SEVEN O'CLOCK STORIES
ROBERT GORDON ANDERSON
TO JEAN AND MALCOLM
TO WHOM THESE STORIES WERE FIRST TOLD
FIRST NIGHT THE THREE HAPPY CHILDREN
SECOND NIGHT THE PLAYMATES OF THE THREE HAPPY CHILDREN
THIRD NIGHT NOISY FOLKS
FOURTH NIGHT JUST BEFORE SUPPER
FIFTH NIGHT THE TOYMAN
SIXTH NIGHT THE WILLOW WHISTLE
SEVENTH NIGHT MR. SCARECROW
EIGHTH NIGHT THE PRETTIEST FAIRY STORY IN THE WORLD
NINTH NIGHT ANOTHER TRUE FAIRY STORY
TENTH NIGHT THE HAPPY ENDING OF THE ORIOLE'S STORY
ELEVENTH NIGHT MOTHER HEN AND ROBBER HAWK
TWELFTH NIGHT ABOUT DUCKIE THE STEPCHILD AND THE LITTLE SHIP
THIRTEENTH NIGHT THE TALL ENEMY
FOURTEENTH NIGHT THE SLEIGH AND THE TINY REINDEER
FIFTEENTH NIGHT JACK FROST AND THE MAN-IN-THE-MOON
SIXTEENTH NIGHT SLOSHIN'
SEVENTEENTH NIGHT THE CIRCUS COMES TO TOWN
EIGHTEENTH NIGHT THE JOLLY CLOWN
NINETEENTH NIGHT WIENERWURST'S BRAVE BATTLE
TWENTIETH NIGHT THE LIONS OF THE NORTH WIND
"AND THERE ON THE HILL SAT A JOLLY OLD MAN, ROUND AND FAT, WITH A PIPE IN HIS MOUTH AND A SACK ON HIS BACK"
"THE THREE HAPPY CHILDREN LIVE IN THE COUNTRY"
"WIENERWURST CAUGHT A PRETTY PIGEON BY ITS TAIL AND BIT IT"
"THE DUCKS, THE SWANS, AND THE GEESE ARE VERY FOND OF THE POND, BUT THEIR COUSINS THINK IT A DREADFUL PLACE"
"PRIMROSE, DAISY, BUTTERCUP, AND OLD BLACK-EYED SUSAN WALKED INTO THE BIG BARN"
"ON THE LINE SOMETHING WRIGGLED. IT WAS ROUND AND SHINY AND GOLD"
"THE TOYMAN WORKED WITH HIS KNIFE VERY CAREFULLY"
"'THERE, OLD WOODEN TOP,' THE TOYMAN SPOKE TO MR. SCARECROW STERNLY"
"THE THREE HAPPY CHILDREN SET TO WORK WITH THE THREE SHINY RAKES"
"THE ORIOLES WERE VERY HAPPY BIRDS"
"FATHER AND MOTHER ORIOLE TAUGHT THEM TO FLY"
"THE EVIL EYE OF ROBBER HAWK LOOKED DOWN AT THE FRIGHTENED WHITE WYANDOTTES"
"THE WIND FILLED THE SAILS OF THE LITTLE SHIP AND OFF SHE WENT"
"ON THROUGH THE SNOW THE TALL ENEMY MARCHED"
"HITCHED TO THE SLEIGH WERE TWO TINY BROWN REINDEER WITH YELLOW HORNS"
"HE HAD ONE FRIEND LEFT, LITTLE WIENERWURST"
"THE TIGER LOOKED AT ALL THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE WINDOWS AND DOORS"
"THE TOYMAN SAW MARMADUKE WAY UP ON THE BACK OF THE BIG ELEPHANT"
"QUICK AS A FLASH THE BIG DOG JUMPED AT LITTLE WIENERWURST"
"HE WASN'T AFRAID OF ANYTHING WHEN HE WAS SAFE IN THE TOYMAN'S ARMS"
THE THREE HAPPY CHILDREN
Not once upon a time but just now, in a white house by the side of a road, live three happy children.
Their mother and father gave them very odd names, for two old uncles and one aunt, which pleased the old people very much. Their names are all written in the big family Bible,—Jehosophat Green, Marmaduke Green, and Hepzebiah Green.
Jehosophat is just seven years old. His birthday comes on Thanksgiving Day this year. It does not come on Thanksgiving Day every year, of course. See if you can guess why.
Marmaduke is five, "going on six," he always says. Little Hepzebiah, who toddles after her brothers, tells everyone who comes to visit that she is "half-past three." She heard her brother say this once and she imitates all he does and says. Perhaps that is why her father calls her a "little monkey."
These happy children all live in the country. They do not know much about elevated trains and subways and automobiles and moving pictures but they do know a great deal about flowers and birds and chestnuts and picnics and lots of things which you would like too, if you lived in the country.
Each place you see has its advantages. All good is not found in the country, nor all in the city. If we keep both eyes open we will see lots of enjoyable and beautiful things wherever we are.
The house in which Jehosophat and Marmaduke and Hepzebiah live is large. It has many rooms to sleep in and eat in and play in. It is painted white and has wide windows with green blinds.
Around the house are large trees. The branches seem to pat the house lovingly and to protect the children when the sun is too hot or the rain comes down too fast.
They are fine for swings and bird-houses, these trees, and some throw down acorns and others cones and soft pine needles for the children to play with.
Behind the house and gardens are red barns, chicken yards—and oh lots of animals,—the three dogs, Rover, Brownie, and little yellow Wienerwurst and all the rest. You will come to know them later. Each has his funny ways and queer tricks just like people. Around the house are fields with growing plants and oh—we almost forgot the pond where Jehosophat and his brother sail boats.
Mother, that is Mrs. Green, is not too thin nor yet too plump. She is just what a mother ought to be, with kind, shining eyes, and soft cheeks. She is always cooking things or doing things for Jehosophat and Marmaduke and little Hepzebiah.
Father—the neighbours call him Neighbour Green—is very strong. He can lift big weights and manage bad horses. He can do lots of work and yet somehow he finds time to do things for the children too.
His eyes are blue, while mother's are brown. When he laughs, Marmaduke thinks it sounds like the church-bells on Sunday. Once he had a moustache but that went when mother said he would look younger without it. Now sometimes, when he works hard, he does not have time to shave every day. On Sunday mornings Hepzebiah loves to watch him take the brush and cup. The cup has flowers painted on it. When he turns the brush in the cup it makes something like whipped cream, or the top of mother's lemon pies.
And after he takes it off with the razor his face is red and shiny and smooth. Hepzebiah always likes to kiss her father, but she likes to kiss him best on Sunday mornings.
Tonight you have met all the family so we must stop for the clock says "after seven." Tomorrow we will meet all the animals and they are really part of the family too.
THE PLAYMATES OF THE THREE HAPPY CHILDREN
The three happy children have many playmates, who live in the barnyard. Some have four feet and some only two, but these have two wings besides to make up for the missing feet.
Jehosophat, Marmaduke, and Hepzebiah like the dogs best. And just as there are three children so there are three dogs. Let's shake hands with them, one by one.
The great big dog is named Rover, the middle-sized one Brownie, and the little yellow curly one Wienerwurst.
A wise fellow is Rover. From a cold country called Newfoundland his great grandfather came. And he seems to think life is a very serious matter. His coat is black with snow-white patches. His hair curls a little. It feels very soft when you lay your head against it.
He doesn't play as much as the other two doggies. But once when Hepzebiah fell in the pond after her doll, Rover swam in and caught her dress in his mouth and brought her to shore. Not long after that Mr. Green gave him a new shiny collar.
Brownie is a terrier and is coloured like his name. He is a frisky dog and often chases the horses and buggies that go up and down the road in front of the house. Sometimes the drivers lash at him with their long whips but he is too quick for them and scampers out of their reach.
The funniest doggie in all the world is little yellow Wienerwurst. He is even more full of mischief than Brownie and loves to run after all the other animals in the barnyard.
When the pigeons fly down from their little house on the top of the barn to take an afternoon walk and perhaps pick up a few extra grains of corn, this little yellow doggie spoils all their fun. He soon sends them flying back to their house on the roof, where they chatter and coo in great excitement. But they do not lose their tempers like "Mr. Stuckup," the turkey, or old "Miss Crosspatch," the guinea-hen with the ugly voice.
Once little Wienerwurst caught a pretty pigeon by its tail and bit it. Then Mr. Green took him over his knee, just as he did Jehosophat when he threw a stone at the window, and spanked little Wienerwurst.
Each dog has a house. One is big, one middle-sized, and one small, and each has a door to fit the doggie who lives there. Their houses are called kennels, and they are something like the pigeon's home way up on the roof.
The pigeons are very pretty, grey and white and pink coloured. When the sun shines brightly their necks shine too, like the rainbow silk dress which Mrs. Green wears whenever there is a wedding.
One pair of the pigeons sit a great deal of the time on the ridge-pole of the barn and swell out their chests like proud, fat policemen. Farmer Green calls them pouter pigeons.
They do not have harsh voices like the guinea-hen or the old black crows which steal the corn from the field when Mr. Scarecrow gets tired and goes to sleep. (We will introduce you to Mr. Scarecrow some evening very soon.) But the voices of the pigeons are soft and low like mother's, especially when Hepzebiah is sick and she sings her to sleep.
They will not have much to do with the chickens, these pigeons. Perhaps they are like the people who live on the top floor of tall city houses and do not go down often to talk with the people in the streets.
What a lot of chickens Farmer Green has! Almost two hundred, if they would ever stay still long enough for Jehosophat to count them. They are called White Wyandottes and they are very white and plump, with combs as red as geraniums.
You know there are many kinds of chickens just as there are many kinds of people, English, French, and Americans. Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Cochins, and Leghorns are some of the chicken family names, but Jehosophat's father does not believe in mixing families, he says, so only the White Wyandottes live on the Green farm.
Jehosophat and Marmaduke love the big rooster best. The red comb on the top of his head has teeth like a carpenter's saw, and is so large it will not stand up straight. His white tail curves beautifully like the plumes on the hats of the circus ladies. When he throws back his head, puffs out his throat, and calls to the Sun, he is indeed a wonderful creature.
The little chicks are the ones Hepzebiah loves best. She can hold them in her two hands like little soft yellow balls or the powder puffs which Nurse uses on new little babies. The little chicks have such tiny voices, crying "cheep, cheep, cheep," almost the way the crickets do all through the night.
