VOL. V. OCTOBER, 1878. No. 12.
[Copyright, 1878, by Scribner & Co.]
THE VIOLIN VILLAGE.
By Edith Hawkins.
On the borders of the Tyrol and the lovely district known as the "Bavarian Highlands," there is a quaint little village called "Mittenwald," which at first sight appears shut in by lofty mountains as by some great and insurmountable barrier. The villagers are a simple, industrious people, chiefly occupied in the manufacture of stringed musical instruments, the drying of which, on fine days, presents a very droll appearance. The gardens seem to have blossomed out in the most eccentric manner; for there, dangling from lines like clothes, hang zithers, guitars, and violins, by hundreds, from the big bass to the little "kit," and the child's toy.
In this valley, one clear morning in August, as the church clock struck five, a lad issued from the arched entrance of one of the pretty gabled houses along the main street. He was not more than twelve years of age, yet an expression of thoughtfulness in his clear, blue eyes, gave and added an older look to his otherwise boyish face. His costume was a gray suit of coarse cloth, trimmed with green; his knees and feet were bare, but he wore knitted leggings of green worsted. A high-crowned hat of green felt, adorned with some glossy black cock's feathers, a whip and a small brass horn slung by a cord from his shoulder completed the outfit of the village goatherd. He hastened along by the green-bordered brook crossed by planks, over one of which Stephan—for that was our hero's name—leaped as he came up to the simple wooden fountain, which, as in most Bavarian villages, stood in the middle of the road.
A piece of black bread and a long draught from the fountain was Stephan's breakfast, which being speedily finished, he broke the morning stillness with repeated blasts from the horn, which seemed to awake the valley as by magic; for scarcely had the more distant mountains echoed the summons, than from almost every door-way scampered one or more goats. All hurried in the direction of the water-tank, where they stood on their hind legs to drink, jostled one another or frisked about in the highest spirits, till fully two hundred were assembled, rendering the street impassable. A peculiar cry from the boy and a sharp crack of the whip were the signals for a general move. Away they skipped helter-skelter through the town, along the accustomed road, high up the rocky mountain-side. The little animals were hungry, so stopped every now and then to nibble the attractive grassy tufts, long before the allotted feeding ground was reached. There was, however, little fear of losing them, as each wore a tiny bell round the neck, which, tinkling at every movement, warned the boy of the straggler; a call invariably brought it back, though often by a circuitous route, enabling the animal to keep beyond the reach of the whip, which Stephan lashed about with boyish enjoyment.
Noon found the goats encamped under the shade of some tall pine-trees, and Stephan Reindel was busily arranging a bunch of bright red cranberries at the side of his hat, when a shot arrested his attention. He jumped up, and with boyish curiosity explored the pine wood; but fearing to go too far on account of his flock, he was returning, when a second shot followed by a sharp cry, convinced him it was some hunter who had driven his game much lower down than was at all usual. The second report had sounded so near that he continued his fruitless search till it was time to go home, when, as usual, he drove his flock back by five o'clock.
Directly they entered the village, each goat trotted off to its own abode, and Stephan to his, where, after eating his supper of black bread and cheese, he sat listlessly watching his mother varnish violins, by which she earned a trifle every week. This was due to the kindness of the chief manufacturer in the village, who, since her husband's death, had supplied her regularly with some of the light work usually performed by women, and to which she was well accustomed, having frequently assisted her husband, who had been one of Herr Dahn's best workmen, and whose death had left her entirely dependent on her own exertions for the support of herself and child; for the last two years, however, Stephan had bravely earned his mite by taking daily care of the goats belonging to the whole valley. He was now discussing with his mother the possibility of his ever being able to maintain them both by following his father's trade of making guitars and violins, when a loud knock put the future to flight, and caused Stephan to open the door so suddenly that a very excited old woman came tumbling into the room.
"Oh! Bridgetta, how could you lean against the door?" said Frau Reindel, hastening to her assistance. "I hope you are not hurt, and do pray remember, in future, that our door opens inside, and that you must step down into the room. Sit down, neighbor," she added, placing a stool for the old woman, who was, however, far too angry to notice it; but turning toward Stephan, whom she unfortunately caught smiling, she pointed to her large fur cap, that had rolled some distance across the floor, saying: "Pick it up, boy, and don't stand grinning like that, especially as you must know why I have come here so late in the evening." Then snatching it from him, without heeding his apologies, she added: "Yes, indeed, you have more cause to cry than laugh. A pretty herd-boy you are, to come home without people's goats! sitting here as contentedly as if you had done your day's duty! You had better be more careful or you will certainly lose your work, if I have a voice in the village!"
