest impressed upon our minds cling to them most tenaciously The snatches sung in the nursery are never forgotten, nor are they ever recalled without bringing back with them myriads of slumbering feelings and half-forgotten images.
We hear the sweet, low voice of the mother, singing soft lullabies to her darling, and see the kindly, wrinkled face of the grandmother as she croons the old ditties to quiet our restless spirits. One generation is linked to another by the everlasting spirit of song; the ballads of the nursery follow us from childhood to old age, and they are readily brought from memory's recesses at any time to amuse our children or our grandchildren.
The collection of jingles we know and love as the "Melodies of Mother Goose" are evidently drawn from a variety of sources. While they are, taken altogether, a happy union of rhyme, wit, pathos, satire and sentiment, the research after the author of each individual verse would indeed be hopeless. It would be folly to suppose them all the composition of uneducated old nurses, for many of them contain much reflection, wit and melody. It is said that Shelley wrote "Pussy-Cat Mew," and Dean Swift "Little Bo-Peep," and these assertions are as difficult to disprove as to prove. Some of the older verses, however, are doubtless offshoots from ancient Folk Lore Songs, and have descended to us through many centuries.
The connection of Mother Goose with the rhymes which bear her name is difficult to determine, and, in fact, three countries claim her for their own: France, England and America.
About the year 1650 there appeared in circulation in London a small book, named "Rhymes of the Nursery; or Lulla-Byes for Children," which contained many of the identical pieces that have been handed down to us; but the name of Mother Goose was evidently not then known. In this edition were the rhymes of "Little Jack Homer," "Old King Cole," "Mistress Mary," "Sing a Song o' Sixpence," and "Little Boy Blue."
In 1697 Charles Perrault published in France a book of children's tales entitled "Contes de ma Mere Oye," and this is really the first time we find authentic record of the use of the name of Mother Goose, although Perrault's tales differ materially from those we now know under this title. They comprised "The Sleeping Beauty," "The Fairy," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Blue Beard," "Puss in Boots" "Riquet with the Tuft," "Cinderella," and "Little Thumb"; eight stories in all. On the cover of the book was depicted an old lady holding in her hand a distaff and surrounded by a group of children listening eagerly. Mr. Andrew Lang has edited a beautiful English edition of this work (Oxford, 1888).
America bases her claim to Mother Goose upon the following statement, made by the late John Fleet Eliot, a descendant of Thomas Fleet, the printer:
At the beginning of the eighteenth century there lived in Boston a lady named Eliza Goose (written also Vergoose and Vertigoose) who belonged to a wealthy family. Her eldest daughter, Elizabeth Goose (or Vertigoose), was married by Rev. Cotton Mather in 1715 to an enterprising and industrious printer named Thomas Fleet, and in due time gave birth to a son. Like most mothers-in-law in our day, the importance of Mrs. Goose increased with the appearance of her grandchild, and poor Mr. Fleet, half distracted with her endless nursery ditties, finding all other means fail, tried what ridicule could effect, and actually printed a book under the title "Songs of the Nursery; or, Mother Goose's Melodies for Children." On the title page was the picture of a goose with a very long neck and a mouth wide open, and below this, "Printed by T. Fleet, at his Printing House in Pudding Lane, 1719. Price, two coppers."
Mr. Wm. A. Wheeler, the editor of Hurd & Houghton's elaborate edition of Mother Goose, (1870), reiterated this assertion, and a writer in the Boston Transcript of June 17, 1864, says: "Fleet's book was partly a reprint of an English collection of songs (Barclay's), and the new title was doubtless a compliment by the printer to his mother-in-law Goose for her contributions. She was the mother of sixteen children and a typical 'Old Woman who lived in a Shoe.'"
We may take it to be true that Fleet's wife was of the Vergoose family, and that the name was often contracted to Goose. But the rest of the story is unsupported by any evidence whatever. In fact, all that Mr. Eliot knew of it was the statement of the late Edward A. Crowninshield, of Boston, that he had seen Fleet's edition in the library of the American Antiquarian Society. Repeated researches at Worcester having failed to bring to light this supposed copy, and no record of it appearing on any catalogue there, we may dismiss the entire story with the supposition that Mr. Eliot misunderstood the remarks made to him. Indeed, as Mr. William H. Whitmore points out in his clever monograph upon Mother Goose (Albany, 1889), it is very doubtful whether in 1719 a Boston printer would have been allowed to publish such "trivial" rhymes. "Boston children at that date," says Mr. Whitmore, "were fed upon Gospel food, and it seems extremely improbable that an edition could have been sold."
Singularly enough, England's claim to the venerable old lady is of about the same date as Boston's. There lived in a town in Sussex, about the year 1704, an old woman named Martha Gooch. She was a capital nurse, and in great demand to care for newly-born babies; therefore, through long years of service as nurse, she came to be called Mother Gooch. This good woman had one peculiarity: she was accustomed to croon queer rhymes and jingles over the cradles of her charges, and these rhymes "seemed so senseless and silly to the people who overheard them" that they began to call her "Mother Goose," in derision, the term being derived from Queen Goosefoot, the mother of Charlemagne. The old nurse paid no attention to her critics, but continued to sing her rhymes as before; for, however much grown people might laugh at her, the children seemed to enjoy them very much, and not one of them was too peevish to be quieted and soothed by her verses. At one time Mistress Gooch was nursing a child of Mr. Ronald Barclay, a physician residing in the town, and he noticed the rhymes she sang and became interested in them. In time he wrote them all down and made a book of them, which it is said was printed by John Worthington & Son in the Strand, London, in 1712, under the name of "Ye Melodious Rhymes of Mother Goose." But even this story of Martha Gooch is based upon very meager and unsatisfactory evidence.
The earliest English edition of Mother Goose's Melodies that is absolutely authentic was issued by John Newbury of London about the year 1760, and the first authentic American edition was a reprint of Newbury's made by Isaiah Thomas of Worcester, Mass., in 1785.
None of the earlier editions, however, contained all the rhymes so well known at the present day, since every decade has added its quota to the mass of jingles attributed to "Mother Goose." Some of the earlier verses have become entirely obsolete, and it is well they have, for many were crude and silly and others were coarse. It is simply a result of the greater refinement of modern civilization that they have been relegated to oblivion, while the real gems of the collection will doubtless live and grow in popular favor for many ages.
While I have taken some pains to record the various claims to the origin of Mother Goose, it does not matter in the least whether she was in reality a myth, or a living Eliza Goose, Martha Gooch or the "Mere Oye" of Perrault. The songs that cluster around her name are what we love, and each individual verse appeals more to the childish mind than does Mother Goose herself.
Many of these nursery rhymes are complete tales in themselves, telling their story tersely but completely; there are others which are but bare suggestions, leaving the imagination to weave in the details of the story. Perhaps therein may lie part of their charm, but however that may be I have thought the children might like the stories told at greater length, that they may dwell the longer upon their favorite heroes and heroines.
For that reason I have written this book.
In making the stories I have followed mainly the suggestions of the rhymes, and my hope is that the little ones will like them, and not find that they interfere with the fanciful creations of their own imaginations.
L Frank Baum
Chicago, Illinois, September, 1897.
Sing a Song o' Sixpence
Sing a Song o' Sixpence
Sing a song o' sixpence, a handful of rye, Four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie; When the pie was opened the birds began to sing, Was not that a dainty dish to set before the King?
If you have never heard the legend of Gilligren and the King's pie, you will scarcely understand the above verse; so I will tell you the whole story, and then you will be able to better appreciate the rhyme.
Gilligren was an orphan, and lived with an uncle and aunt who were very unkind to him. They cuffed him and scolded him upon the slightest provocation, and made his life very miserable indeed. Gilligren never rebelled against this treatment, but bore their cruelty silently and with patience, although often he longed to leave them and seek a home amongst kinder people.
It so happened that when Gilligren was twelve years old the King died, and his son was to be proclaimed King in his place, and crowned with great ceremony. People were flocking to London from all parts of the country to witness the festivities, and the boy longed to go with them.
One evening he said to his uncle,
"If I had sixpence I could make my fortune."
"Pooh! nonsense!" exclaimed his uncle, "a sixpence is a small thing. How then could you make a fortune from it?"
"That I cannot tell you," replied Gilligren, "but if you will give me the sixpence I will go to London, and not return until I am a rich man."
"The boy is a fool!" said his uncle, with anger; but the aunt spoke up quickly.
"Give him the money and let him go," she said, "and then we shall be well rid of him and no longer be obliged to feed and clothe him at our expense."
"Well," said her husband, after a moment's thought, "here is the money; but remember, this is all I shall ever give you, and when it is gone you must not come to me for more."
"Never fear," replied Gilligren, joyfully, as he put the sixpence in his pocket, "I shall not trouble you again."