The chickens have cousins who—but there goes the clock—so that is tomorrow night's story.
Do you remember what we were telling about last night when that little tongue told us to stop? The little tongue in the Clock-with-the-Wise-Face on the mantel?
Oh yes, the first cousins of the chickens who lived in the yard of the three happy children.
Their first cousins are called ducks. Most of them are white but a few are black. Their coats are very smooth, and the skin under them sends out little drops of oil like drops of perspiration. This keeps the water and the rain from wetting the ducks through and through. You have heard people say sometimes: "The way water runs off a duck's back." Well, now you know the reason why.
In rainy weather Hepzebiah wears a blue waterproof with a little hood but the ducks do not need anything like that. Their everyday coats of white and black are just as good. If the White Wyandottes cannot get under the chicken coop or the barn quick enough when it rains, their feathers are all mussed up but the ducks seem always dressed in their best.
Their bills are different from their relatives'. They are not short and pointed like the chicken's but broad and long.
And they have what are called web feet. Between the toes are pieces of skin, thick and tough like canvas. These web feet are like small oars or paddles. With them they can push against the water of the pond and swim quite fast.
The ducks are very fond of the pond but their cousins think it a dreadful place.
"Cluck, cluck," say the White Wyandottes, "what a foolish way of spending your time, sailing on the water when there are fat, brown worms to dig for in the nice earth!"
You see animals, like people, like different things. The world wouldn't be half so interesting if we all liked the same things, would it?
The other night Jehosophat felt very foolish when he came in to supper. His mother looked behind his ears and said: "Why you are just as afraid of the water as the chickens."
Did you ever hear of such a thing!
Now the chickens have second cousins too. Their second cousins are the white geese.
They live on the other side of the tall fence that looks as if it were made of crocheted wire. Sometimes Jehosophat's father opens the gate in the fence and lets the geese wander down to the pond. A silly way they have of stretching out their long white necks and crying, "Hiss, hiss!" This frightens Hepzebiah who always runs away. Then the geese waddle along in single file, that is one by one, like fat old ladies crossing a muddy street on their way to sewing society.
Jehosophat says that the chickens have third cousins too,—the swans. There they are, way out on the pond, sailing along like white ships. Their necks are very long and snowy white and they bend in such a pretty way. And their soft white wings look something like the wings of the angels on the Christmas cards.
Jehosophat, Marmaduke, and Hepzebiah do not like one barnyard neighbour very much. It is the guinea-hen. She has a grey body, plump as a sack of meal, with little white speckles, a funny neck and such a small head with a tuft on top. She screeches horribly and Marmaduke calls her "Miss Crosspatch."
But the turkey with his proud walk is just funny. And yet Farmer Green says he hasn't any sense of humour. Ask your father how that can be if he is funny.
"Mr. Stuckup" the children call the turkey. He walks along slowly, swinging from side to side. His feathers are brownish-black or bronze, and his tail often spreads out like a fan. He has the funniest nose. It is red and soft and long and flops over his bill on his chest.
He calls "gobble, gobble, gobble," all the time, yet he does not gobble as much as the busy White Wyandottes all around him who are forever looking for kernels of corn or worms or bugs.
But who is this magnificent creature coming along over the lawn under the cherry-tree? Uncle Roger, who sails around the world in a great ship with white sails, gave him to the children. He brought him from a land very far across the seas.
He is the peacock and is all green and gold and blue. On his head is a little crown of feathers. His tail, too, can spread out like a fan the way "Mr. Stuckup's," the turkey's, does. But it is ever so much more beautiful. It is green and has hundreds of blue eyes in it. The three children call him the "Party Bird" for he is always so dressed up, but their father says he is "a bit of a snob." He means that he is vain and will not have much to do with his plainer neighbours of the barnyard—
"One, two, three, four, five, six, seven." There goes the clock again.
Tomorrow night, if you are good all day, we will tell you about the rest of the barnyard friends of the three happy children. Then the next night, about the exciting things that happened to them.
Good-night! Sweet Dreams!
JUST BEFORE SUPPER
In the afternoon the sun grows tired of his hot walk across the sky. Beyond the Green farm are the blue hills behind which he sleeps each night.
When he is almost there the three happy children go down to the barn to watch their four-footed friends come home.
Sometimes Frank, the hired man who helps Farmer Green, is late and does not go for the cows. All day long they have been in pasture. Sometimes they eat the grass and pink clover. Sometimes they wade in the little brook which flows there. But when it grows late, even if Frank does not come, they know it is supper time and leave the pasture.
When they reach the barnyard fence they stand outside calling to be let in. Then Frank comes and lets down the bars. They walk into the yard and through the doors into the big red barn.
There are ten cows but Jehosophat, Marmaduke, and Hepzebiah love four of them better than the rest. Their names are "Primrose," "Daisy," "Buttercup," and "Black-eyed Susan."
Now just as there are different kinds of chickens so there are several kinds of cows—Guernseys, Jerseys, Alderneys, and Holsteins.
"Primrose," "Daisy," and "Buttercup" are Jerseys and are a pretty brown. "Black-eyed Susan" belongs to the Holsteins and is black and white. "Black-eyed Susan" gives more milk than her companions but their milk has richer cream.
Each cow has a stall to sleep in. In front of each is a box or manger. Frank climbs up the tall ladder to the loft, which is the second story of the barn, and throws down the hay. Then he takes his sharp pitchfork and tosses a lot of hay in each manger. You would never think cows could eat so much. One box of shredded-wheat would do for all the Green family and visitors too, but "Primrose" and "Daisy" and all the rest each eat enough hay to fill many shredded-wheat boxes.
Jehosophat, Marmaduke, and Hepzebiah love to stand in the doorway of the barn and smell the hay as the cows chew it. It is very sweet smelling.
They do not go too near the stalls, for while the cows are eating their supper, they switch their tails to keep off the flies. Once "Black-eyed Susan" switched her tail across Marmaduke's face. It felt like a whip and he ran away crying. But "Susan" didn't mean it for she is a very gentle cow.
And once Jehosophat came too near old "Crumplety Horn," the white cow with the twisted horn. She kicked at Jehosophat and over went the pail of milk which his father had almost full.
The children like to see their father and Frank sit on their three-legged stools in the stalls and milk the cows. The milk spurts into the pails and it sounds very pleasant.
The milk is very warm when it comes from the cows so Farmer Green puts it in great cans as tall as Jehosophat. Then he carries the cans to the spring-house where it is cool, and leaves them overnight by the well. The children will drink some of it in the morning. Tonight they will drink this morning's milk, which is cool now.
About the time the cows come home the horses come back too.
First comes "Hal" the red roan. A red roan is a horse that is red-coloured, sprinkled with little grey hairs. Then there is "Chestnut" who is called that because he is coloured like chestnuts when they are ripe in the fall, and "Teddy," the buckskin horse. He is tan-coloured and has a black stripe on his backbone. Farmer Green got him from the West. There is a little mark called a brand on his flank which tells that.
"Old Methuselah" and "White Boots" do not do much work now. "Old Methuselah" is all white. He was pretty old when Farmer Green bought him so he was nicknamed for the oldest man in the Bible. "White Boots" is a bay mare. That means a red-brown mother horse. She has four white feet. By her side runs a little black colt with funny legs. Jehosophat gave him his name, "Black Prince."
"Hal" and "Teddy" and "Chestnut" are very tired for they have been pulling the plough, the wagon, or doing some farm work all day.
Very glad they are to get their heavy leather collars and harness off and rest in the cool barn. They have hay to eat but they have been working hard so they have oats besides. Jehosophat, Marmaduke, and Hepzebiah eat oats too but theirs are flattened out and cooked. We call it oatmeal. The oats for the horses are not flat but round like little seeds, and are not cooked on any stove. Farmer Green cuts the stalks in the oat field. Then he takes them to the threshing-machine, which knocks the little oats off the stalks. Then they are put in bags to keep for the horses.
But the little black colt with the funny long legs does not eat them. He gets milk from his mother. He is just a baby horse, you see, but when he gets bigger he will have oats and hay too.
Now all the animals are busy eating, the pigs with their curly tails, the sheep, the lambs, the cows, the little calves, the horses, and the colt with the funny legs. It is time for the three happy children to have their supper so they run back to the house. Soon, very soon, they will be fast asleep in Slumberland, which is where the Little-Clock-with-the-Wise-Face says you should be now. Good-night.
Farmer Green has a man who helps him plough, feed the cows and horses, and with all the work on the farm. His name is Frank, but Jehosophat, Marmaduke, and Hepzebiah call him "the Toyman."
Winter nights around the fire he makes wonderful toys for them.
His knife is like a fairy's wand. With it he whittles boats for Jehosophat, kites for Marmaduke, and dolls for Hepzebiah. He paints them pretty colours too. So I think they gave him the right sort of nickname when they called him "the Toyman."
He hasn't many clothes and no house of his own and no relatives of any sort. He isn't exactly a handsome man. But the three happy children love the Toyman very much.
Yesterday he sat by the edge of the pond. On one side sat Jehosophat, Marmaduke, and big Rover. On the other side sat Hepzebiah, Brownie, and little yellow Wienerwurst.
They were all looking down at the water of the pond. It was very clear.
"Keep still, Wienerwurst," said the Toyman, "or you will scare the fishes."
They were swimming through the waters. Near the banks were little baby fishes, hundreds of them, called minnows. They had a nickname too, "minnies." Out farther, once in a while, the children saw a fish shining like gold. It was a sunfish or "sunny" as they sometimes called it. And the Toyman told them all about these fishes and the perch, too, and the long pickerel and the wicked carp, who hunts the other fish and kills them.
Then all at once the Toyman put his hands in his pockets. Mother Green says his pockets are like ten-cent stores. They are so full of all sorts of things.
The three children watched him closely. First came a piece of wood with a fishline wound around it.
Then with his knife he cut three poles and near the top of each a little notch. The fishlines were tied around the poles. At the other end he put little curved fish-hooks, and about two feet above them little pieces of lead, called "sinkers." The sinkers were to keep the hooks near the bottom of the pond where the fish stay most of the time.