Stephan and his mother stood aghast at this angry tirade, and it was only after repeated questions, sulkily answered, that they finally understood that her own goat was really missing. She had, as usual, gone into the stable to milk it, and after waiting in vain till past seven o'clock, she had come to tell Stephan he must at once seek for it among the neighbors' goats. He was quite willing, nay, anxious to do so, being unable to account in any way for its absence; for he could not remember having noticed the little gray goat with the white face since the early part of the morning. There was consequently nothing left to be done that night but to make an immediate inquiry at every house in the village. He did not return till past nine o'clock,—a very late hour in that primitive spot, where people usually rise at four or five and go to bed at eight. No one had seen the goat, but almost all blamed his carelessness, so that he was too unhappy to sleep, especially as he could not forget how distressed his poor mother looked, knowing, as she did, that somehow or other she must pay the value of the goat, though how such a sum was to be earned was beyond guessing.
A week passed, nothing was heard of the strayed one; Stephan had searched every possible spot up the mountain, and inquired of every person he met coming from the neighboring villages or beyond the frontier of the Tyrol,—but all in vain. A report had spread in the valley that he had lamed the goat with a stone, and so caused it to fall over a precipice. Many people believed this, which greatly increased the unhappiness of Stephan and his mother, though he had denied the charge most positively.
"I, at least, believe you, my son," said his mother, one day, when Bridgetta was present. "You never told me a lie, and I thank God for my truthful child, more than for all else."
"You can believe what you like," said Bridgetta, angrily; "but, as your boy has lost my goat, and as I am poor, and have already waited longer than I can afford, I must ask you to pay me by to-morrow evening, so that I may buy another, for you forget that I have done without milk all these days."
"No, I do not forget," said the widow, sadly. "I will do my best to get the money for you. It is right you should have your own, and you know I would have paid you at once had it been in my power. I will, however, see what I can do by to-morrow, so good-night."
As they walked home, they discussed for the hundredth time the impossibility of getting five florins; they could not save that sum in six months. "There is nothing to be done unless Herr Dahn would lend it to us," suggested Stephan. "We could pay him by degrees, and he is so rich that I dare say he would be satisfied with that."
"I have thought of asking him," replied the mother, "and, even if he refuses, he will do so kindly."
As she spoke, they saw the important little gentleman coming out of a house, and hastened to overtake him. He greeted them with the extreme politeness so noticeable among all classes in Bavaria, even in the remote villages. After hearing the widow's request, he stood musing a minute, looked up and down the street, took off his hat, and polished his bald head, ejaculating the usual "So! so!" then, as if a bright thought had cleared up all doubts, he said: "Now, don't you think it would be pleasanter and more independent if you gave something in exchange for the five florins? Something that can be of no use to yourself—your husband's tools, for instance? I will give you a fair price,—enough to pay for this unlucky goat, and something over for a rainy day. But, my good woman, what's the matter?" he added, seeing tears in her eyes and Stephan eagerly clutching her arm, as if to get her away.
"Nothing, sir, nothing; you are quite right; I had forgotten the tools would bring money; but you must excuse me if I do not decide till to-morrow, for my boy here has set his heart on being a guitar and zither maker, like his poor father, and always fancies he would work better with those tools."
"What! Stephan make violins? How is he ever to do that, when he spends all his days up the mountains? Have you not told me yourself that you cannot manage without his earnings?"
"Neither do I think we could, sir, or I should have tried it long ago, for it is hard for him to be minding goats, when he might be earning something to help him on in life."
"Can he do anything? Has he any taste for the work?"
"Yes, I think so; he generally works at it in the evening, and has made several small violins for Christmas gifts to the neighbors' children. But they are toys. Perhaps you would allow me to bring one to show you to-morrow," she ventured to add.
"Certainly, neighbor, but I don't promise anything, mind, except about the tools. I shall be at the warehouse at six o'clock. Be punctual. Good-evening."
"O, mother! Don't give him the tools. Give him anything else. There's my new green hat—my best jacket—I can easily do with the one I have on," said Stephan, anxiously, as he watched the receding figure of the rich man of the village.
"My dear child! of what use could your clothes be to the gentleman? He wants the tools. I am very sorry, but there is really nothing else of any value, and we have no right to borrow money when we can obtain it by the sacrifice of something we should like to keep. We must never hesitate to perform a plain duty, however disagreeable. So, now show yourself a brave boy, and help me to do this one cheerfully."