The next morning he cut a short stick to assist him in walking, and after bidding goodbye to his uncle and aunt he started upon his journey to London.
"The money will not last him two days," said the man, as he watched Gilligren go down the turnpike road, "and when it is gone he will starve to death."
"Or he may fall in with people who will treat him worse than we did," rejoined the woman, "and then he 'll wish he had never left us."
But Gilligren, nothing dismayed by thoughts of the future, trudged bravely along the London road. The world was before him, and the bright sunshine glorified the dusty road and lightened the tips of the dark green hedges that bordered his path. At the end of his pilgrimage was the great city, and he never doubted he would find therein proper work and proper pay, and much better treatment than he was accustomed to receive.
So, on he went, whistling merrily to while away the time, watching the sparrows skim over the fields, and enjoying to the full the unusual sights that met his eyes. At noon he overtook a carter, who divided with the boy his luncheon of bread and cheese, and for supper a farmer's wife gave him a bowl of milk. When it grew dark he crawled under a hedge and slept soundly until dawn.
The next day he kept steadily upon his way, and toward evening met a farmer with a wagon loaded with sacks of grain.
"Where are you going, my lad?" asked the man.
"To London," replied Gilligren, "to see the King crowned."
"Have you any money?" enquired the farmer.
"Oh yes," answered Gilligren, "I have a sixpence."
"If you will give me the sixpence," said the man, "I will give you a sack of rye for it."
"What could I do with a sack of rye?" asked Gilligren, wonderingly.
"Take it to the mill, and get it ground into flour. With the flour you could have bread baked, and that you can sell."
"That is a good idea," replied Gilligren, "so here is my sixpence, and now give me the sack of rye."
The farmer put the sixpence carefully into his pocket, and then reached under the seat of the wagon and drew out a sack, which he cast on the ground at the boy's feet.
"There is your sack of rye," he said, with a laugh.
"But the sack is empty!" remonstrated Gilligren.
"Oh, no; there is some rye in it."
"But only a handful!" said Gilligren, when he had opened the mouth of the sack and gazed within it.
"It is a sack of rye, nevertheless," replied the wicked farmer, "and I did not say how much rye there would be in the sack I would give you. Let this be a lesson to you never again to buy grain without looking into the sack!" and with that he whipped up his horses and left Gilligren standing in the road with the sack at his feet and nearly ready to cry at his loss.
"My sixpence is gone," he said to himself, "and I have received nothing in exchange but a handful of rye! How can I make my fortune with that?"
He did not despair, however, but picked up the sack and continued his way along the dusty road. Soon it became too dark to travel farther, and Gilligren stepped aside into a meadow, where, lying down upon the sweet grass, he rolled the sack into a pillow for his head and prepared to sleep.
The rye that was within the sack, however, hurt his head, and he sat up and opened the sack.
"Why should I keep a handful of rye?" he thought, "It will be of no value to me at all."
So he threw out the rye upon the ground, and rolling up the sack again for a pillow, was soon sound asleep. When he awoke the sun was shining brightly over his head and the twitter and chirping of many birds fell upon his ears. Gilligren opened his eyes and saw a large flock of blackbirds feeding upon the rye he had scattered upon the ground. So intent were they upon their feast they never noticed Gilligren at all.
He carefully unfolded the sack, and spreading wide its opening threw it quickly over the flock of black birds. Some escaped and flew away, but a great many were caught, and Gilligren put his eye to the sack and found he had captured four and twenty. He tied the mouth of the sack with a piece of twine that was in his pocket, and then threw the sack over his shoulder and began again his journey to London.
"I have made a good exchange, after all," he thought, "for surely four and twenty blackbirds are worth more than a handful of rye, and perhaps even more than a sixpence, if I can find anyone who wishes to buy them."
He now walked rapidly forward, and about noon entered the great city of London.
Gilligren wandered about the streets until he came to the King's palace, where there was a great concourse of people and many guards to keep intruders from the gates.
Seeing he could not enter from the front, the boy walked around to the rear of the palace and found himself near the royal kitchen, where the cooks and other servants were rushing around to hasten the preparation of the King's dinner.
Gilligren sat down upon a stone where he could watch them, and laying the sack at his feet was soon deeply interested in the strange sight. Presently a servant in the King's livery saw him and came to his side.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, roughly.
"I am waiting to see the King," replied Gilligren.
"The King! The King never comes here," said the servant; "and neither do we allow idlers about the royal kitchen. So depart at once, or I shall be forced to call a guard to arrest you."
Gilligren arose obediently and slung his sack over his shoulder. As he did so the birds that were within began to flutter.
"What have you in the sack?" asked the servant.
"Blackbirds," replied Gilligren.
"Blackbirds!" echoed the servant, in surprise, "well, that is very fortunate indeed. Come with me at once!"
He seized the boy by the arm and drew him hastily along until they entered the great kitchen of the palace.
"Here, Mister Baker!" the man called, excitedly, "I have found your blackbirds!"
A big, fat man who was standing in the middle of the kitchen with folded arms and a look of despair upon his round, greasy face, at once came toward them and asked eagerly, "The blackbirds? are you sure you can get them?"
"They are here already; the boy has a bag full of them."
"Give them to me," said the cook, who wore a square cap, that was shaped like a box, upon his head.
"What do you want with them?" asked Gilligren.
"I want them for a pie for the King's dinner," answered Mister Baker; "His Majesty ordered the dish, and I have hunted all over London for the blackbirds, but could not find them. Now that you have brought them, however, you have saved me my position as cook, and perhaps my head as well."
"But it would be cruel to put the beautiful birds in a pie," remonstrated Gilligren, "and I shall not give them to you for such a purpose."
"Nonsense!" replied the cook, "the King has ordered it; he is very fond of the dish."
"Still, you cannot have them," declared the boy stoutly, "the birds are mine, and I will not have them killed."
"But what can I do?" asked the cook, in perplexity; "the King has ordered a blackbird pie, and your birds are the only blackbirds in London."
Gilligren thought deeply for a moment, and conceived what he thought to be a very good idea. If the sixpence was to make his fortune, then this was his great opportunity.
"You can have the blackbirds on two conditions," he said.
"What are they?" asked the cook.
"One is that you will not kill the birds. The other condition is that you secure me a position in the King's household."
"How can I put live birds in a pie?" enquired the cook.
"Very easily, if you make the pie big enough to hold them. You can serve the pie after the King has satisfied his hunger with other dishes, and it will amuse the company to find live birds in the pie when they expected cooked ones."
"It is a risky experiment," exclaimed the cook, "for I do not know the new King's temper. But the idea may please His Majesty, and since you will not allow me to kill the birds, it is the best thing I can do. As for your other condition, you seem to be a very bright boy, and so I will have the butler take you as his page, and you shall stand back of the King's chair and keep the flies away while he eats."
The butler being called, and his consent secured, the cook fell to making the crusts for his novel pie, while Gilligren was taken to the servants' hall and dressed in a gorgeous suit of the King's livery.
When the dinner was served, the King kept looking for the blackbird pie, but he said nothing, and at last the pie was placed before him, its crusts looking light and brown, and sprigs of myrtle being stuck in the four corners to make it look more inviting.
Although the King had already eaten heartily, he smacked his lips when he saw this tempting dish, and picking up the carving-fork he pushed it quickly into the pie.
At once the crust fell in, and all the four and twenty blackbirds put up their heads and began to look about them. And coming from the blackness of the pie into the brilliantly lighted room they thought they were in the sunshine, and began to sing merrily, while some of the boldest hopped out upon the table or began flying around the room.
At first the good King was greatly surprised; but soon, appreciating the jest, he lay back in his chair and laughed long and merrily. And his courtiers and the fine ladies present heartily joined in the laughter, for they also were greatly amused.
Then the King called for the cook, and when Mister Baker appeared, uncertain of his reception, and filled with many misgivings, His Majesty cried,
"Sirrah! how came you to think of putting live birds in the pie?"
The cook, fearing that the King was angry, answered,
"May it please your Majesty, it was not my thought, but the idea of the boy who stands behind your chair."
The King turned his head, and seeing Gilligren, who looked very well in his new livery, he said,
"You are a clever youth, and deserve a better position than that of a butler's lad. Hereafter you shall be one of my own pages, and if you serve me faithfully I will advance your fortunes with your deserts."
And Gilligren did serve the King faithfully, and as he grew older acquired much honor and great wealth.
"After all," he used to say, "that sixpence made my fortune. And it all came about through such a small thing as a handful of rye!"
The Story of Little Boy Blue
The Story of Little Boy Blue
Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn. The sheep 's in the meadow, the cow 's in the corn; Where 's the little boy that minds the sheep? He 's under the haystack, fast asleep!