Then from his pockets the Toyman took three pretty things which he had made the night before. They were whittled of wood and shaped like lemons with sharper points. The red and blue one was tied on Jehosophat's line, the red and yellow one on Marmaduke's, and the blue and yellow on little Hepzebiah's.
"What are those pretty things?" asked Marmaduke.
"Floaters," the Toyman answered. "Watch and you will see what we do with them."
"Now you keep still, you Wienerwurst, or we will put you back in the kennel," called the Toyman to the little yellow dog, who felt very frisky and wanted to bark all the time.
By the feet of the Toyman was a tin can. He put in his hand and pulled out a worm. This was put on Jehosophat's hook, another on Marmaduke's, and another on Hepzebiah's.
Then the Toyman threw the three hooks in the water. The two boys held their poles tight but the Toyman had to help little Hepzebiah hold her pole, for her hands were too small.
"Now quiet, everybody!" said the Toyman once more and they all sat watching the red and blue, the yellow and blue, and the red and yellow floaters out on the water.
"When the floater goes under, you will know that a fish is biting at the worm on the hook."
The Toyman had no sooner said this than he called out loud:
The red and yellow floater was pulled way under the water. The string on Marmaduke's pole tightened and the pole bent.
Three times the floater went under the water.
Then Marmaduke threw his pole back quickly and the hook came out of the water. On it something wriggled. The thing fell plop into Hepzebiah's lap. She screamed while it flopped there. It was a little bigger than the Toyman's hand and round and flat and shiny red and gold. No, it was not a goldfish. It was a sunfish.
After the Toyman had taken the sunfish from the hook and put another worm on it, he threw the line back into the water.
Then all the three children and the two dogs sat watching the little rings in the water around the floaters. Sometimes farther out they saw larger rings, and a fish feeling pretty happy, because of the cool September weather, would jump out of the water and turn a somersault through the air.
Then all of a sudden the blue and yellow floater went under and little Hepzebiah caught a sunfish, too.
Jehosophat felt disappointed because he was the oldest and hadn't caught any fish at all. But the afternoon was not gone when he felt a big tug at his line. It took him a long time to pull that fish in. When the hook came out of the water a long wriggly thing was on it.
"Oo, oo, it's a snake," screamed little Hepzebiah.
"No, it's only an eel," said the Toyman, "he won't hurt you."
But he had to take it off Jehosophat's hook himself, the eel was so slippery and wriggled so. Before the sun went down, the children had each caught two fish. There were three sunfish, two perch, and the wriggly eel.
The Toyman cleaned them all. And Mother fried them with butter and flour in a pan. It was a good supper they had that night, for they had caught it themselves. When supper was over three little heads were nodding and soon the three happy children were taking a little sail way on into Dreamland. That is a beautiful place where you would like to go too. So you had better follow them quickly. Perhaps you can catch up with them. Good-night.
THE WILLOW WHISTLE
The Toyman sat by the pond under the "Crying Tree." That is what Marmaduke calls it, though the Toyman says it is a weeping willow. It's leaves are a very pretty green, much lighter than the leaves of the other trees. And the branches bend over till they reach the water. They really do look like showers of tears. Sometimes little leaves fall into the water and float away like silver-green boats, rowed by tiny fairies.
Jehosophat, Marmaduke, and Hepzebiah came up to the "Crying Tree."
"What are you doing, Toyman," asked Marmaduke.
"Watch and you will see."
They were always asking him that question and he was always telling them to watch and see.
So they did.
In his hand he had his knife, which could make as many things as a fairy's wand. It had four blades and a corkscrew.
The Toyman cut some thin branches from the tree. From these he cut three pieces, each about as long as his first finger and about as thick as his little finger.
One end of each piece of wood he cut like the stern of a boat, then he cut a notch near the end.
Then he worked with his knife very carefully. Soon the green bark came off each little piece of wood. The bark came off whole, like a little roll of green paper.
"See," said the Toyman, "the bark is the skin of the tree and in spring the sap which is the blood of the tree flows fast. It isn't coloured red, it is just like light juice, but it makes the bark slip off this wood very easily."
On the grass he laid the round pieces of green bark. Then he took the white bits of wood which had been under the bark and he whittled away at the ends. Soon he was through.
Then he slipped the pieces of bark, which looked so much like little rolled-up green papers, back on the white pieces of wood.
They fitted perfectly.
One he gave to Jehosophat, one to Marmaduke, and one to Hepzebiah.
"What are they?" asked Marmaduke.
"I know," said his brother Jehosophat, "they are whistles."
"Yes," said the Toyman. "They are willow whistles. Now put them in your mouths and blow."
Each put the end of his whistle in his mouth and blew.
It sounded very pretty, the three whistles—and then—what do you think?
Not far from the weeping willow or the "Crying Tree," was an elm tree. It was taller than the willow and darker green.
In it something shone very bright—like an orange, only it moved.
"It's an oriole," said the Toyman.
They looked hard and, sure enough, there among the leaves was the prettiest bird they had ever seen. He had an orange-coloured body and black wings.
His nest was on the end of a branch. It was grey-coloured and hung low like a little bag, made of knitted grey wool. Father and Mother Oriole had made it themselves. Mother Oriole is there sitting in it on little eggs.
But Father Oriole heard the three willow whistles and he turned and began to whistle back—oh such a pretty song. It was really prettier than the sound of the three willow whistles for it had different notes and a tune like the songs Mother plays on the piano.
"We must watch that nest," said the Toyman. "Some day soon we will see the baby orioles."
But there—the Little-Clock-with-the-Wise-Face is scolding again. So the story must stop for tonight.
When you're asleep if you listen very hard, maybe you can hear the three happy children blowing the willow whistles, and maybe the beautiful oriole will answer back.
Under the big oak by the brook sat the three happy children with Rover, Brownie, and little yellow Wienerwurst. They were watching the Toyman cut the ripe corn.
"Isn't that funny?" said Jehosophat.
"What's funny?" asked Marmaduke.
"Wot's funny?" repeated Hepzebiah.
"Oh! I was just thinking," said Jehosophat, "how he seems just Frank when he's ploughing or harrowing or cutting the corn. But when he's through work and tells us stories or makes us things, why then he is the Toyman."
"Yes," his brother agreed. "He looks as if some fairy godmother changed him nights and Sundays."
But they were rudely interrupted.
"Caw, caw!" said a voice.
It was a rascal's voice.
"Caw, caw!" said another.
The Toyman jumped. He shook his fist.
"You old thief!" he called.
"Rogue, rogue, rogue!" growled Rover in his deep voice.
"Run, run, run!" barked Brownie.
"Rough, rough—rough, rough!" said little Wienerwurst in his funny voice.
"There he is," said the Toyman, "Mr. Jim Crow and all his wicked chums. See there!"
All the children looked in the direction in which his finger pointed. Over in the far corner of the field a flock of crows flew up from the waving corn. A white horse, drawing a buggy, was trotting along the road by the side of the cornfield. The driver had scared Mr. Jim Crow and all his chums. They flapped their big black wings as they flew. And they flew very straight, not like the pretty barn-swallows with their dark-blue wings. The swallow is a happy bird and skims and dances in the air like a fancy skater on the ice. But Mr. Jim Crow flies like an arrow. That is because he is always up to some mischief and forever running away when someone finds him out.
"Caw, caw!" he called.
"Caw, caw!" called all his black mates.
The Toyman ran to the fence and picked up a shotgun. It had two barrels that shone in the sun.
"Bang, bang!" went the gun.
One black spot dropped to the earth like a stone.
The Toyman ran out in the cornfield. He bent over until his straw hat was hidden by the waving corn.
Soon he came back. From his hand Mr. Jim Crow hung head downward. He was very still.
"Oo, oo! You've hurted him!"
Little Hepzebiah began to cry.
"Don't cry," said the Toyman, patting her head. "Mr. Jim Crow was a bad fellow. You couldn't teach him any lessons."
"What did he do?" Marmaduke asked.
"He stole all the corn and you wouldn't have any nice muffins if he had had his way. I never shoot the orioles or the robins or the swallows or any of the birds with consciences."
"What is a conscience?"
"Oh a little clock inside you, like the Clock-with-the-Wise-Face-on-the-Mantel. It tells you when it is time to stop," explained their friend.
And Jehosophat and Marmaduke looked as if they knew just what he meant. But Hepzebiah was too little yet to understand.
"See, Mr. Jim Crow is long and black. He has a bad eye."
So he buried Mr. Jim Crow under the oak tree while the children watched.
After that the Toyman said:
"I reckon Mr. Scarecrow has fainted."
"Who's Mr. Scarecrow?" asked the three happy children. "Is he Mr. Jim Crow's cousin?"
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the Toyman. "That is a good one. No, Mr. Scarecrow is the policeman of the cornfield. Let's go over and set him on his pins again."
So again he walked through the rows between the cornstalks and they came to a little clear place in the middle of the field.
There, flat on his back, lay Mr. Scarecrow.
He too looked as if he were dead. But he was not.
For his body was only two sticks of wood nailed together like a cross. He was dressed in Father Green's old blue trousers and the Toyman's old black coat. His arms were outstretched. But he had lost his hat. His wooden head stuck out.
The Toyman picked him up and stood him straight on his one wooden leg. Then he put the old felt hat on his hard head.
"There, old wooden top," the Toyman spoke to him sternly. "Don't leave your beat."
But Marmaduke was puzzled.
"How could he scare Mr. Jim Crow away like a policeman? He can't run with that wooden leg."
"Silly," said Jehosophat, for he was older than Marmaduke and knew Mr. Scarecrow very well.
"Ha, ha, ha, that's another good one," said the Toyman. "Of course he can't run. But when all the Crows see him standing up in the cornfield they think he is a real man. They are afraid Mr. Scarecrow will shoot. For they know that things that wear coats and hats often have guns. And guns have killed their chums. So they do not come very near when Mr. Scarecrow is around."
"Caw, caw!" sounded the old rascals again. But the crows were far away. The three happy children could see them way up in the old chestnut tree over on the edge of their neighbour's wood.
In the fork of two high branches was a great round nest—oh ever so much bigger than the thrush's and the oriole's. It was a crow's nest. Sailors often call the little turret built around the mast, where they stand and look out over the sea, a "crow's nest." It looks something like that.
But Mr. Jim Crow's chums didn't come near the cornfield that day.