The next day, Stephan began his day's work with a determination to look on the bright side of his troubles. His goats, however, had in some way become a greater charge than he had ever felt them before. He feared to lose sight of one for an instant; so, what with racing after the stragglers and searching, as was now his habit, for the lost one, he was so tired and worn out by noonday, that instead of eating his dinner, he threw himself on the ground and cried bitterly. The goats sniffed round and round him, as if puzzled at the unwonted sounds. He often sang and whistled as he sat among them carving some rough semblance of animals with his pocket-knife, but these unmusical sounds were new to them and seemed to make them uneasy. A sudden pause in the monotonous tinkle of the little bells caused Stephan to raise his head, and he encountered the amused gaze of two gentlemen in the Bavarian hunting costume of coarse gray cloth and green facings; thick boots studded with huge nails and clamps to prevent slipping in the dangerous ascent after game; high-crowned hats, with little tufts of chamois beard as decoration and proof of former success; the younger of the two having, in addition, a bunch of pink Alpen-rose showing he must have climbed high up the mountains.
"What sort of music do you call that?" asked the latter, resting his gun-stock on the ground. "If you howl in that way, there will be no use hunting in your neighborhood for a month; you would frighten the tamest game over the frontier in five minutes. A little more of this music and there wont be a chamois for miles round. But what's the matter? Have you had a fight with your goats and got the worst of it? How many horns have been run through your body, and where are the wounds?"
Stephan had fancied that his goats were his only auditors, so felt thoroughly ashamed of himself, but jumping up, he answered with some spirit:
"I have not any wounds, sir, and should never cry if I had. I lost a goat some days ago and now my mother has to pay for it by giving up the only valuable thing she has in the world."
"That can't be yourself, then," said the young man, laughing; "for such a careless little chap would not be of much value, I should think. But tell us the story. When did you lose it?"
After listening to Stephan's account, the hunters spoke apart with each other for some minutes, and then the young one took out his purse and gave the astonished boy six florins—about ten English shillings.
"There, you can get a very good goat for that, but remember, no more howling, and if you ever find your own again, I shall expect you to repay me this money."
"That I will, indeed, gentlemen, and I thank you heartily," said the boy, so earnestly that both laughed, as, nodding him an adieu, they began descending the mountain, and were soon lost among the trees.
Stephan threw his hat into the air with a joyous cheer, and the echoes repeated his gleeful shout.
The day appeared very long, and glad enough he was when the sinking sun warned him that it was time to return. He found his mother dusting the tools, and looking sadder than he had ever seen her since his father died.
"We wont sell them, dear mother," he cried exultingly, dancing round the table and shaking the florins in his hat. "See what luck your blessing brought me this morning!" and he related his adventure with the hunters.
They at once started off to pay Bridgetta the five florins, and, as compensation for the loss of the milk for so many days, they offered her the extra florin, which she coldly and decidedly refused, asking no questions, and appearing very anxious to get rid of them. As they walked home, they entered the church for a few minutes, and, after reverently kneeling at one of the side altars, the widow dropped the remaining florin into the poor-box. It was the largest thank-offering she had ever been able to make in her life. The warehouse was at the corner of the street on the south side of the church, and as the clock struck six they hurried up the stairs of the long, low building, and entered a small room fitted up as an office. Herr Dahn was busily writing in a large ledger, but quitting it as they entered, he said approvingly:
"So here you are! That's right; business people should be punctual—never get on otherwise! But where are the tools?"
The widow told him all about the six florins, and then placing a toy violin on the counter, she asked him to give his opinion of it. He twisted the little instrument about, carefully examining the workmanship while he talked, and finally declared that it was a very fair specimen for a self-taught lad. He evidently thought more of it than he chose to say, for after some conversation with his foreman, to whom he showed the violin, he greatly astonished the poor woman by offering to take Stephan at once and place him under one of his best workmen if she could do without his earnings for a time, as of course the goats must be given up. Then, noticing the boy's delight and the mother's anxious, undecided countenance, he added before she could reply:
"Perhaps, if Stephan is steady and careful enough, I can trust him here alone every morning to sweep and dust the warehouses, for which I will pay him thirty kreutzers a week (nearly a shilling). I suppose he gets little more than that for tending the goats."
"Oh! thank you, sir," said the boy eagerly, anticipating his mother's reply, "I will, indeed, be careful and steady."