There once lived a poor widow who supported herself and her only son by gleaning in the fields the stalks of grain that had been missed by the reapers. Her little cottage was at the foot of a beautiful valley, upon the edge of the river that wound in and out among the green hills; and although poor, she was contented with her lot, for her home was pleasant and her lovely boy was a constant delight to her.
He had big blue eyes, and fair golden curls, and he loved his good mother very dearly, and was never more pleased than when she allowed him to help her with her work.
And so the years passed happily away till the boy was eight years old, but then the widow fell sick, and their little store of money melted gradually away.
"I do n't know what we shall do for bread," she said, kissing her boy with tears in her eyes, "for I am not yet strong enough to work, and we have no money left."
"But I can work," answered the boy; "and I 'm sure if I go to the Squire up at the Hall he will give me something to do."
At first the widow was reluctant to consent to this, since she loved to keep her child at her side, but finally, as nothing else could be done, she decided to let him go to see the Squire.
Being too proud to allow her son to go to the great house in his ragged clothes, she made him a new suit out of a pretty blue dress she had herself worn in happier times, and when it was finished and the boy dressed in it, he looked as pretty as a prince in a fairy tale. For the bright blue jacket set off his curls to good advantage, and the color just matched the blue of his eyes. His trousers were blue, also, and she took the silver buckles from her own shoes and put them on his, that he might appear the finer. And then she brushed his curls and placed his big straw hat upon them and sent him away with a kiss to see the Squire.
It so happened that the great man was walking in his garden with his daughter Madge that morning, and was feeling in an especially happy mood, so that when he suddenly looked up and saw a little boy before him, he said, kindly,
"Well, my child, what can I do for you?"
"If you please, sir," said the boy, bravely, although he was frightened at meeting the Squire face to face, "I want you to give me some work to do, so that I can earn money."
"Earn money!" repeated the Squire, "why do you wish to earn money?"
"To buy food for my mother, sir. We are very poor, and since she is no longer able to work for me I wish to work for her."
"But what can you do?" asked the Squire; "you are too small to work in the fields."
"I could earn something, sir, could n't I?"
His tone was so pleading that mistress Madge was unable to resist it, and even the Squire was touched. The young lady came forward and took the boy's hand in her own, and pressing back his curls, she kissed his fair cheek.
"You shall be our shepherd," she said, pleasantly, "and keep the sheep out of the meadows and the cows from getting in to the corn. You know, father," she continued, turning to the Squire, "it was only yesterday you said you must get a boy to tend the sheep, and this little boy can do it nicely."
"Very well," replied the Squire, "it shall be as you say, and if he is attentive and watchful he will be able to save me a good bit of trouble and so really earn his money."
Then he turned to the child and said,
"Come to me in the morning, my little man, and I will give you a silver horn to blow, that you may call the sheep and the cows whenever they go astray. What is your name?"
"Oh, never mind his name, papa!" broke in the Squire's daughter; "I shall call him Little Boy Blue, since he is dressed in blue from head to foot, and his dress but matches his eyes. And you must give him a good wage, also, for surely no Squire before ever had a prettier shepherd boy than this."
"Very good," said the Squire, cheerfully, as he pinched his daughter's rosy cheek; "be watchful, Little Boy Blue, and you shall be well paid."
Then Little Boy Blue thanked them both very sweetly and ran back over the hill and into the valley where his home lay nestled by the riverside, to tell the good news to his mother.
The poor widow wept tears of joy when she heard his story, and smiled when he told her that his name was to be Little Boy Blue. She knew the Squire was a kind master and would be good to her darling son.
Early the next morning Little Boy Blue was at the Hall, and the Squire's steward gave him a new silver horn, that glistened brightly in the sunshine, and a golden cord to fasten it around his neck. And then he was given charge of the sheep and the cows, and told to keep them from straying into the meadowlands and the fields of grain.
It was not hard work, but just suited to Little Boy Blue's age, and he was watchful and vigilant and made a very good shepherd boy indeed. His mother needed food no longer, for the Squire paid her son liberally, and the Squire's daughter made a favorite of the small shepherd and loved to hear the call of his silver horn echoing amongst the hills. Even the sheep and the cows were fond of him, and always obeyed the sound of his horn; therefore the Squire's corn thrived finely, and was never trampled.
Little Boy Blue was now very happy, and his mother was proud and contented and began to improve in health. After a few weeks she became strong enough to leave the cottage and walk a little in the fields each day; but she could not go far, because her limbs were too feeble to support her long, so the most she could attempt was to walk as far as the stile to meet Little Boy Blue as he came home from work in the evening. Then she would lean on his shoulder and return to the cottage with him, and the boy was very glad he could thus support his darling mother and assist her faltering steps.
But one day a great misfortune came upon them, since it is true that no life can be so happy but that sorrow will creep in to temper it.
Little Boy Blue came homeward one evening very light of heart and whistled merrily as he walked, for he thought he should find his mother awaiting him at the stile and a good supper spread upon the table in the little cottage. But when he came to the stile his mother was not in sight, and in answer to his call a low moan of pain reached his ears.
Little Boy Blue sprang over the stile and found lying upon the ground his dear mother, her face white and drawn with suffering, and tears of anguish running down her cheeks. For she had slipped upon the stile and fallen, and her leg was broken!
Little Boy Blue ran to the cottage for water and bathed the poor woman's face, and raised her head that she might drink. There were no neighbors, for the cottage stood all alone by the river, so the child was obliged to support his mother in his arms as best he could while she crawled painfully back to the cottage. Fortunately, it was not far, and at last she was safely laid upon her bed. Then Little Boy Blue began to think what he should do next.
"Can I leave you alone while I go for the doctor, mamma?" he asked, anxiously, as he held her clasped hands tightly in his two little ones. His mother drew him towards her and kissed him.
"Take the boat, dear," she said, "and fetch the doctor from the village. I shall be patient till you return."
Little Boy Blue rushed away to the river bank and unfastened the little boat; and then he pulled sturdily down the river until he passed the bend and came to the pretty village below. When he had found the doctor and told of his mother's misfortune, the good man promised to attend him at once, and very soon they were seated in the boat and on their way to the cottage.
It was very dark by this time, but Little Boy Blue knew every turn and bend in the river, and the doctor helped him pull at the oars, so that at last they came to the place where a faint light twinkled through the cottage window. They found the poor woman in much pain, but the doctor quickly set and bandaged her leg, and gave her some medicine to ease her suffering. It was nearly midnight when all was finished and the doctor was ready to start back to the village.
"Take good care of your mother," he said to the boy, "and do n't worry about her, for it is not a bad break and the leg will mend nicely in time; but she will be in bed many days, and you must nurse her as well as you are able."
All through the night the boy sat by the bedside, bathing his mother's fevered brow and ministering to her wants. And when the day broke she was resting easily and the pain had left her, and she told Little Boy Blue he must go to his work.
"For," said she, "more than ever now we need the money you earn from the Squire, as my misfortune will add to the expenses of living, and we have the doctor to pay. Do not fear to leave me, for I shall rest quietly and sleep most of the time while you are away."
Little Boy Blue did not like to leave his mother all alone, but he knew of no one he could ask to stay with her; so he placed food and water by her bedside, and ate a little breakfast himself, and started off to tend his sheep.
The sun was shining brightly, and the birds sang sweetly in the trees, and the crickets chirped just as merrily as if this great trouble had not come to Little Boy Blue to make him sad.
But he went bravely to his work, and for several hours he watched carefully; and the men at work in the fields, and the Squire's daughter, who sat embroidering upon the porch of the great house, heard often the sound of his horn as he called the straying sheep to his side.
But he had not slept the whole night, and he was tired with his long watch at his mother's bedside, and so in spite of himself the lashes would droop occasionally over his blue eyes, for he was only a child, and children feel the loss of sleep more than older people.
Still, Little Boy Blue had no intention of sleeping while he was on duty, and bravely fought against the drowsiness that was creeping over him. The sun shone very hot that day, and he walked to the shady side of a big haystack and sat down upon the ground, leaning his back against the stack.
The cows and sheep were quietly browsing near him, and he watched them earnestly for a time, listening to the singing of the birds, and the gentle tinkling of the bells upon the wethers, and the faraway songs of the reapers that the breeze brought to his ears.
And before he knew it the blue eyes had closed fast, and the golden head lay back upon the hay, and Little Boy Blue was fast asleep and dreaming that his mother was well again and had come to the stile to meet him.
The sheep strayed near the edge of the meadow and paused, waiting for the warning sound of the horn. And the breeze carried the fragrance of the growing corn to the nostrils of the browsing cows and tempted them nearer and nearer to the forbidden feast. But the silver horn was silent, and before long the cows were feeding upon the Squire's pet cornfield and the sheep were enjoying themselves amidst the juicy grasses of the meadows.
The Squire himself was returning from a long, weary ride over his farms, and when he came to the cornfield and saw the cows trampling down the grain and feeding upon the golden stalks he was very angry.