At night, when they were ready for bed, Jehosophat said to Marmaduke:
"I wonder if old Mr. Scarecrow is out there now."
"Course he is," his brother assured him.
So they jumped out of bed and, in their white nightgowns, tiptoed over the floor to the window. The Old-Man-in-the-Moon was up. He looked as round and fat as a pumpkin in the sky.
He winked at them.
The Old-Man-in-the-Moon made it very bright so that they could see.
Sure enough, way out in the cornfield stood Mr. Scarecrow.
His hat and coat were on and he was standing up like a man, very straight and still. His arms were outstretched to tell Mr. Jim Crow's chums that he was ready for them.
But though they are thieves, the Black Crows are not night burglars and they were fast asleep in the nests in the wood.
The Man-in-the-Moon winked at them three times, once with his right eye, once with his left eye, then again with the right.
And the three happy children thought they heard him say three times:
"Back to bed, back to bed, back to bed!"
Then they heard the sound of bells. Seven times they sounded. It was from the church over in the town,—the big white church with the long finger pointing at the sky. And the Little-Clock-with-the-Wise-Face-on-the-Mantel, answered back.
So they obeyed the old yellow Man-in-the-Moon and scampered like little white mice back to bed.
THE PRETTIEST FAIRY STORY IN THE WORLD
"Tell me a story—a fairy story," said Jehosophat to his Mother.
The three happy children loved really true stories and fairy stories too. Sometimes they wanted one, sometimes the other. Sometimes the Toyman mixed his stories up so it was hard to tell which they were.
This morning it was spring. The sun was warm and Jehosophat felt very lazy.
"No," said Mother. "I have too much work to do. But if you will help me dry the dishes I won't tell you but I'll show you one of the prettiest fairy stories in the world."
"It is true too," she added.
"Mother, how can that be," said Marmaduke. "A fairy story that is a true story?"
"Just be patient," she replied, "and you will see."
So the boys took the dish towels and helped dry the dishes, without any accidents. But little Hepzebiah was too small, so she sat on the floor with her finger in her mouth and watched them.
"Come," said Mother Green when they were through.
Out in the vegetable garden, back of the raspberries they went.
"See there," said Mother.
Three square little garden plots with nice brown earth were waiting for seeds.
"Father dug them for you—one for Jehosophat, one for Marmaduke, and one for Hepzebiah."
The three happy children couldn't help but think that was fine.
Just then along came Father.
His arms were full.
He had three little rakes, three little hoes, and three little spades.
The three happy children did not need to ask whom they were for.
"But where's the fairy story, Mother?"
"That you will make," she said. "The jolly old Sun, the gentle Rain, and brown Mother Earth will help you."
"Oh! I see now. But we can't finish that fairy story all in one day."
"No, it takes time and it takes work. But it's a prettier story than any in books. And you can make it come true yourselves."
Then Marmaduke piped up:
"What do we do first?"
"Well," his Mother explained, "your Father has dug the ground for you. You must rake it first, make it smooth and even. Mind, no hard lumps now!"
So the three happy children set to work with their three shiny rakes. Father had to help Hepzebiah, of course.
Then when the earth was smooth and fine, like brown powder, they made little furrows or lines in the earth. In other parts of the little gardens they scooped out tiny holes with their hoes.
Out of his pockets Father took some square envelopes. On them were printed pretty flowers and ripe vegetables.
"There," said Mother, "are the pictures of the end of the fairy story. But you'll never know the end unless you try hard."
Father tore open the envelopes and sowed the seeds in Hepzebiah's garden, some in the little holes, some in the furrows. Then he let the two boys sow their own gardens.
After the envelopes were all empty and the seeds all scattered they covered them over with the fine brown soil.
"The little seeds must sleep for a while," said their Mother, "like babies in a big brown bed."
So every day the three children watched. And the Sun shone and sometimes the gentle Rain came. They did not feel sad when she was weeping, for Mother told them she was a fairy too, not so jolly as the Sun but gentle and kind. Jolly Sun, gentle Rain, and Mother Earth—they were all fairies whom God had sent to help make the story come true.
Sometimes it was hard to finish breakfast, they were so anxious to see what had happened in the little gardens during the night. Sometimes they even forgot to ask Mother to "please excuse" them and they had to be called back to the table, for that was very impolite.
At last one wonderful morning, as they stood around the flower beds, Jehosophat said:
"There's Chapter Two!"
"What's that?" asked Marmaduke who didn't quite understand.
"Oh, just another step in the fairy tale."
He pointed to one of the gardens.
From the brown earth a little green head poked out.
Little Hepzebiah danced for it was in her garden, and toddled off to tell Mother.
Next day there were five more little heads, some in each of the gardens. They were light in colour and seemed weak but somehow the jolly old Sun and brown Mother Earth took care of them as parents take care of babies. And sometimes the gentle Rain came to water them with her tears. So they grew strong and soon the gardens were covered with an army of sturdy little green spears.
"It looks like a brown pincushion with green needles and pins," said Jehosophat.
And the weeks passed and still the three good fairies worked hard over them to help them live and grow up to be real vegetables and flowers. They worked away very quietly, these three good fairies, as all good people work, without any noise, without any fuss.
One day Farmer Green came back from a visit to the town.
With him he brought three green watering-pots.
"You must do some more work, yourselves," he told them as he handed each one of the shiny green cans. "You must water them when the Rain fairy is tired, pull up the bad weeds that steal the food Mother Earth keeps for the flowers, and you must keep the soil loose around the roots, so that the drops can sink way down deep. The more work you do the better you will like your flowers when they do come. And the taller and prettier they will be."
So the little green stalks grew tall and strong. Then the little buds came.
And one by one the buds opened into flowers. And the flowers had on their petals all the colours of the rainbow in the sky.
And the children took turns filling the vase on the supper table. They were very proud of their flowers when their father leaned over and smelled them.
"My, how sweet they smell!" he would say every time. "I don't think I ever saw such flowers."
And when their vegetables came to the table—round plump red radishes, crisp curling lettuce leaves, juicy tomatoes, and rows of peas in the pod, like the little toes of the neighbour's baby, Father Green would say:
"I never did eat such vegetables!"
Then he would smile over at Mother.
And Marmaduke, after his turn one night, whispered to his mother—
"It was a pretty fairy story, Mother. And we made it come true ourselves."
"Yes, with the help of God and His fairies—the jolly Sun, the gentle Rain, and brown Mother Earth. But the best part of it all is that your own hands helped."
But the Little-Clock-with-the-Wise-Face-on-the-Mantle thought that the children understood now. So he stopped this advice with his silver tongue.
And Mother, too, agreed that it was late. So she kissed them good-night and tucked them under the coverlids as they had covered the tiny seeds in their brown beds.
ANOTHER TRUE FAIRY STORY
Jehosophat, Marmaduke, and Hepzebiah were very happy as they watched the fairy story of the flowers. They were happier still because they helped it grow. But of course that did not take all of their time. So one morning when Marmaduke had eaten up all of his oatmeal and the cream, which Buttercup had given him, he laid his spoon down and said:
"Won't you show us another story, 'cause we can't watch our gardens all day long?"
"Yes," said Mother, "let me think what it will be."
So Mother thought awhile.
"I'll get Mother Nature to show you another story. But you can't help with this one. You'll just have to watch. It's made by the birds themselves."
Then she looked at the calendar.
"Why, it's the fourteenth of May. He ought to be here pretty soon."
"Who ought to be here soon?" asked Jehosophat.
"Why, the Oriole, the Baltimore Oriole, on his way back from the South, where he lives all winter."
"How do you know he'll come soon?" the three children asked, all in the same breath.
"He always comes back about the middle of May. City folks call May first 'Moving Day,' but the fifteenth is the Oriole's Moving Day."
So Mother led them out of the front door.
"Just sit in that swing or play with the pine needles and watch that elm. Don't make too much noise now! Maybe he'll come today."
And the children played in the front of the house all the morning and looked up at the dark green leaves of the elm every once in a while. But no bright little bird messenger came.
They were very much disappointed but Mother said:
"Never mind, tomorrow is his Moving Day and I think he'll come then. He is usually pretty prompt."
That night Uncle Roger came to the house with Aunt Mehitable. As a special treat the children were allowed to stay up late and hear Uncle Roger's stories of the great sea.
They stayed up very late, although the Little-Clock-with-the-Wise-Face-on-the-Mantle spoke several times. So next morning they were very tired. The sun was warm and while Jehosophat, Marmaduke and Hepzebiah sat on the porch they fell asleep. Jehosophat's head nodded against one post, Marmaduke's against another post, while little Hepzebiah fell asleep between them on the floor of the porch.
"Wow, wow, wow," growled Rover, "let's go out in the barnyard and chase the White Wyandottes. It's no fun playing with sleepy children."
"Wow, wow, wow!" answered Brownie and little Wienerwurst together, and this in dog's language means "Yes."
So they romped away to the barnyard to chase the frightened White Wyandottes.
That was not a good thing for the chickens but it was a good thing for the children. For if the dogs had not run away they might have missed something very wonderful.
What do you think it was?
First they heard pretty strains of music. It was something like a song and something like a whistle.
They looked up in the elm tree.
There, shining among the dark green leaves, was a pretty thing with orange and black feathers. He whistled away as if he did not have a care in the world.
And they did not have to be told—they knew who it was. It was their old friend, the Oriole.
He didn't stay still very long ever, for he was a busy fellow. But once he swung on a twig for a little while. They saw that he was almost as big as a robin, with head and shoulders of black, the wings black too, and most of his tail. But the rest of his body was like the prettiest orange-coloured velvet they had ever seen. He was singing something like this:
"What a fine day, what a fine day. I can sing and build, for work is play."
And every once in a while he would fly over to the apple tree and hop from branch to branch between the pink and white blossoms, looking for food. He was very fond of those caterpillars in the tree, you see. In between mouthfuls he would whistle just part of his song,
Then he would take another bite, hop to another branch and whistle again:
He certainly seemed to be happy over the beautiful weather.
Then he would whistle again as if he were talking to someone.
The three sleepy children listened.
"Now that nest, dear, now that nest, dear. We must build that nest, before we rest."
To whom could he be talking?