"Gently, boy, your mother is to decide."
"I cannot thank you enough, sir," she quickly answered. "Your offer is more than we had ever hoped for, and I trust my child's conduct will prove how grateful we both feel. He would like to begin at once, I know, but must, of course, wait a few days till another boy is found to take his place as herd-boy."
Herr Dahn nodded approvingly, and told them to let him know as soon as a substitute was found. How thankful they were that evening as they talked over the happy termination of their troubles, and still more so when a neighbor came in to tell them that Bridgetta and some others of the village had voted against Stephan continuing his post as herd, alleging that they feared to trust him any longer with their goats. This was, of course, very unpleasant news, for it was a sort of disgrace to be thus displaced, however undeserved. It also explained the cause of Bridgetta's extreme coolness and indifference as to how they had obtained the money. No wonder she was unfriendly after her action, which, but for the fresh turn affairs had taken, would have seriously injured them.
However, Stephan was now free to begin his new work the next day, when all arrangements were made, and he was introduced as an apprentice to his new master, Heinrich Brand.
Stephan had been with the violin-maker about six weeks, when one day the little Gretchen, his master's daughter, rushed in to tell them the cows were coming down from the Alp.
It is the custom in the Bavarian Tyrol to send the cows to small pastures high up among the mountains where the grass is green and plentiful, being watered by the dews and mists, and less exposed to the scorching sun. Here the cows remain all the summer under the care of two or three men, called "senner," or women, called "sennerinnen," who are always busily engaged making butter and cheese, and rarely come down to the valley, even for a day, till the season is over, when, collecting their tubs, milk-pans, and other dairy utensils, they descend the mountain with great rejoicings and consider the day a festival.
This return is an event of importance in every village. Brand, like his neighbors, hastened out with his little daughter, and told Stephan to follow them. The gay procession wound slowly along the main road, accompanied by a band of music playing a cheerful Tyrolese air. The cows came trooping along, decorated with garlands of wild flowers, preceded by peasants in their gayest costumes, carrying blue and white flags. The "sennerinnen" wore their brightest neckerchiefs and gowns, and seemed quite rejoiced to be down among their friends again.
Stephan joined his mother in the crowd, and they were in the full enjoyment of the scene when he suddenly exclaimed: "See, mother, there's the lost goat!" and sure enough there it was, limping along by the side of a "sennerin." One leg was evidently broken or severely injured, but otherwise the little animal looked well and fat.
Old Bridgetta had likewise seen it, and the three hastened to question the "sennerin," who seemed very glad to find the owner, and told them it had been brought to the Alp by a peasant, who gave her a florin to take care of it and bring it down to the village as soon as she could. He did not tell her where he had found it, or indeed any particulars, so she supposed the poor little thing had fallen over some precipice and broken its leg, which was, however, nearly well.
"Goats don't often fall in that way,—stones are much more likely to have caused the mischief," said Bridgetta, with a meaning look at Stephan, which was, however, only noticed by his mother, who replied:
"Well, Bridgetta, if you still think so badly of my boy, you can keep the money as a recompense for the damage done to your goat, though I am quite convinced he has had nothing to do with it Some day we shall hear the truth of the whole affair, and of that I make no doubt."
"I don't want your money," said the old woman, testily, "and shall return it as soon as I have sold the other goat;"—whereupon, she took the leading-string from the "sennerin" and hobbled off with her new-found property, apparently as little pleased as possible.
The next day, the five florins were sent back, and then Stephan told his mother, for the first time, how he had promised to return the money if he ever found the goat again. This now seemed impossible, for he knew neither the name nor address of the gentleman. The money was, therefore, put away safely, and the savings of a few months soon made up the original sum of six florins, but still nothing could be heard of the giver.
Time wore on, and the boy was rapidly becoming an expert workman. He had regularly swept the warehouse for three years, then finding he could earn more by violin-making during the time so occupied, he resigned in favor of a boy as poor as he had been. Brand had pronounced him quite worthy of regular work, having often tested his ability by leaving to him the most difficult parts of the instruments. He had made himself a zither, and could play all those national airs so peculiarly the property of the mountaineers, and which are so suited to the plaintive sweetness of that instrument.
Before Stephan was eighteen, his fame as a zither-player had spread far and wide; no marriage, or festival of any kind, was complete without his well-looking, good-humored face.
One day, Stephan was putting away his tools when he was sent for by a nobleman, who had stopped overnight at the village, and he soon came back with the news the Baron Liszt had engaged him to act as guide to the Krotten Kopf mountain the next day, and Brand was also wanted to help to carry the wraps and needful provisions.