"Little Boy Blue!" he cried; "ho! Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn!" But there was no reply. He rode on a way and now discovered that the sheep were deep within the meadows, and that made him more angry still.
"Here, Isaac," he said to a farmer's lad who chanced to pass by, "where is Little Boy Blue?"
"He 's under the haystack, your honor, fast asleep!" replied Isaac with a grin, for he had passed that way and seen that the boy was lying asleep.
"Will you go and wake him?" asked the Squire; "for he must drive out the sheep and the cows before they do more damage."
"Not I," replied Isaac, "if I wake him he 'll surely cry, for he is but a baby, and not fit to mind the sheep. But I myself will drive them out for your honor," and away he ran to do so, thinking that now the Squire would give him Little Boy Blue's place, and make him the shepherd boy, for Isaac had long coveted the position.
The Squire's daughter, hearing the angry tones of her father's voice, now came out to see what was amiss, and when she heard that Little Boy Blue had failed in his trust she was deeply grieved, for she had loved the child for his pretty ways.
The Squire dismounted from his horse and came to where the boy was lying.
"Awake!" said he, shaking him by the shoulder, "and depart from my lands, for you have betrayed my trust, and let the sheep and the cows stray into the fields and meadows!"
Little Boy Blue started up at once and rubbed his eyes; and then he did as Isaac prophesied, and began to weep bitterly, for his heart was sore that he had failed in his duty to the good Squire and so forfeited his confidence.
But the Squire's daughter was moved by the child's tears, so she took him upon her lap and comforted him, asking,
"Why did you sleep, Little Boy Blue, when you should have watched the cows and the sheep?"
"My mother has broken her leg," answered the boy, between his sobs, "and I did not sleep all last night, but sat by her bedside nursing her. And I tried hard not to fall asleep, but could not help myself; and oh, Squire! I hope you will forgive me this once, for my poor mother's sake!"
"Where does your mother live?" asked the Squire, in a kindly tone, for he had already forgiven Little Boy Blue.
"In the cottage down by the river," answered the child; "and she is all alone, for there is no one near to help us in our trouble."
"Come," said Mistress Madge, rising to her feet and taking his hand; "lead us to your home, and we will see if we cannot assist your poor mother."
So the Squire and his daughter and Little Boy Blue all walked down to the little cottage, and the Squire had a long talk with the poor widow. And that same day a big basket of dainties was sent to the cottage, and Mistress Madge bade her own maid go to the widow and nurse her carefully until she recovered.
So that after all Little Boy Blue did more for his dear mother by falling asleep than he could had he kept wide awake; for after his mother was well again the Squire gave them a pretty cottage to live in very near to the great house itself, and the Squire's daughter was ever afterward their good friend, and saw that they wanted for no comforts of life.
And Little Boy Blue did not fall asleep again at his post, but watched the cows and the sheep faithfully for many years, until he grew up to manhood and had a farm of his own.
He always said his mother's accident had brought him good luck, but I think it was rather his own loving heart and his devotion to his mother that made him friends. For no one is afraid to trust a boy who loves to serve and care for his mother.
The Cat and the Fiddle
The Cat and the Fiddle
Hey, diddle, diddle, The cat and the fiddle, The cow jumped over the moon! The little dog laughed To see such sport, And the dish ran off with the spoon!
Perhaps you think this verse is all nonsense, and that the things it mentions could never have happened; but they did happen, as you will understand when I have explained them all to you clearly.
Little Bobby was the only son of a small farmer who lived out of town upon a country road. Bobby's mother looked after the house and Bobby's father took care of the farm, and Bobby himself, who was not very big, helped them both as much as he was able.
It was lonely upon the farm, especially when his father and mother were both busy at work, but the boy had one way to amuse himself that served to pass many an hour when he would not otherwise have known what to do. He was very fond of music, and his father one day brought him from the town a small fiddle, or violin, which he soon learned to play upon. I don't suppose he was a very fine musician, but the tunes he played pleased himself; as well as his father and mother, and Bobby's fiddle soon became his constant companion.
One day in the warm summer the farmer and his wife determined to drive to the town to sell their butter and eggs and bring back some groceries in exchange for them, and while they were gone Bobby was to be left alone.
"We shall not be back till late in the evening," said his mother, "for the weather is too warm to drive very fast. But I have left you a dish of bread and milk for your supper, and you must be a good boy and amuse yourself with your fiddle until we return."
Bobby promised to be good and look after the house, and then his father and mother climbed into the wagon and drove away to the town.
The boy was not entirely alone, for there was the big black tabby-cat lying upon the floor in the kitchen, and the little yellow dog barking at the wagon as it drove away, and the big moolie-cow lowing in the pasture down by the brook. Animals are often very good company, and Bobby did not feel nearly as lonely as he would had there been no living thing about the house.
Besides he had some work to do in the garden, pulling up the weeds that grew thick in the carrot-bed, and when the last faint sounds of the wheels had died away he went into the garden and began his task.
The little dog went too, for dogs love to be with people and to watch what is going on; and he sat down near Bobby and cocked up his ears and wagged his tail and seemed to take a great interest in the weeding. Once in a while he would rush away to chase a butterfly or bark at a beetle that crawled through the garden, but he always came back to the boy and kept near his side.
By and by the cat, which found it lonely in the big, empty kitchen, now that Bobby's mother was gone, came walking into the garden also, and lay down upon a path in the sunshine and lazily watched the boy at his work. The dog and the cat were good friends, having lived together so long that they did not care to fight each other. To be sure Towser, as the little dog was called, sometimes tried to tease pussy, being himself very mischievous; but when the cat put out her sharp claws and showed her teeth, Towser, like a wise little dog, quickly ran away, and so they managed to get along in a friendly manner.
By the time the carrot-bed was all weeded, the sun was sinking behind the edge of the forest and the new moon rising in the east, and now Bobby began to feel hungry and went into the house for his dish of bread and milk.
"I think I 'll take my supper down to the brook," he said to himself, "and sit upon the grassy bank while I eat it. And I 'll take my fiddle, too, and play upon it to pass the time until father and mother come home."
It was a good idea, for down by the brook it was cool and pleasant; so Bobby took his fiddle under his arm and carried his dish of bread and milk down to the bank that sloped to the edge of the brook. It was rather a steep bank, but Bobby sat upon the edge, and placing his fiddle beside him, leaned against a tree and began to eat his supper.
The little dog had followed at his heels, and the cat also came slowly walking after him, and as Bobby ate, they sat one on either side of him and looked earnestly into his face as if they too were hungry. So he threw some of the bread to Towser, who grabbed it eagerly and swallowed it in the twinkling of an eye. And Bobby left some of the milk in the dish for the cat, also, and she came lazily up and drank it in a dainty, sober fashion, and licked both the dish and spoon until no drop of the milk was left.
Then Bobby picked up his fiddle and tuned it and began to play some of the pretty tunes he knew. And while he played he watched the moon rise higher and higher until it was reflected in the smooth, still water of the brook. Indeed, Bobby could not tell which was the plainest to see, the moon in the sky or the moon in the water. The little dog lay quietly on one side of him, and the cat softly purred upon the other, and even the moolie-cow was attracted by the music and wandered near until she was browsing the grass at the edge of the brook.
After a time, when Bobby had played all the tunes he knew, he laid the fiddle down beside him, near to where the cat slept, and then he lay down upon the bank and began to think.
It is very hard to think long upon a dreamy summer night without falling asleep, and very soon Bobby's eyes closed and he forgot all about the dog and the cat and the cow and the fiddle, and dreamed he was Jack the Giant Killer and was just about to slay the biggest giant in the world.
And while he dreamed, the cat sat up and yawned and stretched herself; and then began wagging her long tail from side to side and watching the moon that was reflected in the water.
But the fiddle lay just behind her, and as she moved her tail, she drew it between the strings of the fiddle, where it caught fast. Then she gave her tail a jerk and pulled the fiddle against the tree, which made a loud noise. This frightened the cat greatly, and not knowing what was the matter with her tail, she started to run as fast as she could. But still the fiddle clung to her tail, and at every step it bounded along and made such a noise that she screamed with terror. And in her fright she ran straight towards the cow, which, seeing a black streak coming at her, and hearing the racket made by the fiddle, became also frightened and made such a jump to get out of the way that she jumped right across the brook, leaping over the very spot where the moon shone in the water!
Bobby had been awakened by the noise, and opened his eyes in time to see the cow jump; and at first it seemed to him that she had actually jumped over the moon in the sky, instead of the one in the brook.
The dog was delighted at the sudden excitement caused by the cat, and ran barking and dancing along the bank, so that he presently knocked against the dish, and behold! it slid down the bank, carrying the spoon with it, and fell with a splash into the water of the brook.