They looked around. And there, hopping about on a spray of beautiful apple blossoms, was another bird. It was Mother Oriole. She was almost like Father Oriole, only her coat was not as bright as his. It is funny the way birds are dressed, isn't it? What would you think if some Sunday your Father went to church in a black coat with a yellow vest, while Mother wore some very dull colour? You would laugh. But that is the way with birds. The father bird always wears brighter colours than the mother.
The three happy children were glad that the mother bird had come with the father bird up from the sunny South. They heard him whistle again:
"In the Winter we go South, dear, But in the Spring to the North we wing."
Then together they flew back to the elm. They were house-hunting. Back on the roof of the barn there was a little house of wood with doors for the pretty pigeons, but there were no houses of any kind on the old elm. Still the Orioles did not worry about that. They were not lazy, oh no!
They were just looking for a place to build. They must have found it, for the Oriole sang again (he was always changing his song):
"My dear, my dear, Sunny—quiet—lovely—here."
He had chosen a branch about thirty feet from the ground. Mother Oriole quietly answered back that it suited her perfectly. They both flew down to the ground, then back to the tree. And every time they travelled they had little pieces of grass or bark in their bills. But Mother Oriole did most of this work, which was quite proper, for mothers always do most of the work about the house, don't they? Father Oriole, you see, was more interested in getting fat beetles and caterpillars for food. And that was quite right too. But once he sang out louder than ever, for he had found a bit of string from Jehosophat's broken kite.
"The very thing, the very thing," he said to her.
And once Mother Oriole found, caught in the shutter, little threads of Hepzebiah's hair.
Then the three happy children woke up. They rubbed their eyes. They had been dreaming in the warm sun.
But their dream was true and the fairy story was true.
For there were the two birds, very pretty and very much alive. They were busily flying to the earth again and back to the elm branch. And they were carrying the materials for their new home in their beaks.
They perched on the branch and crocheted with their beaks. Yes, crocheted the little bits of bark and string and grass and hair into a tiny nest. Hanging down from the branch, it looked like the pretty soft grey bags which ladies carry, only it was very small.
And between whiles Father Oriole would whistle in delight and Mother Oriole would answer back quietly.
They were very happy birds and were quite content with the warm sun and the cool elm leaves and the pretty apple blossoms and their breakfast and dinner and supper. And they were very grateful to the good God who had given these things to them, grateful and happy as all little children should be.
But that is not the end of the fairy story. No, that is—but the Little-Clock-with-the-Wise-Face-on-the-Mantel won't let us tell any more. His silver voice says:
"Ting—ting—ting—ting—ting—ting—ting," which means:
THE HAPPY ENDING OF THE ORIOLE'S STORY
All stories should have an ending. It's fine, isn't it, when they end happily?
And this story of the Orioles did end happily—oh, so happily!
It was this way, you see.
The little grey house on the elm was finished.
It hung down from the end of the green branch, under the leaves. It looked both like a fairy house and a little crocheted bag.
Now for some days Mother Oriole didn't go out very much. She stayed in her little house.
But Father Oriole kept about his work, hunting for the little brown crawling things and the green crawling things that made their food.
He would whistle every once in a while to tell Mother Oriole that he was near. Sometimes it was just a few notes to say:
"I'm still here—my dear, Still here, still here, still here."
"All right, my love!"
But if a strange man came too near the tree his song was sharp and angry.
"Look out, look out, look out! He's a rogue, an awful rogue, look out, I say!"
But somehow he didn't seem to mind the children.
"Why does Mother Oriole sit so quietly on her nest?" Marmaduke asked his own mother.
"I wish I could lift you up so that you could see. But the nest is too high up. It's out of harm's way. Dicky Means, who has a cruel heart and robs birds' nests, can't reach it way up there!"
"What's in it, Muvver?" asked little Hepzebiah. You see her little tongue didn't work just right. She never could say words with "th" in them.
"Little eggs, dear. They are white, with little dark spots and funny dark scrawls on them as if somebody had tried to write with a bad pen."
Then Marmaduke asked:
"And is she keeping them warm?"
"Yes, so that they will hatch out. They will, very soon now."
So for a number of days in the warm weather, and in the rainy weather too, Mother Oriole sat faithfully on her nest. Bird mothers and the mothers of little children are always very patient. Then came one fine morning when the sun was particularly jolly and bright, and the blossoms smelt very sweet and were beginning to fall from the trees. The three happy children stood under the elm and looked up at the tiny hanging nest.
They heard new noises, strange noises.
It sounded like babies.
Yes, the little Oriole babies had broken their shells and had been born at last.
They didn't have many clothes on. But some day their feathers will be as pretty as their father's.
How they did cry for food! Somehow baby Orioles cry more than other bird babies. They seem to want to eat all the time.
And how Father Oriole did work to keep them fed, whistling every once in a while to make things pleasant for his family! I wonder if they appreciated all the things he and Mother Oriole did for them. And the days passed and the little birds grew fatter on the bugs and the beetles which their father brought, just as fat as the little boys or girls on their oatmeal and bread and milk, which their fathers work hard to earn for them.
The little Orioles were certainly noisy little birds, and when they cried sometimes the children saw funny little heads and beaks poking out of the nest.
Then more days passed and Father and Mother Oriole taught them to fly, just as Father and Mother Green had taught little Hepzebiah to walk. Marmaduke remembered how his Mother had held Hepzebiah and Father stood a little way off. Then Hepzebiah had started. She was a little frightened at first but she made the journey. It was only a few steps and her father caught her before she fell. She tried this often and soon she could take a great many steps.
And that was something like the way Father and Mother Oriole taught their children to fly. The parent birds would fly to a branch a little way off. Then they would call the little birds. And one by one they would fly to the branch. Their wings were weak at first like Hepzebiah's little feet. But soon they grew strong and before many weeks had gone they could fly as fast as the old birds. And before the summer was over they were as big as their parents. You see birds have shorter lives than real people. They do not live so many years. So they have to grow up quickly or they wouldn't have much time for work and play, would they?
So the children decided that the story of the Orioles was a very pretty fairy story, indeed, and they liked it better because it was true.
And they found others—oh, so many stories like it.
For sometimes Mother and sometimes Father and sometimes the Toyman showed them other little bird homes.
They climbed a ladder and found the barn-swallow's nest plastered under the eaves of the barn. They liked the barn swallow who flew through the air, almost as if he were so happy that he danced as he flew. And his dress was so pretty, for he was dark blue on top, brown on the throat, and his little stomach was white. His tail was forked too, cut like the coat of the man in the circus who cracked the whip and made the horses perform tricks.
The barn swallow's nest was so cunningly made. It was plastered of mud and grass, and had a soft grass lining. The little eggs in it were white and had tiny brown spots.
Right near the bay window, in the thick lilac tree, Marmaduke spied Red Robin's nest. He was a great friend of theirs. They always liked the cheery way he hopped over the lawn, and his cheery red vest, and his song which always said:
"Che-eer up—che-eer up!"
His eggs were the prettiest of all, a greenish blue, a robin's-egg blue, the dressmakers call it. Mother Green's summer dress was coloured just like it.
And in a bush by the roadside, Hepzebiah spied the brown thrush's nest. His eggs were blue and spotted with brown.
And in the elderberry tree they found the grey cat-bird's nest. He was a funny bird, always crying like a lost pussy. And his eggs were green-blue.
So in the fields and the woods Jehosophat, Marmaduke and Hepzebiah saw all kinds of birds and all kinds of nests and all kinds of eggs. They saw them because their eyes were bright and sharp as yours must be too when you go into the beautiful country.
And from the eggs funny little birds were born and grew up and flew and sang.
And so the three happy children decided that the really true fairy stories of Mother Nature were the prettiest of all.
And oh—we almost forgot! Perhaps we can tell the rest before that Little-Clock-with-the-Wise-Face-on-the-Mantel tells us to stop.
Over near Neighbour Brown's fence they were peeping through the green leaves at the song-sparrow's nest. Mother was with them and they saw someone come out of their neighbour's house.
"Wouldn't you like to see her?" the strange lady whispered to Mother.
"Oh yes," Mother whispered back, "but they mustn't wake her up."
Who could they be talking about? Then they went through the gate.
"Be very quiet," said Mother as they entered the door, "and you'll see the end of another true fairy story."
So they tiptoed in.
There in a bed lay Mrs. Brown, looking very happy.
And curled up in her arm she had—well, what do you think she had?
A little sleeping baby!
Like the little Orioles Baby had been born just a few days ago.
"That," said Mother, "is the prettiest fairy story of all."
And the children thought so too.
There—we've finished just in time. We hear the Little Clock. There goes his silver tongue now.
Good-night! Sweet Dreams.
MOTHER HEN AND ROBBER HAWK
Jehosophat and Marmaduke were whispering together.
"Let's try it," said Jehosophat.
"An' see what happens," added Marmaduke.
So they tiptoed into the House of the White Wyandottes and placed the big duck's eggs in with the smaller eggs under the setting hen.
Mother Hen did not like that, oh no!
She stirred in her nest. All her feathers puffed up and she looked very much hurt.
"Duck, duck, duck!" sniffed she scornfully. And to herself she added: "What a mean way to treat a decent, respectable hen!" For White Wyandottes are very particular and very exclusive.
But after the two little imps had tiptoed out of her house, she made the best of a bad matter. She couldn't kick the big duck's eggs out of the nest in the box. The sides of the box were too high. So she settled down on her eggs again.
"I must keep my very own warm, anyway," she decided.
About three weeks later there was much excitement in the House of the White Wyandottes. From the nest in the box came little noises.
"Chip, chip, chip," sounded faintly from inside the eggs. And before the sun climbed over the Big Gold Rooster, who swung on the weather-vane on the barn, all the new little chickens had broken their eggs.
"How nice it is to be born!" they cheeped together in a merry chorus, as they arrived in the wonderful world.
Very proud of her family was Mother Wyandotte when the little yellow balls began to run about. A few days later she was prouder still when they scampered this way and that, pecking at little bugs and ants. They worked hard for their breakfasts and dinners and suppers.
Even Father Wyandotte, the great white rooster with the magnificent red comb and curling white plumes on his tail, forgot that other rooster of whom he was so jealous. For the rooster who was always perched on the weather-vane on the barn was up so high and he shone like gold.
But now Father Wyandotte was not jealous. He walked around in his lordly way, cocking his eye at his little yellow sons and daughters as they chased the fat little bugs.