Early in the morning the party started. The Baroness accompanied her husband, and there were one or two gentlemen with their wives. Stephan and Brand, laden with shawls, umbrellas, and knapsacks, then led the way with the slow, steady pace always adopted by the mountaineers, who know that speed avails nothing when great heights have to be climbed, as it cannot possibly be kept up, and only exhausts the strength at the onset. After climbing two hours, a turn in a very steep portion of the path brought them suddenly upon a green plateau, walled in, as it were, by mountain peaks, which looked of no particular height till the ascent began. Though the sun had scarcely set, yet, at such an elevation, the air was more than chilly, and as the Baroness put on a warm shawl she said, one could easily account for the fresh looks of the "sennerinnen," who spend the intensely hot months in so cool and healthful an atmosphere; for the Alps are never scorched and dried up as elsewhere during the summer. The Esterberg Alp, as it is called, consists of two large tracts of rich meadow, green and fresh as in our own fertile land, with a border of underwood straggling some distance up the mountain, and whence at midday issue the clear sounds of the musical cow-bells, the only signs of life in that wild, solitary spot.
They soon came in sight of a long low house, one-half of which was devoted to the cows and the hay. The earth around was trodden down and bare; a few flowers grew against the house-wall, and some milk-pans were ranged along it to dry. The door was opened by a wild-looking man devoid of shoes and coat; his long, shaggy hair looked as if it had never experienced the kindly influence of a comb or brush. He had evidently been roused from a heavy sleep, but soon understanding that they wished to spend the night in the hut, he told them, in a most singular German dialect, that the "oberschweizer," or chief, was away, but that he alone could arrange all that was needful; for he was accustomed to attend to the visitors who came there in the warm weather.
The "senner" prepared the meal, consisting of a large bowl full of a dark chopped pancake called "schmarren," often the only food of the cowherds for weeks together.
The next consideration was a resting-place. They had been warned that they would get nothing but hay, so it was no surprise when the "senner" led the ladies out to one side of the house, where, mounting a short ladder, he placed his lantern in the center of a large hay-loft, one side of which was open to the free air of heaven, which blew in, fresh and cool, as also it did from numerous chinks in the roof, through which the clear moonbeams shone, rendering the lantern a matter of form. The man proceeded to arrange the hay in heaps, so that each person could recline or sit, as most conducive to rest. Only those accustomed (as, indeed, most mountain climbers in Bavaria are) to spending a night half-buried in hay, can sleep. The hours of the night were spent by the ladies in laughing at one another and discussing the absurdity of spending a night ranged against the sides of a hay-loft, with heads tied up in handkerchiefs, like wounded soldiers in a hospital.
Meantime, the gentlemen sat outside enjoying their cigars by moonlight, and relating their hunting adventures. "Ah," said the Baron, after one of the stories, "that reminds me of a northern friend of mine who was staying with us some years ago. He was very short-sighted, but passionately fond of a hunt, so we made up several parties, at which he appeared in spectacles, to the great amusement of us all. He took our jokes in good part, and enjoyed himself without doing any mischief for a time. One unlucky day, however, I missed our path, and had to descend the mountain in search of some landmark from which to start afresh. Suddenly, with the exclamation: 'Hush! a chamois!' he leveled his rifle, and before I could say one word he had shot——a goat! He was too much vexed to laugh, so I had it all to myself, and it was some minutes before I could assist him to raise the little animal, whose leg was broken. The flock was not far off, and the herd-boy was evidently searching the wood, having heard the shot. Now it never would have done to let such an unsportsmanlike event get wind, so we carried the goat to some distance, when, meeting a peasant, we paid him to leave it at a hut on a neighboring Alp, and request it should be taken down to the valley at the first opportunity. I never mentioned the subject to any one but my brother Heinrich. Some time after, he was hunting in the same locality, and came upon a lad who was crying, with a regular mountain voice, for the loss of that very goat, for which it seemed his mother had to pay. I must confess, the consequence of kidnapping the animal for a time had never struck me, and I was therefore glad to know that my brother had given the lad money enough to pay all damages. But come, it is time we tried our hay-berths, for if we can't sleep we can rest."
Stephan, who had been eagerly listening, exclaimed: "Oh, please sir, wait a moment. I was that boy to whom the gentleman gave the money, and he told me he should expect it returned if I ever found the goat. Some time afterward I did find it, and I have always carried the money sewn into my coat-pocket in case I should meet the gentleman again when I am away from home, but I never did so; perhaps, sir, you will be kind enough to give it to him," he added, beginning to unfasten the little packet from the lining of his side-pocket.