As soon as Bobby recovered from his surprise he ran after the cat, which had raced to the house, and soon came to where the fiddle lay upon the ground, it having at last dropped from the cat's tail. He examined it carefully, and was glad to find it was not hurt, in spite of its rough usage. And then he had to go across the brook and drive the cow back over the little bridge, and also to roll up his sleeve and reach into the water to recover the dish and the spoon.
Then he went back to the house and lighted a lamp, and sat down to compose a new tune before his father and mother returned.
The cat had recovered from her fright and lay quietly under the stove, and Towser sat upon the floor panting, with his mouth wide open, and looking so comical that Bobby thought he was actually laughing at the whole occurrence.
And these were the words to the tune that Bobby composed that night:
Hey, diddle, diddle, The cat and the fiddle, The cow jumped over the moon! The little dog laughed To see such sport, And the dish ran off with the spoon!
The Black Sheep
The Black Sheep
Black sheep, black sheep, have you any wool? Yes, my little master, three bags full; One for my master and one for his dame, And one for the little boy that lives in the lane.
It was a bright spring day, and the sun shone very warm and pleasant over the pastures, where the new grass was growing so juicy and tender that all the sheep thought they had never tasted anything so delicious.
The sheep had had a strange experience that morning, for the farmer had taken them down to the brook and washed them, and then he tied their legs together and laid them on the grass and clipped all the heavy, soft wool from their bodies with a great pair of shears.
The sheep did not like this very well, for every once in a while the shears would pull the wool and hurt them; and when they were sheared they felt very strange, for it was almost as if someone took off all your clothes and let you run around naked. None of them were in a very good temper this morning, although the sun shone so warmly and the grass was so sweet, and as they watched the farmer and his man carry their wool up to the house in great bags, the old ram said, crossly,
"I hope they are satisfied, now that they have stolen from us all our soft, warm fleece."
"What are they going to do with it?" asked one of the sheep.
"Oh, they will spin it into threads and make coats for the men and dresses for the women. For men are such strange creatures that no wool grows on them at all, and that is why they selfishly rob us of our fleece that they may cover their own skinny bodies!"
"It must be horrid to be a man," said the Black Sheep, "and not to have any wool grow on you at all. I 'm sorry for that little boy that lives in the lane, for he will never be able to keep warm unless we give him some of our wool."
"But what a shame it is," continued the ram, "for the farmer to steal all the wool from us when we have taken all the trouble to grow it!"
"I do n't mind," bleated a young lamb named Frisky, as it kicked up its heels and gambolled about upon the grass; "it 's nice to have all that heavy wool cut off my back, for I sha' n't have to carry it around wherever I go."
"Oh, indeed!" sneered the ram, "you like it, do you? Have you any idea what you look like, all sheared down to your skin? How would you like to have someone come along and see you, now that you are all head and legs?"
"Oh, I would n't mind," said the lamb again; "I shall grow more wool by wintertime, and I 'm sure I do n't look any worse than you do."
Some of the sheep looked at the ram and began to titter, for he was old and thin, and looked very comical indeed without any wool. And this made him so angry that he went off by himself and began eating grass, and would not speak to the others at all.
"I do n't know why sheep should feel badly about having their fleeces cut," remarked the Black Sheep, thoughtfully, "for the farmer is very kind to us, and so is his dame, and I am glad my wool serves to keep them warm in the winter. For before the snow comes our wool will grow out again, and we shall not be any the worse for our loss."
"What do those people who have n't any sheep do for clothes?" asked the lamb.
"I 'm sure I do n't know. They must nearly freeze in the winter. Perhaps the ram can tell us."
But the ram was still angry, and refused to say anything, so the sheep stopped talking and began to scatter over the pasture and eat the tender, new grass.
By and by the Black Sheep wandered near the lane, and looking up, saw the little boy watching it through the bars.
"Good morning, Black Sheep," said the boy; "why do you look so funny this morning?"
"They have cut off my wool," answered the sheep.
"What will they do with it, Black Sheep?" enquired the little boy.
"They will make coats of it, to keep themselves warm."
"I wish I had some wool," said the boy," for I need a new coat very badly, and mamma is so poor she cannot buy me one."
"That is too bad," replied the Black Sheep; "but I shall have more wool by and by, and then I will give you a bagful to make a new coat from."
"Will you really?" asked the boy, looking very much pleased.
"Indeed I will," answered the sheep, "for you are always kind and have a pleasant word for me. So you watch until my wool grows again, and then you shall have your share of it."
"Oh, thank you!" said the boy, and he ran away to tell his mother what the Black Sheep had said.
When the farmer came into the field again the Black Sheep said to him, "Master, how many bags of wool did you cut from my back?"
"Two bags full," replied the farmer; "and it was very nice wool indeed."
"If I grow three bags full the next time, may I have one bag for myself?" asked the sheep.
"Why, what could you do with a bag of wool?" questioned the farmer.
"I want to give it to the little boy that lives in the lane. He is very poor and needs a new coat."
"Very well," answered the master; "if you can grow three bags full I will give one to the little boy."
So the Black Sheep began to grow wool, and tried in every way to grow the finest and heaviest fleece in all the flock. She always lay in the sunniest part of the pastures, and drank from the clearest part of the brook, and ate only the young and juicy shoots of grass and the tenderest of the sheep-sorrel. And each day the little boy came to the bars and looked at the sheep and enquired how the wool was growing.
"I am getting along finely," the Black Sheep would answer, "for not one sheep in the pasture has so much wool as I have grown already."
"Can I do anything to help you?" asked the little boy.
"Not that I think of," replied the sheep, "unless you could get me a little salt. I believe salt helps the wool to grow."
So the boy ran to the house and begged his mother for a handful of salt, and then he came back to the bars, where the Black Sheep licked it out of his hand.
Day by day the wool on the sheep grew longer and longer, and even the old ram noticed it and said, "You are foolish to grow so much wool, for the farmer will cut it all off, and it will do you no good. Now I am growing just as little as possible, for since he steals what I have I am determined he shall get very little wool from my back."
The Black Sheep did not reply to this, for she thought the old ram very ill-tempered and selfish, and believed he was doing wrong not to grow more wool. Finally the time came to shear the sheep again, and the farmer and his man came into the pasture to look at them, and were surprised to see what a fine, big fleece the Black Sheep had grown.
"There will be three bagsful at the least," said the master, "and I will keep my promise and give one to the little boy in the lane. But, my goodness! how scraggly and poor the old ram looks. There is scarcely any wool on him at all. I think I must sell him to the butcher!"
And, in truth, although the ram kicked and struggled and bleated with rage, they tied his legs and put him into the cart and carried him away to the butcher. And that was the last the sheep ever saw of him.
But the Black Sheep ran up to the bars by the lane and waited with a glad heart till the little boy came. When he saw the sheep waiting for him he asked,
"Black Sheep, Black Sheep, have you any wool?"
And the sheep replied,
"Yes my little master, three bags full!"
"That is fine!" said the boy; "but who are the three bags for?"
"One for my master, one for his dame, And one for the little boy that lives in the lane."
"Thank you, Black Sheep," said the little boy; "you are very kind, and I shall always think of you when I wear my new coat."
The next day the sheep were all sheared, and the Black Sheep's fleece made three big bagsful. The farmer kept his promise and carried one bag to the little boy that lived in the lane, and the wool was so soft and so heavy that there was enough not only for the new coat, but to make his mother a warm dress as well.
The Black Sheep was very proud and happy when the mother and her little boy came down to the bars and showed the new clothes that had been made from the wool.
"This pays me for all my trouble," said the Black Sheep, and the little boy reached his hand through the bars and patted her gently upon the head.
Old King Cole
Old King Cole
Old King Cole was a merry old soul, And a merry old soul was he; He called for his pipe and he called for his bowl And he called for his fiddlers three.
Old King Cole was not always a king, nor was he born a member of any royal family. It was only chance—"hard luck" he used to call it—that made him a king at all.
He had always been a poor man, being the son of an apple peddler, who died and left him nothing but a donkey and a fiddle. But that was enough for Cole, who never bothered his head about the world's goods, but took things as they came and refused to worry about anything.
So, when the house he lived in, and the furniture, and even the applecart were sold to pay his father's debts, and he found himself left with the old fiddle that nobody wanted and the old donkey that no one would have—it being both vicious and unruly—he uttered no word of complaint. He simply straddled the donkey and took the fiddle under his arm and rode out into the world to seek his fortune.
When he came to a village he played a merry tune upon the fiddle and sang a merry song with it, and the people gave him food most willingly. There was no trouble about a place to sleep, for if he was denied a bed he lay down with the donkey in a barn, or even on the village green, and making a pillow of the donkey's neck he slept as soundly as anyone could in a bed of down.