At first he would not say just how proud of them he was. He did not like to tell all his feelings at once. Sometimes he thought fighting and crowing better than being a family man. But all of a sudden he flew up on the tallest fence-post he could find, and flapped his wings. He threw back his head, opened his yellow beak, and crowed up at that gold rooster:
"Sure, sure, sure! You couldn't do it, you couldn't do it—couldn't do it, do."
No, the Gold Rooster on the weather-vane on the top of the barn, though he shone like the sun, could neither crow nor raise a family.
But Mother Wyandotte didn't bother about anything so high in the sky as the sun and the rooster. She was busy playing nurse-maid to her little yellow children and helping them find food.
But in the afternoon she did look up at the sky. That was when something like a dark shadow sailed in the air far above the home of the White Wyandottes.
It was a great bird with wide-stretched wings, much bigger than Jim Crow. He sailed in circles, while his evil eye looked down at the frightened, scampering White Wyandottes.
"Um!" How he would like a nice chicken for lunch!
"Robber Hawk!" called all of Mother Hen's uncles and aunts in the barnyard.
"Robber Hawk!" screamed all of her great-uncles and great-aunts too.
"Robber Hawk!" screamed all of her cousins, first, second, and third.
Loud and long barked Rover and Brownie. And little Wienerwurst stopped chasing the pretty pink pigeons.
And even Mr. Stuckup, the turkey, had to join in the hubbub.
"Horrible robber, horrible robber," he gobbled.
But Mother Wyandotte had called to her children. She opened her wings and under them quickly in fright they ran, all huddling together. Her wings hardly seemed large enough to cover them all, but she took them all in, every one of her children.
She was a nervous old thing, but she was a good mother, and good mother hens, good animal mothers, and our own mothers too, never seem to think of themselves when there is danger around. They just look out for their little ones.
"Robber Hawk, robber! Shan't touch 'em—robber!" she said.
Then—quick as a wink—there was another loud noise, just like that day when Jim Crow fell in the cornfield.
Jehosophat, Marmaduke and Hepzebiah jumped.
They looked around.
There stood the Toyman with the gun at his shoulder.
Little puffs of smoke like white feathers floated away from the muzzles of the gun.
"Winged him, anyway!" cried the Toyman.
They looked up.
Robber Hawk wasn't sailing in the sky any longer.
He was falling, falling, like a stone—just like Jim Crow.
"The Toyman's a good shot," exclaimed Jehosophat. "My, how I wish I could shoot like that!"
Mother Green came to the back door.
She called to the Toyman:
"He's fallen on the barn, Frank."
"Roof, roof, roof!" barked little Wienerwurst to explain it more clearly.
Sure enough, Robber Hawk dropped on the roof of the barn, right by the Gold Rooster who swung on the weather-vane.
The Toyman scratched his head.
"Quite a climb for these stiff legs," said he.
But he fetched a tall ladder and placed it against the side of the barn.
The three children watched him, their heads bent back so far that they almost snapped off.
Mother held the ladder at the foot, for nobody wanted anything ever to happen to the Toyman.
"Careful!" she warned him.
"All right, Mis' Green," he said. "I haven't been up in the maintop for nothing."
You see, once upon a time, he had been a sailor. There was nothing that the Toyman hadn't done.
He reached the top of the ladder, then swung out on the roof. At last he reached the ridge.
There stood the Gold Rooster, never crowing or saying anything at all. And under him lay Robber Hawk, and he didn't say anything either.
Carefully the Toyman climbed down from the ridge of the barn, holding the rascal in his hands. Then one by one down the rungs of the ladder he came.
When he reached the ground Jehosophat, Marmaduke and Hepzebiah gathered round.
Robber Hawk hung limp from the Toyman's hand.
His dark brown feathers never stirred. His white breast with its dark bars and patches never moved.
"Robber Hawk," spoke the Toyman, "your old curved beak will never feed on any more good chicken."
Then he turned to the children.
"We must bury him by Jim Crow."
So Jehosophat, Marmaduke, Hepzebiah, Rover, Brownie, Wienerwurst and the Toyman marched with Robber Hawk on towards the cornfield.
There by the side of Jim Crow they buried him.
And the Toyman took two pieces of wood. On these he cut with his knife:
JIM CROW KILLED 1918 THIEF
ROBBER HAWK KILLED 1918 THIEF AND MURDERER
At their heads he placed the two boards side by side.
"There we will leave them," the Toyman spoke sternly, "as a warning to all evil-doers."
So they walked back slowly to the House of the White Wyandottes where Mother Hen clucked contentedly once more and all the yellow chickens ran around, chasing the little bugs in their game of hide-and-seek. A fine game it was too, only it was more interesting for the chickens than the bugs, you see.
The three happy children noticed that one of the little yellow fellows was larger than the others. He—
So says the Little Clock. He must be obeyed. So good-bye for a little while.
ABOUT DUCKIE THE STEPCHILD AND THE LITTLE SHIP
In the door of the workshop stood the three happy children, watching the Toyman.
It was one of the very nicest places on the whole farm. Tools of all sorts, bright and sharp, lay on the table. Lumber of every kind lay piled against the walls. The shelves were filled with cans of paint. All the colours of the rainbow were in those cans. The children could tell that by the pretty splashes of the paint dripping down their sides.
Back and forth, back and forth swung the arms of the Toyman. He was very busy over something—something very important it must be, for he never talked, only worked and whistled away.
"Oh dear! I wish I knew what it was," sighed Marmaduke. Anyway he knew it was something for them. Father Green had given the Toyman a holiday, all for himself, to do as he liked. And of course he'd make something for them.
On the edge of the table was a vise, a big tool with iron jaws. In the iron jaws was a block of wood. The Toyman screwed the vise—very tight—so tight the wood couldn't budge. Then he shaved this side of the block, then the other side, with a plane, a tool with a very sharp edge. Clean white shavings fell on the floor, some of them twisting like Hepzebiah's curls.
"I wonder what it's going to be," Marmaduke repeated.
Jehosophat was pretty sure he knew.
"I'll bet it's a boat," he said.
The Toyman chuckled.
"Right you are, Son. It's the Good Ship—well, let's see. All boats have a name, you know. What do you think would be a good name for a fine ship?"
Jehosophat had one, right on the tip of his tongue.
The Toyman thought this over.
"That isn't bad," said he.
Then he turned to Marmaduke.
"What's your idea for a name, little chap?"
Marmaduke thought and thought. He looked out through the door and saw the Party Bird, the vain Peacock, parading up and down, showing off its beautiful tail, and "Peacock" was the only name he could think of.
Jehosophat laughed out loud.
"That's no name for a boat."
And Marmaduke had to shout back—as little boys will, losing his temper:
The Toyman stopped the quarrel, just as he always did, with something pleasant or funny he said. Then he leaned over and picked up three chips of wood.
"I'll write the names on these little chips," he explained, "and we'll choose."
Putting his hand on Hepzebiah's sunny curls, he asked that little girl:
"What name do you think would be nice for the boat?"
Now Hepzebiah really didn't know just what it all was about. But she had heard Marmaduke say "Peacock," so she took her finger out of her mouth just long enough to point at the Guinea-hen, who was screeching horribly out in the barnyard.
"The Guinea-hen! Ha, ha! That's a good one!" The Toyman was forever saying that and laughing at the funny things the children said.
Hepzebiah, thinking that this was a nice sort of a game, took her finger out of her mouth and pointed again—this time out at the pond where the swans were sailing, like pretty white ships themselves.
"The very thing," exclaimed the Toyman. "White Swan's a fine name for a boat!"
And he wrote "White Swan" on one chip, "Peacock" on another, and "Arrow" on the last. Then he held them towards the children.
"The smallest must choose first," he said, and Hepzebiah took one of the little white pieces of wood from the Toyman's hand. He turned it over and read:
"We'd go a good ways before we'd get a better name," he decided. "When the boat's all finished and all sails set, she'll sail away just like a swan; you see if she doesn't."
The hull of the boat was finished now, and on the bow, at the very front, he nailed a thin little stick, with tiny nails. This was the bowsprit.
On the keel at the very bottom, he fastened a piece of lead so she wouldn't "turn turtle"—turn over, he meant, when her sails were set and the wind blew too hard.
Then choosing some sticks—very carefully, for they must be straight—he tucked the boat under his arm and, with the three children close at his heels, walked over to the pond and sat down under the Crying Tree, where the sun shone bright and warm.
Out came the magic knife and he whittled away at the little sticks; whittled and whistled and smiled all the time.
Sliver after sliver of the wood fell on the ground. Sometimes one would drop into the water and float away like a fairy canoe, with the green willow leaves that fell from the Crying Tree.
So under the magic knife the little ship grew and grew, till the masts were fitted too, and set fast and tight in the clean smooth deck.
"But where are the sails?" asked Jehosophat impatiently.
A funny answer the Toyman made.
He just said:
"Hold your horses, Sonny."
The teacher in the Red Schoolhouse up the road would have reproved him for this, but the children thought whatever the Toyman said was all right.
Of course he meant not to be too impatient and—but just then the dinner horn sounded, way out over the pond and over the fields, and the children ran into the house, just as you would have done too.
It didn't take long to finish dinner that day. For desert they had blackberry pie, very juicy and nice, and they didn't even wait to wash the red marks of that pie from their faces but just ran for the Crying Tree.
The Toyman felt in all of his six big pockets. And out came needles and thread, and pieces of clean muslin besides.
Stitch, stitch, stitch went his fingers, for a thousand stitches or more. And bye and bye the sails were all cut and sewed and fitted on the three little masts.
Then the Toyman stopped.
"We haven't christened her yet," he said. "We should have done that long ago."
In his pockets he rummaged again, those pockets which always held just the right thing. It was a small bottle this time, all filled with tiny pink pills. Much nicer these were, the children thought, than that yellow stuff in the big bottle they hated so.
The Toyman poured the little pills out.
"What's the use of medicine on a nice day like this," said he.
And he filled the bottle with water and put back the stopper.
"When ships are launched," he explained, "folks break a bottle over the bow when they name her."
"All right, I'll do that," said Jehosophat, but the Toyman stopped him.
"Hold on there, Sonny, that's the ladies' job."
Then he called Hepzebiah and gave her the bottle.
"Now, little girl, you stand here and say: 'I christen thee White Swan.'"
But, "I ckwithen Wite Thwan" was the best she could do.