And so he continued riding along and playing upon his fiddle for many years, until his head grew bald and his face was wrinkled and his bushy eyebrows became as white as snow. But his eyes never lost their merry twinkle, and he was just as fat and hearty as in his younger days, while, if you heard him singing his songs and scraping upon the old fiddle, you would know at once his heart was as young as ever.
He never guided the donkey, but let the beast go where it would, and so it happened that at last they came to Whatland, and entered one day the city where resided the King of that great country.
Now, even as Cole rode in upon his donkey the King of Whatland lay dying in his palace, surrounded by all the luxury of the court. And as he left no heir, and was the last of the royal line, the councilors and wise men of Whatland were in a great quandary as to who should succeed him. But finally they bethought themselves of the laws of the land, and upon looking up the records they found in an old book a law that provided for just such a case as this.
"If the King dies," so read the law, "and there be no one to succeed to the throne, the prime minister shall be blinded and led from the palace into the main street of the city. And he shall stretch out his arms and walk about, and the first person he touches shall be crowned as King of the land."
The councilors were greatly pleased when they found this law, for it enabled them to solve the problem that confronted them. So when the King had breathed his last they blindfolded the prime minister and led him forth from the palace, and he began walking about with outstretched arms seeking someone to touch.
Of course the people knew nothing of this law, nor even that the old King was dead, and seeing the prime minister groping about blindfolded they kept out of his way, fearing they might be punished if he stumbled against them. But Cole was then riding along on the donkey, and did not even know it was the prime minister who was feeling about in such a funny way. So he began to laugh, and the minister, who had by this time grown tired of the game, heard the laugh and came toward the stranger and touched him, and immediately all the wise men and the councilors fell down before him and hailed him as King of Whatland!
Thus did the wandering fiddler become King Cole, and you may be sure he laughed more merrily than ever when they explained to him his good fortune.
They carried him within the palace and dressed him in purple and fine linen, and placed a crown of gold upon his bald head and a jeweled scepter in his wrinkled hand, and all this amused old King Cole very much. When he had been led to the great throne room and placed upon the throne of gold (where the silken cushions felt very soft and pleasant after his long ride upon the donkey's sharp back) the courtiers all knelt before him and asked what commands he wished to give, since everyone in the kingdom must now obey his slightest word.
"Oh well," said the new King, "I think the first thing I would like is my old pipe. You 'll find it in the pocket of the ragged coat I took off."
One of the officers of the court at once ran for the pipe, and when it was brought King Cole filled it with tobacco from his greasy pouch and lighted it, and you can imagine what a queer sight it was to see the fat King sitting upon the rich throne, dressed in silk, and satins and a golden crown, and smoking at the same time an old black pipe!
The councilors looked at each other in dismay, and the ladies of the court sneezed and coughed and seemed greatly shocked, and all this pleased old King Cole so much that he lay back in his throne and roared with laughter. Then the prime minister came forward very gravely, and bowing low he said,
"May it please your Majesty, it is not the custom of Kings to smoke a pipe while seated upon the throne."
"But it is my custom," answered Cole.
"It is impolite, and unkingly!" ventured the minister.
"Now, see here, old fellow," replied his Majesty, "I did n't ask to be King of this country; it 's all your own doing. All my life I have smoked whenever I wished, and if I can't do as I please here, why, I won't be king—so there!"
"But you must be the King, your Majesty, whether you want to or not. The law says so."
"If that 's the case," returned the King, "I can do as I please in other things. So you just run and get me a bowl of punch, there 's a good fellow."
The aged minister did not like to be addressed thus, but the King's commands must be obeyed; so, although the court was greatly horrified, he brought the bowl of punch, and the King pushed his crown onto the back of his head and drank heartily, and smacked his lips afterwards.
"That 's fine!" he said; "but say—what do you people do to amuse yourselves?"
"Whatever your Majesty commands," answered one of the councilors.
"What! must I amuse you as well as myself? Methinks it is no easy task to be a King if so many things are required of me. But I suppose it is useless to fret, since the law obliges me to reign in this great country against my will. Therefore will I make the best of my misfortune, and propose we have a dance, and forget our cares. Send at once for some fiddlers, and clear the room for our merrymaking, and for once in our lives we shall have a jolly good time!"
So one of the officers of the court went out and soon returned with three fiddlers, and when at the King's command they struck up a tune, the monarch was delighted, for every fiddler had a very fine fiddle and knew well how to use it.
Now, Old King Cole was a merry old soul, so he soon set all the ladies and gentlemen of the court to dancing, and he himself took off his crown and his ermine robe and laid them upon the throne, while he danced with the prettiest lady present till he was all out of breath.
Then he dismissed them, and they were all very well pleased with the new King, for they saw that, in spite of his odd ways, he had a kind heart, and would try to make everyone about him as merry as he was himself.
The next morning the King was informed that several of his subjects craved audience with him, as there were matters of dispute between them that must be settled. King Cole at first refused to see them, declaring he knew nothing of the quarrels of his subjects and they must manage their own affairs; but when the prime minister told him it was one of his duties as king, and the law required it, he could not do otherwise than submit. So he put on his crown and his ermine robe and sat upon the throne, although he grumbled a good deal at the necessity; for never having had any business of his own to attend to he thought it doubly hard that in his old age he must attend to the business of others.
The first case of dispute was between two men who each claimed to own a fine cow, and after hearing the evidence, the King ordered the cow to be killed and roasted and given to the poor, since that was the easiest way to decide the matter. Then followed a quarrel between two subjects over ten pieces of gold, one claiming the other owed him that sum. The King, thinking them both rascals, ordered the gold to be paid, and then he took it and scattered it amongst the beggars outside the palace.
By this time King Cole decided he had transacted enough business for one day, so he sent word to those outside that if anyone had a quarrel that was not just he should be severely punished; and, indeed, when the subjects learned the manner in which the King settled disputes, they were afraid to come to him, as both sides were sure to be losers by the decision. And that saved King Cole a lot of trouble thereafter, for the people thought best to settle their own differences.
The King, now seeing he was free to do as he pleased, retired to his private chamber, where he called for the three fiddlers and made them play for him while he smoked his pipe and drank a bowl of punch.
Every evening he had a dance in the palace; and every day there were picnics and merrymakings of all kinds, and before long King Cole had the reputation of having the merriest court in all the world.
He loved to feast and to smoke and to drink his punch, and he was never so merry as when others were merry with him, so that the three fiddlers were almost always by his side, and at any hour of the day you could hear sweet strains of music echoing through the palace.
Old King Cole did not forget the donkey that had been his constant companion for so long. He had a golden saddle made for him, with a saddle-cloth broidered in gold and silver, and the bridle was studded with diamonds and precious stones, all taken from the King's treasury.
And when he rode out, the old fat King always bestrode the donkey, while his courtiers rode on either side of him upon their prancing chargers.
Old King Cole reigned for many years, and was generally beloved by his subjects; for he always gave liberally to all who asked, and was always as merry and happy as the day was long.
When he died the new King was found to be of a very different temper, and ruled the country with great severity; but this only served to make the memory of Old King Cole more tenderly cherished by his people, and they often sighed when they recalled his merry pranks, and the good times they enjoyed under his rule.
Mistress Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow? With dingle bells and cockle shells And cowslips, all in a row.
High upon a cliff that overlooked the sea was a little white cottage, in which dwelt a sailor and his wife, with their two strong sons and a little girl. The sons were also sailors, and had made several voyages with their father in a pretty ship called the "Skylark." Their names were Hobart and Robart. The little girl's name was Mary, and she was very happy indeed when her father and her brothers were at home, for they petted her and played games with her and loved her very dearly But when the "Skylark" went to sea, and her mother and herself were left alone in the little white cottage, the hours were very dull and tedious, and Mary counted the days until the sailors came home again.
One spring, just as the grasses began to grow green upon the cliff and the trees were dressing their stiff, barren branches in robes of delicate foliage, the father and brothers bade good-bye to Mary and her mother, for they were starting upon a voyage to the Black Sea.
"And how long will you be gone, papa?" asked Mary, who was perched upon her father's knee, where she could nestle her soft cheek against his bushy whiskers.
"How long?" he repeated, stroking her curls tenderly as he spoke; "well, well, my darling, it will be a long time indeed! Do you know the cowslips that grow in the pastures, Mary?"
"Oh, yes; I watch for them every spring," she answered.
"And do you know the dingle-bells that grow near the edge of the wood?" he asked again.
"I know them well, papa," replied Mary, "for often I gather their blue blossoms and put them in a vase upon the table."
"And how about the cockle-shells?"
"Them also I know," said Mary eagerly, for she was glad her father should find her so well acquainted with the field flowers; "there is nothing prettier than the big white flowers of the cockle-shells. But tell me, papa, what have the flowers to do with your coming home?"