"Now drop the bottle!"
She opened her fingers and, sure enough, the little bottle fell right on the deck and broke all in little pieces, and the glistening drops splashed over the bow, and so the good ship "White Swan" got her name.
Into the water the Toyman pushed the little ship. The wind filled her sails and off she went, racing away before the wind to join the beautiful birds for whom she had been named.
Around the pond and over the bridge went the Toyman, to the other side. When the ship reached the opposite shore he swung it around and sent it back on the return voyage. The "White Swan" had reached port safely, when the Toyman said:
"It's funny what different opinions folks have. Some like the water and some don't. Now the swans and the ducks, and that little ship, and the fish, and the froggies, and Uncle Roger, and you and I, we think it's fine. But Mr. Stuck-up, and Miss Crosspatch, and Old Mother Wyandotte, and Mis' Fizzeltree, why they won't go near it at all."
"That is funny," said Jehosophat.
Then the Toyman added:
"Just listen to that."
Old Mother Wyandotte was right near them, clucking in fright.
"Don't—don't—don't you do it!" she was calling to one of her children who was looking longingly at the cool pond.
Around her were all her children, fast growing up now. They were all soft and white but one. Like good little chickens they were looking for bugs, all but one.
He was the little fellow they had noticed before, the funny little fellow with a longer bill than the rest, and the odd-looking feet. His soft downy back was turning black. And he was starting for that pretty water shining in the pond.
Jehosophat looked him all over.
"Why, he looks like a duck."
"What did you expect?" laughed the Toyman. "He is a duck. Old Mother Wyandotte thinks he's her child, but he's only a step-child. Ha! Ha! Somebody must have put another egg in her nest."
Over in the garden were pretty flowers called Bleeding Hearts. They were very pink, and Jehosophat's face turned the very same colour. Well he knew who had stolen into the House of the White Wyandottes and put that big duck's egg under Old Mother Hen. And now it had turned out a real little duckling, that black little fellow Mother Wyandotte was scolding so.
"Don't—don't—don't—don't you do it," she was shouting still.
But little black Duckie had made up his mind. He was headed straight for that shining water.
Around Mother Wyandotte gathered all her relatives to talk over the matter. They were disgusted. That one of their family should disgrace them so!
"Respectable chickens spend their time on the ground," said Granny Wyandotte with a toss of her comb, "and never, never get wet, if they can help it, not even their feet."
"True—true—quite true," all the Wyandotte Aunties agreed.
But their second cousins and the third cousins too, the ducks and the geese and the swans, said they were wrong.
"Little Duckie's a sensible chap. What better place can there be to play in than that nice cool pond?"
And all the fishes swimming around, from the big pickerel down to the littlest "minnie," waggled their fins and tails to show they agreed too, while the froggies on the lily-pad croaked:
"Gomme on—gomme on!"
They were giving little Duckie a warm invitation to play in the water, you see.
Duckie was right at the edge now and Mother Hen, who was really his step-mother, made one last appeal, but the ducks one and all called:
"Back, back, back!"
They weren't talking to Duckie. They meant the White Wyandottes. They were taking his part, you see, though not for one minute did they guess he was their child, their very own.
Duckie appreciated that too. Perhaps Old Father Drake, the head of all the Duck family, wouldn't let Step-father Wyandotte punish him that night if he did try the water.
I don't believe Step-father Wyandotte really cared very much. At first he was a little mad but, after scolding a little, he shouted:
"Through, through, through—I'm through with yooooooouuu."
He wouldn't have anything more to do with little Duckie. I guess he suspected he was just a step-child after all. So he just grumbled to himself as he speared a fat tumble-bug with his beak:
"Ur, ur—I don't care!"
He had enough children anyway. But the Gold Rooster on the top of the barn looked down, laughing at him. He couldn't really laugh, you know, or flap his wings, but he swung from west to southwest and back again, as if to say:
"I knew it. I knew it. They fooled you!"
Old Father Drake, the head of the duck family, started for the water. Mother Duck and all the little ducks went in too. They were going to show Duckie the way.
He just couldn't stand it any longer. So—plopp in he went and paddled around after the others, and ducked his head under the water to catch his dinner, just as a real duckling should.
"Better than grubbing for bugs in the dirty earth, this nice clean cool water," quacked he, and he was as happy as happy could be.
The Toyman was looking at him with a smile on his face.
"He's just like me," he said at last, and the children, surprised at that, asked all together:
"Who's like you?"
"That little duck there."
"Like you!" Jehosophat shouted. "Why he doesn't look like you at all!"
The Toyman puffed away on his corncob pipe before he answered:
"Oh inside he's the same. I was just like him when I was a kid. I had a step-mother, too, and she and all the step-uncles and aunts scolded and scolded, and whipped me besides, because I wanted to go to sea on a great big ship."
"What did you do?"
They didn't really need to ask that question, for hadn't the Toyman been most everywhere, and hadn't he told them many a story about the great sea and the ships?
"Yes, they all said I would drown or become a wicked bad man."
Marmaduke thought he would like to do something to those step-uncles and aunts who treated the Toyman so badly.
"They don't know what they're talking about," he shouted. "You're good as anybody in the world."
"Thank you, little feller," replied the Toyman, patting his head. "But they said I would, just the same. They talked just like those old Wyandottes there.
"But I fooled them all," he went on. "And one night, when it was dark, just a few stars out, I climbed out of bed and jumped out of the window and ran away.
"I walked and I walked, miles and miles, till I came to a big town by the sea. There were lots of big ships at the docks, and I asked a man, with a great big beard, to take me too. So he took me on board, and I was a little cabin boy. But bye and bye I got to be a real sailor, and I sailed all over the world in the ship, and saw lots of people, yellow, and black, and brown, and funny places and queer houses and—"
"Be careful, Frank!"
They all turned at once. There was Mother, standing right near them. All the time she had been listening, near the Crying Tree.
"Now, Frank," she repeated, "be careful or you'll put notions in those children's heads, and some day they'll be running away from me."
Still she didn't look cross, and she smiled at the Toyman, especially when he answered:
"Not from a mother like you, Mis' Green. How about it, kiddies?"
And Marmaduke and Jehosophat were very sure they never could run away—not even to sea in a beautiful ship. So they kissed her and hugged her too.
Now the froggies were singing their evening song. The sun was getting close to his home in the west. Little Duckie and his real mother and father came out of the water and waddled off towards the barn. The Swans folded their wings and came to the shore. So the Toyman brought the ship to the harbour and anchored her for the night.
THE TALL ENEMY
It was the first snowfall. The grey sky was filled with little white feathers dancing down—down—down.
"Look at the snowflakes," exclaimed the three happy children, all in one breath.
"Yes," said their Mother, "the snow has come. In the spring and summer Mother Earth works very hard. It takes so much of her strength, feeding the millions of plants from her brown breast. By fall she is very tired and in winter she takes things quite easy.
"Then the gentle Rain Fairy feels sorry for Mother Earth. She turns her own tears to snow-flakes, and scatters them over her. They weave a soft white comforter to keep her warm. And it keeps the seed babies, sleeping in Mother Earth's brown breast, all snug and warm too."
All that day and all night the snow fell. And all the next day and the next night—and the third day and the third night too.
Then all of a sudden it stopped, and the three happy children woke in the morning, and looked out of the window.
"Why the snow's most as high as Wienerwurst's house!" cried Jehosophat.
Then they all trooped in to breakfast.
"We will make forts," said Jehosophat.
"Hooray!" exclaimed Marmaduke.
"The very thing!" added Mother.
And Wienerwurst, curled up by the rosy kitchen stove, barked, "Woof, woof, woof."
Now this means a lot of things. But this time it meant, "Good, good, good."
So the three happy children hurried through their oatmeal. They hurried so fast that they had three little pains. Jehosophat had one right under his belt, Marmaduke one in the centre of his blouse, Hepzebiah one under her little red waist.
Mother came in from the kitchen. She looked at the empty bowls.
"What! All gone already! Look out or you'll each have to take a big table-spoonful of the yellow stuff in that bottle."
There it stood, on the kitchen mantel. She pointed right at it. They hated it worse than most anything in the world.
"I'm all right," said Jehosophat; and
"I'm not sick," protested Marmaduke; and
"Pain's all gone," cried Hepzebiah.
It was funny how the sight of that bottle frightened the three little pains away.
Mother smiled. It was a funny smile. Then she said:
"Now, on with your things!"
Jehosophat sat on the floor and pulled on his new rubber boots, which reached almost to his waist. On the stool sat Marmaduke, putting on his, and Mother helped little Hepzebiah with her wee little ones.
Over Jehosophat's head went a red sweater, over Marmaduke's a green, and over Hepzebiah's curls one of blue. Then wristlets and mittens and coats and caps, and out into the deep white snow they tramped.
"Forward march!" said a voice.
They looked. It was the Toyman.
"The enemy is about to attack," he explained sternly.
"Where's the enemy?"
"You can't see them. But they're advancing fast. Up with the fort. Double quick!"
So at double quick they marched to the barnyard, and began work with their shovels.
My! how they dug! Fast flew the snow. And the Toyman packed it down hard, and shaped it into the walls of a big strong fort.
It was odd, too, how the Toyman could find time to help. For he had lots of work to do. But then the enemy was coming!
Rover and Brownie and Wienerwurst scampered around in the snow. They were not of much help. All they did was to bark—bark—bark.
"Hush!" commanded the Toyman. "We must keep quiet so the enemy won't know where we are."
So they dug and they dug and packed the snow hard. Soon the walls were as high as Jehosophat's shoulders, and the fort was all ready.
The Toyman stopped and said:
"Now for the ammunition."
The Toyman took a handful of snow and crushed it hard between both hands. When he had finished he opened his fingers. In his palm was a round white ball. Then another he made and another. And the three little soldiers, Jehosophat, Marmaduke, and Hepzebiah, made lots too. They piled them in the corner of the fort, until they had a heap like the iron balls around the cannon in the town park.
"Now," commanded the Toyman. "March to the barracks and get warm" (he pointed at the house). "I'll watch and call when the enemy comes."
Into the house they went, and dried their mittens and warmed their hands. And each had a cup of nice warm milk.
After a while there was a loud knock at the door, and the sound of a horn.
Mother opened the door a little way.
The horn sounded again. Then the voice spoke loudly:
"Fall in," it said. "The enemy comes!"
Quickly the three little soldiers put on their mittens and caps, and buttoned their coats, and hurried to the fort.
They looked around. They could not see anybody with a horn. And the Toyman was gone.
Over the walls of the fort they peeked.
There stood six soldiers staring at them. The six soldiers stood very still. They were all white, but their eyes were black like pieces of coal, and they stared hard at the three little soldiers within the fort. Over their shoulders were six long round things.
"Guns," said Jehosophat.
They looked around for the Toyman. He did not come. Their hearts beat fast.
"We're not afraid," shouted Jehosophat at the white soldiers. "Come on, you enemy!"
With that they heard a sound far off.
Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat.
"What's that?" cried the smallest little soldier. And Captain Jehosophat answered:
"The enemy comes!"
Then he laughed. He had made a rhyme without thinking anything about it.
But he stopped laughing. It was no time for play. There was hard work ahead. Those six white soldiers in front of the fort were ready to attack. And there were more coming.
"Load!" he commanded.
Each little soldier took up a snowball.
Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat.
The drums sounded nearer now.
Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat.
Around the house came the sound of the drum.
Over the walls of the fort they peeked—very carefully.
There was a man marching. He looked something like the Toyman. But could it be? No, for he was so changed. The man had a horn around his neck, and a feather in his hat, and his face was stern. He was whistling "Yankee Doodle." It sounded like a fife, and all the time he was beating the drum with all his might.
Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat.
On through the snow the Tall Enemy marched. He reached the six white soldiers who stood so still, with their guns over their shoulders.
He stopped and called out to the three little soldiers in the fort in a loud voice:
"SURRENDER OR WE ATTACK!"
"Never!" was the brave answer of Captain Jehosophat.
"Fire!" he commanded.
Then he let a snowball fly.
He hit the Tall Enemy right in the face.
Then Marmaduke let another snowball fly.
That hit one of the white soldiers and knocked his black eye out.
And Hepzebiah threw her snowball. She tried very hard. But it didn't go very far and didn't do any damage.
Jehosophat looked worried at that. He couldn't depend on Hepzebiah at all. That left but two of them—against so many—and on came the Tall Enemy with the feather in his cap, still beating his drum.
Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat. Rat-a-tat-tat.
The little soldiers must fight bravely now.
Fast flew the snowballs.
He was very near.
Then Marmaduke picked up the last snowball. He took good aim for it was the last of their ammunition. Then he let it fly. It hit the Tall Enemy Man right over his heart.
He fell in the snow.
"You've done for me!" he called in a weak voice.
Then the three little soldiers shouted and ran out of the fort.
There in the snow lay the dying enemy.
"You've won," he said in a sad voice. "I surrender."
"Hurrah, we've won!" they shouted. Then they stopped. They felt very sorry for the enemy, for after all he had been very brave.
They bent over him.
Then something happened. All of a sudden the enemy seized the three little soldiers in his arms.
And he laughed! Yes, laughed.
And hugged them all at once.
And the three little soldiers laughed happily too. For the Tall Enemy had been the Toyman all the time and the six silent soldiers were only made of snow.
Behind his heels they trudged into the house. But the Toyman had to carry the littlest soldier in his arms. She was very cold and very tired.
But the three happy children ate a very good dinner and a very good supper too, that day, for they were very hungry. And they had earned it after the brave fight in the fort.
"Ting-ting." He's always on time, that Little Clock. So Good-night!
THE SLEIGH AND THE TINY REINDEER
Marmaduke had played too long in the snow.
He was very wet.
He was very cold.
And he felt very funny and hot all over.
"Mother, my throat's got a rubber ball stuck in it," he said.
Mother looked at it.
"No, dear, there's no rubber ball there, but your throat's all swollen and there are little spots in it. You mustn't get up today."
Marmaduke lay very still for a while. Soon he heard sleigh-bells tinkling past the window, then far down the road. Father had hitched Teddy, the buckskin horse, to the big sleigh and was going for the Doctor.
Away ticked the clock. After a while-a long time it seemed—Marmaduke heard the sleigh-bells again, at first far off, then coming nearer and nearer, until they jingled before the porch—then stopped. He heard voices and the sound of feet upon the porch, shaking off the snow.
The door opened and into the bedroom came the Doctor. He had a face all rosy from the cold. His eyes were black and so sharp that they looked right through Marmaduke. But they were kind eyes and his voice had a pleasant chuckle in it.
The Doctor came and sat on the edge of the bed.
"Well, well! How's my little soldier? Wounded in the battle or just playing possum?"
Then Marmaduke opened his eyes.
After the Doctor had talked a while about lots of different things, before Marmaduke knew it, there was something like a spoon or a shoe-horn in his throat and the Doctor was telling him to say "Ah!"
"This isn't school," thought Marmaduke, "why does he make me say that?"
But he forgot to be frightened, for the Doctor was saying so many funny things all the time.
Then he opened his black bag. It was full of little bottles, packed neatly in rows. Marmaduke wished he would forget and leave it behind. It would be fine to play with.
Mother brought two glasses and the Doctor poured some drops from one bottle into a glass, then from another bottle into another glass. And he said something to Mother in a low voice—Marmaduke could not hear what it was—then he patted the little soldier on the head and said good-bye.
Again the sleigh-bells sounded and away he drove.
But the sleigh-bells never stopped. They kept sounding all the night, long after Teddy was back in his stall and the big sleigh was in the shed. You see Marmaduke was very sick and "out of his head."
Seven days passed and seven nights. He began to feel better, but he was very lonely, for Jehosophat and Hepzebiah had gone to Uncle Roger's to stay while he was sick.
Very small he felt in the big bed in the front room, and very, very lonely. He looked out of the window at the big elms. They were covered with white snow like fur. There were many trees standing in rows. The path between them looked like a white road leading up over the hill to the sky.
He wished he had someone to talk to.
Just then he heard a noise at the door.
"Tap, tap, tap"
It opened just a little.
"Who's there?" said Marmaduke.
The door opened wider. And he saw the Toyman's kind face.
"Hello, little soldier."
"'Llo, Toyman," replied the little boy, and his voice sounded very small and very weak.
The Toyman sat by the bed a while. Then he got up and stirred the fire. Showers of pretty gold and red sparks scampered up the chimney. After that he spread a paper on the floor, not far from the fire-place.
Then his pockets he searched, those big pockets which Mother said were always like five and ten cent stores, they were so full of things.
Out came some pieces of wood. Out came his knife—that magic knife with the five blades. Marmaduke was always glad when he saw that knife for then something nice was sure to happen.
Up came the big blade and snapped back. And the Toyman began to whittle, whittle away. Sometimes he used the big blade, sometimes the small one.
Marmaduke watched him, all eyes.
And as the Toyman whittled sometimes he whistled, and sometimes he sang a funny song in a funny voice. You see he could make rhymes as well as toys.
And this is what he sang:
THE TOYMAN'S SONG
"When a little boy's sick And stays in bed, And things feel queer Inside his head.
"He cannot work, He cannot play; It's hard to pass The time away.
"Don't make much fuss An' talk a lot; No questions ask 'Bout what he's got.
"They'll ask him that When Doctor comes, So just sit still Like good, ole chums.
"An' take your knife An' make him toys— This knife knows what Will please small boys.
"Horses and lions, An' tops and rings, An' kites and ships, An' pretty things.
"We'll paint 'em red An' yeller an' blue. Work away, ole knife, He's watchin' you!"
That's a new song and a very nice one, thought Marmaduke, as he watched the Toyman whittling away by the red fire.
The little white slivers and shavings covered the paper now. He couldn't see just what that knife was making. But that was nice, too, for then it would be a surprise. And there's nothing finer in the world than a real, beautiful surprise.
Then his head grew very tired, and his eyes began to droop till they were tight shut and he fell asleep.
The Toyman looked at him and smiled.
"Poor little feller!" he said. Then he closed his knife, and picked up the paper and the shavings and the surprise, and out of the room he tiptoed.
Out to the workshop he went, and opened the door.
On the shelves were brushes of different sizes and cans of paint of all colours.
He took down three of the cans, humming to himself:
"We'll paint 'em red An' yeller an' blue."
"A little brown would go well too," he added as he took down another can.
He worked away with his paint brushes until the surprise was finished. Then he placed it on the work-table to dry.
The next afternoon there was another tap at the bedroom door.
But Marmaduke didn't answer. He was taking his afternoon nap. So the Toyman slipped in and put the surprise at the foot of the bed. After that he sat by the fire, watching the little sick soldier. He sat very still, stirring the embers just once in a while to keep the room warm.
At last Marmaduke opened his eyes, a little at first, then wider.
The very first thing that he saw at the bottom of the bed was a tiny sleigh. The body was bright blue and the runners were red. And what do you think—in front, hitched to it, were two tiny brown reindeer with yellow horns! They looked so much alive that Marmaduke thought any minute they would start running away—away over the comforter, out of the window, and up the snow-covered hill.
The Toyman came over to the bed. Marmaduke curled his little fingers around his friend's hand. The hand was brown and hard, but it was a nice hand, Marmaduke thought.
"We're good ole chums, aren't we?" he said to the Toyman.
"You bet we are," the Toyman answered.
JACK FROST AND THE MAN-IN-THE-MOON
Once, twice, thrice nodded Marmaduke's head.
The red flames of the fire kept dancing, dancing all the time. Very bright looked the little sleigh at the foot of the bed, very brave the tiny reindeer.
But look! Something moved—just a little.
The "nigh" little reindeer was stamping his foot and tossing his antlers.
And the other little reindeer tossed his horns and stamped his foot too.
On their backs the sleigh-bells jingled, merrily like fairy bells.
The red and blue sleigh moved a little—just a little.
It began to slide slowly, over the comforter.
Marmaduke was worried. He didn't want the pretty sleigh and the reindeer to run away. He might never see them again.
"Wait!" he shouted.
"Whoa—you villains!" It was a strange little voice that ordered the reindeer.
The red and blue sleigh stopped short.
Marmaduke rubbed his eyes.
The strange little voice spoke again.
"Jump in," it said.
And there in the front seat of the toy sleigh sat a funny little chap, about as big as the Toyman's thumb—no bigger. He wore a pointed cap that shone like tinsel on a Christmas tree. He wore a white coat that sparkled too.