"Why, just this, sweetheart," returned the sailor gravely; "all the time that it takes the cowslips and dingle-bells and cockle-shells to sprout from the ground, and grow big and strong, and blossom into flower, and, yes—to wither and die away again—all that time shall your brothers and I sail the seas. But when the cold winds begin to blow, and the flowers are gone, then, God willing, we shall come back to you; and by that time you may have grown wiser and bigger, and I am sure you will have grown older. So one more kiss, sweetheart, and then we must go, for our time is up."
The next morning, when Mary and her mother had dried their eyes, which had been wet with grief at the departure of their loved ones, the little girl asked earnestly,
"Mamma, may I make a flower-garden?"
"A flower-garden!" repeated her mother in surprise; "why do you wish a flower-garden, Mary?"
"I want to plant in it the cockle-shells and the cowslips and the dingle-bells," she answered.
And her mother, who had heard what the sailor had said to his little girl, knew at once what Mary meant; so she kissed her daughter and replied,
"Yes, Mary, you may have the flower-garden, if you wish. We will dig a nice little bed just at the side of the house, and you shall plant your flowers and care for them yourself."
"I think I 'd rather have the flowers at the front of the house," said Mary.
"But why?" enquired her mother; "they will be better sheltered at the side."
"I want them in front," persisted Mary, "for the sun shines stronger there."
"Very well," answered her mother, "make your garden at the front, if you will, and I will help you to dig up the ground."
"But I do n't want you to help," said Mary, "for this is to be my own little flower-garden, and I want to do all the work myself."
Now I must tell you that this little girl, although very sweet in many ways, had one serious fault. She was inclined to be a bit contrary, and put her own opinions and ideas before those of her elders. Perhaps Mary meant no wrong in this; she often thought knew better how to do a thing than others did; and in such a case she was not only contrary, but anxious to have her own way.
And so her mother, who did not like her little daughter to be unhappy, often gave way to her in small things, and now she permitted Mary to make her own garden, and plant it as she would.
So Mary made a long, narrow bed at the front of the house, and then she prepared to plant her flowers.
"If you scatter the seeds," said her mother, "the flower-bed will look very pretty."
Now this was what Mary was about to do; but since her mother advised it, she tried to think of another way, for, as I said, she was contrary at times. And in the end she planted the dingle-bells all in one straight row, and the cockle-shells in another straight row the length of the bed, and she finished by planting the cowslips in another long row at the back.
Her mother smiled, but said nothing; and now, as the days passed by, Mary watered and tended her garden with great care; and when the flowers began to sprout she plucked all the weeds that grew among them, and so in the mild spring weather the plants grew finely.
"When they have grown up big and strong," said Mary one morning, as she weeded the bed, "and when they have budded and blossomed and faded away again, then papa and my brothers will come home. And I shall call the cockle-shells papa, for they are the biggest and strongest; and the dingle-bells shall be brother Hobart, and the cowslips brother Robart. And now I feel as if the flowers were really my dear ones, and I must be very careful that they come to no harm!"
She was filled with joy when one morning she ran out to her flower-garden after breakfast and found the dingle-bells and cowslips were actually blossoming, while even the cockle-shells were showing their white buds. They looked rather comical, all standing in stiff, straight rows, one after the other; but Mary did not mind that.
While she was working she heard the tramp of a horse's hoofs, and looking up saw the big bluff Squire riding toward her. The big Squire was very fond of children, and whenever he rode near the little white cottage he stopped to have a word with Mary. He was old and bald-headed, and he had side-whiskers that were very red in color and very short and stubby; but there was ever a merry twinkle in his blue eyes, and Mary well knew him for her friend.
Now, when she looked up and saw him coming toward her flower-garden, she nodded and smiled to him, and the big bluff Squire rode up to her side, and looked down with a smile at her flowers.
Then he said to her in rhyme (for it was a way of speaking the jolly Squire had),
"Mistress Mary, so contrary, How does your garden grow? With dingle-bells and cockle-shells And cowslips all in a row!"
And Mary, being a sharp little girl, and knowing the Squire's queer ways, replied to him likewise in rhyme, saying,
"I thank you, Squire, that you enquire How well the flowers are growing; The dingle-bells and cockle-shells And cowslips all are blowing!"
The Squire laughed at this reply, and patted her upon her head, and then he continued,
"'T is aptly said. But prithee, maid, Why thus your garden fill When ev'ry field the same flowers yield To pluck them as you will?"
"That is a long story, Squire," said Mary; "but this much I may tell you,
"The cockle-shell is father's flower, The cowslip here is Robart, The dingle-bell, I now must tell, I 've named for Brother Hobart
"And when the flowers have lived their lives In sunshine and in rain, And then do fade, why, papa said He 'd sure come home again."
"Oh, that 's the idea, is it?" asked the big bluff Squire, forgetting his poetry. "Well, it 's a pretty thought, my child, and I think because the flowers are strong and hearty that you may know your father and brothers are the same; and I 'm sure I hope they 'll come back from their voyage safe and sound. I shall come and see you again, little one, and watch the garden grow." And then he said "gee-up" to his gray mare, and rode away.
The very next day, to Mary's great surprise and grief; she found the leaves of the dingle-bells curling and beginning to wither.
"Oh, mamma," she called, "come quick! Something is surely the matter with brother Hobart!"
"The dingle-bells are dying," said her mother, after looking carefully at the flowers; "but the reason is that the cold winds from the sea swept right over your garden last night, and dingle-bells are delicate flowers and grow best where they are sheltered by the woods. If you had planted them at the side of the house, as I wished you to, the wind would not have killed them."
Mary did not reply to this, but sat down and began to weep, feeling at the same time that her mother was right and it was her own fault for being so contrary.
While she sat thus the Squire rode up, and called to her
"Fie, Mary, fie! Why do you cry; And blind your eyes to knowing How dingle-bells and cockle-shells And cowslips all are growing?"
"Oh, Squire!" sobbed Mary, "I am in great trouble "Each dingle-bell I loved so well Before my eyes is dying, And much I fear my brother dear In sickness now is lying!"
"Nonsense!" said the Squire; "because you named the flowers after your brother Hobart is no reason he should be affected by the fading of the dingle-bells. I very much suspect the real reason they are dying is because the cold sea wind caught them last night. Dingle-bells are delicate. If you had scattered the cockle-shells and cowslips all about them, the stronger plants would have protected the weaker; but you see, my girl, you planted the dingle-bells all in a row, and so the wind caught them nicely."
Again Mary reproached herself for having been contrary and refusing to listen to her mother's advice; but the Squire's words comforted her, nevertheless, and made her feel that brother Hobart and the flowers had really nothing to do with each other.
The weather now began to change, and the cold sea winds blew each night over Mary's garden. She did not know this, for she was always lying snugly tucked up in her bed, and the warm morning sun usually drove away the winds; but her mother knew it, and feared Mary's garden would suffer.
One day Mary came into the house where her mother was at work and said, gleefully,
"Papa and my brothers will soon be home now."
"Why do you think so?" asked her mother.
"Because the cockle-shells and cowslips are both fading away and dying, just as the dingle-bells did, and papa said when they faded and withered he and the boys would come back to us."
Mary's mother knew that the harsh winds had killed the flowers before their time, but she did not like to disappoint her darling, so she only said, with a sigh,
"I hope you are right, Mary, for we both shall be glad to welcome our dear ones home again."
But soon afterward the big bluff Squire came riding up, as was his wont, to where Mary stood by her garden, and he at once asked,
"Pray tell me, dear, though much I fear The answer sad I know, How grow the sturdy cockle-shells And cowslips, all in a row?"
And Mary looked up at him with her bright smile and answered,
"Dingle-bells and cockle-shells And cowslips are all dead, And now my papa's coming home, For so he surely said."
"Ah," said the Squire, looking at her curiously, "I 'm afraid you are getting way ahead of time. See here, Mary, how would you like a little ride with me on my nag?"
"I would like it very much, sir," replied Mary.
"Then reach up your hand. Now!—there you are, little one!" and Mary found herself seated safely in front of the Squire, who clasped her with one strong arm so that she could not slip off.
"Now, then," he said "we 'll take a little ride down the hill and by the path that runs beside the wood."
So he gave the rein to his mare and they rode along, chatting merrily together, till they came to the wood. Then said the Squire,
"Take a look within that nook And tell me what is there."
And Mary exclaimed,
"A dingle-bell, and truth to tell In full bloom, I declare!"
The Squire now clucked to his nag, and as they rode away he said,
"Now come with me and you shall see A field with cowslips bright And not a garden in the land Can show so fair a sight."
And so it was, for as they rode through the pastures the cowslips bloomed on every hand, and Mary's eyes grew bigger and bigger as she thought of her poor garden with its dead flowers.
And then the Squire took her toward the little brook that wandered through the meadows, flowing over the pebbles with a soft, gurgling sound that was very nearly as sweet as music; and when they reached it the big Squire said,
"If you will look beside the brook You 'll see, I know quite well, That hidden in each mossy nook Is many a cockle-shell."
This was indeed true, and as Mary saw them she suddenly dropped her head and began to weep.
"What 's the matter, little one?" asked the Squire in his kind, bluff voice. And Mary answered,
"Although the flowers I much admire, You know papa did say He won't be home again, Squire, Till all have passed away."
"You must be patient, my child," replied her friend; "and surely you would not have been thus disappointed had you not tried to make the field flowers grow where they do not belong. Gardens are all well enough for fancy flowers to grow in, but the posies that God gave to all the world, and made to grow wild in the great garden of Nature, will never thrive in other places. Your father meant you to watch the flowers in the field; and if you will come and visit them each day, you will find the time waiting very short indeed."
Mary dried her eyes and thanked the kindly old Squire, and after that she visited the fields each day and watched the flowers grow.
And it was not so very long, as the Squire said before the blossoms began to wither and fall away; and finally one day Mary looked out over the sea and saw a little speck upon the waters that looked like a sail. And when it came nearer and had grown larger, both she and her mother saw that it was the "Skylark" come home again, and you can imagine how pleased and happy the sight of the pretty little ship made them.
And soon after, when Mary had been hugged by her two sunburned brothers and was clasped in her father's strong arms, she whispered,
"I knew you were coming soon, papa."
"And how did you know, sweetheart?" he asked, giving her an extra kiss.
"Because I watched the flowers; and the dingle-bells and cowslips and cockle-shells are all withered and faded away. And did you not say that, God willing, when this happened you would come back to us?"
"To be sure I did," answered her father, with a happy laugh; "and I must have spoken truly, sweetheart, for God in His goodness was willing, and here I am!"
The Wond'rous Wise Man
The Wond'rous Wise Man
There was a man in our town And he was wond'rous wise; He jumped into a bramble bush And scratched out both his eyes. And when he saw his eyes were out, With all his might and main He jumped into another bush And scratched them in again!
Our town is a quiet little town, and lies nestling in a little valley surrounded by pretty green hills. I do not think you would ever have heard our town mentioned had not the man lived there who was so wise that everyone marvelled at his great knowledge.
He was not always a wise man; he was a wise boy before he grew to manhood, and even when a child he was so remarkable for his wisdom that people shook their heads gravely and said, "when he grows up there will be no need of books, for he will know everything!"
His father thought he had a wond'rous wise look when he was born, and so he named him Solomon, thinking that if indeed he turned out to be wise the name would fit him nicely, whereas, should he be mistaken, and the boy grow up stupid, his name could be easily changed to Simon.
But the father was not mistaken, and the boy's name remained Solomon.
When he was still a child Solomon confounded the schoolmaster by asking, one day,
"Can you tell me, sir, why a cow drinks water from a brook?"
"Well really," replied the abashed schoolmaster, "I have never given the subject serious thought. But I will sleep upon the question, and try to give you an answer to-morrow."
"But the schoolmaster could not sleep; he remained awake all the night trying to think why a cow drinks water from a brook, and in the morning he was no nearer the answer than before. So he was obliged to appear before the wise child and acknowledge that he could not solve the problem.
"I have looked at the subject from every side," said he, "and given it careful thought, and yet I cannot tell why a cow drinks water from a brook."
"Sir," replied the wise child, "it is because the cow is thirsty."
The shock of this answer was so great that the schoolmaster fainted away, and when they had brought him to he made a prophecy that Solomon would grow up to be a wond'rous wise man.
It was the same way with the village doctor. Solomon came to him one day and asked,
"Tell me, sir, why has a man two eyes?"
"Bless me!" exclaimed the doctor, "I must think I a bit before I answer, for I have never yet had my attention called to this subject."
So he thought for a long time, and then he said, "I must really give it up. I cannot tell, for the life of me, why a man has two eyes. Do you know?"
"Yes, sir," answered the boy.
"Then," said the doctor, after taking a dose of quinine to brace up his nerves, for he remembered the fate of the schoolmaster, "then please tell me why a man as two eyes.
"A man has two eyes, sir," returned Solomon, solemnly, "because he was born that way."
And the doctor marvelled greatly at so much wisdom in a little child, and made a note of it in his note-book.
Solomon was so full of wisdom that it flowed from his mouth in a perfect stream, and every day he gave new evidence to his friends that he could scarcely hold all the wise thoughts that came to him. For instance, one day he said to his father,
"I perceive our dog has six legs."
"Oh, no!" replied his father, "our dog has only four legs."
"You are surely mistaken, sir," said Solomon, with the gravity that comes from great wisdom, "these are our dog's fore legs, are they not?" pointing to the front legs of the dog.
"Yes," answered his father.
"Well," continued Solomon, "the dog has two other legs, besides, and two and four are six; therefore the dog has six legs."
"But that is very old," exclaimed his father.
"True," replied Solomon, "but this is a young dog."
Then his father bowed his head in shame that his own child should teach him wisdom.
Of course Solomon wore glasses upon his eyes—all wise people wear them,—and his face was ever grave and solemn, while he walked slowly and stiffly so that people might know he was the celebrated wise man, and do him reverence.
And when he had grown to manhood the fame of his wisdom spread all over the world, so that all the other wise men were jealous, and tried in many ways to confound him; but Solomon always came out ahead and maintained his reputation for wisdom.
Finally a very wise man came from Cumberland, to meet Solomon and see which of them was the wisest. He was a very big man, and Solomon was a very little man, and so the people all shook their heads sadly and feared Solomon had met his match, for if the Cumberland man was as full of wisdom as Solomon, he had much the advantage in size.
They formed a circle around the two wise men, and then began the trial to see which was the wisest.
"Tell me," said Solomon, looking straight up into the big man's face with an air of confidence that reassured his friends, "how many sisters has a boy who has one father, one mother, and seven brothers?"
The big wise man got very red in the face, and scowled and coughed and stammered, but he could not tell.
"I do not know," he acknowledged; "nor do you know, either, for there is no rule to go by."
"Oh, yes, I know," replied Solomon; "he has two sisters. I know this is the true answer, because I know the boy and his father and his mother and his brothers and his sisters, so that I cannot be mistaken."
Now all the people applauded at this, for they were sure Solomon had got the best of the man from Cumberland.
But it was now the big man's turn to try Solomon, so he said,
"Fingers five are on my hand; All of them upright do stand. One a dog is, chasing kittens; One a cat is, wearing mittens; One a rat is, eating cheese; One a wolf is, full of fleas; One a fly is, in a cup How many fingers do I hold up?"
"Four," replied Solomon, promptly, "for one of them is a thumb!"
The wise man from Cumberland was so angry at being outwitted that he sprang at Solomon and would no doubt have injured him had not our wise man turned and run away as fast as he could go. The man from Cumberland at once ran after him, and chased him through the streets and down the lanes and up the side of the hill where the bramble-bushes grow.
Solomon ran very fast, but the man from Cumberland was bigger, and he was just about to grab our wise man by his coat-tails when Solomon gave a great jump, and jumped right into the middle of a big bramble-bush!
The people were all coming up behind, and as the big man did not dare to follow Solomon into the bramble-bush, he turned away and ran home to Cumberland.
All the men and women of our town were horrified when they came up and found their wise man in the middle of the bramble-bush, and held fast by the brambles, which scratched and pricked him on every side.
"Solomon! are you hurt?" they cried.
"I should say I am hurt!" replied Solomon, with a groan; "my eyes are scratched out!"
"How do you know they are?" asked the village doctor.
"I can see they are scratched out!" replied Solomon; and the people all wept with grief at this, and Solomon howled louder than any of them.
Now the fact was that when Solomon jumped into the bramble-bush he was wearing his spectacles, and the brambles pushed the glasses so close against his eyes that he could not open them; and so, as every other part of him was scratched and bleeding, and he could not open his eyes, he made sure they were scratched out.
"How am I to get out of here?" he asked at last.
"You must jump out," replied the doctor, "since you have jumped in."
So Solomon made a great jump, and although the brambles tore him cruelly, he sprang entirely out of the bush and fell plump into another one. This last bush, however, by good luck, was not a bramble-bush, but one of elderberry, and when he jumped into it his spectacles fell off, and to his surprise he opened his eyes and found that he could see again.
"Where are you now?" called out the doctor.
"I 'm in the elderberry bush, and I 've scratched my eyes in again!" answered Solomon.
When the people heard this they marvelled greatly at the wisdom of a man who knew how to scratch his eyes in after they were scratched out; and they lifted Solomon from the bush and carried him home, where they bound up the scratches and nursed him carefully until he was well again.
And after that no one ever questioned the wond'rous wisdom of our wise man, and when he finally died, at a good old age, they built a great monument over his grave, and on one side of it were the words,