Turning to Brand, the Baron asked if he knew anything of this romantic goat story.
"Yes, indeed, sir, and so does every one in the village, for the boy got into trouble with the neighbors, who all thought he had been throwing stones at the animal, and they even turned him out of his situation, but, as luck would have it, something else was offered the same day, so that it did not hurt him or his mother either."
"It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I had always wished to make violins and zithers, and owing to that accident I got my wish," said Stephan, in reply to the Baron's expressions of regret.
"As to the money," said the Baron, "we will make an exchange; you shall have my purse, which contains about ten florins, and I will take your little bag, just as it is, as a proof of Bavarian honesty and honor. We shall see more of one another," he added; "meantime, don't forget that we must be off by four in the morning. Good-night!"
The moon still shone when the travelers commenced their mountain journey. Slowly they wound their way round the ever-ascending path. About half-way up they came to a small rocky plain, where some young cattle were grazing. Their alarmed wild movements proved how rarely human beings passed their high-walled prison. From this point their climbing became a real labor, but before long they arrived at the summit, where, amidst much laughter and want of breath, they all threw themselves on the ground and gave vent to their satisfaction at being nearly 7,000 feet above the sea, and to their admiration of the glorious view.
But their stay on the summit was short, as they wished to make the descent of the mountain in one day. They did not reach Partenkirchen till nearly midnight, nor Mittenwald till the following day, where, of course, their adventures were related, and Stephan's story was soon the talk of the village. He became a perfect hero for the time, and many a neighbor shook hands and hoped he would forgive the doubt cast upon his word, although years had since passed and the goat of contention had been gathered to its fathers.
Some time after, a letter came to the Post Inn for Stephan, causing much curiosity in the village, as it was the first he had ever received. It came from the Baron, who offered him an excellent situation on his estate, under the forester, who, being childless and old, would not only instruct Stephan in his duties, but would soon leave the management in a great measure to him; moreover, he himself might hope to succeed as Forester, if he found the life suited to his taste. A week was given him for consideration. He did not at all like the idea of leaving his native place, to which he was attached with that intensity of feeling said to be peculiar to the mountaineers; but so good an offer was not to be refused, especially as Herr Dahn and Brand both approved of his going. So the letter was written to tell the Baron he would come in a few weeks, as requested. Meantime his old master gave him an order for a zither of the best quality, to be made of handsome wood, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and as the price was of no consequence, he was to make it quite a specimen instrument, to show how well he could work. Stephan was very much pleased with the commission, and when, at the end of three weeks, it was finished, his delight was great when Herr Dahn pronounced it "One of the very best he had ever had in his warehouse, and quite fit for the king." The day came for Stephan's departure, but it was not a sad one, as everything was arranged for him to return in three months to fetch Gretchen, his old master's daughter, who had promised to marry him, and Stephan's mother was to live with them.
Stephan's letters were most satisfactory. He liked the new life and the old Forester, and was sure Gretchen would admire the pretty houses, the large balcony, along the rails of which he was growing some of the beautiful dark carnations she was so fond of, and he knew she would rejoice to see the glowing mountain-peaks rising from the dark pine woods at sunset.
The wedding-day arrived at last, and in the course of the second evening,—for the festivities lasted two days,—some strangers staying in the village came up to see the dancing, which took place in a very large room in the inn. Among them was the Baron Liszt, who, after dancing the last waltz with Gretchen, requested the visitors would remain a few minutes, as he had something to show them.
A box was then brought in by the hostess, dressed in her best costume and fur cap. She placed it with much solemnity before the Baron, who lifted the lid, took out the beautiful zither that Stephan had made with such care, and handing it to the pretty, blushing Gretchen, he said he could offer her nothing better as a wedding gift than this specimen of her husband's talent, which he hoped she would always keep and use as a token of his respect and admiration for Bavarian honesty and truth. Then, shaking hands with them both, he took leave amidst loud acclamations and waving of hats; and so ended the wedding of Stephan and Gretchen.
TROUBLES IN HIGH LIFE.
BY MRS. J. G. BURNETT.
Two miniature mothers at play on the floor Their wearisome cares were debating, How Dora and Arabelle, children no more, Were twice as much trouble as ever before, And the causes each had her own cares to deplore Were, really, well worth my relating.
Said one little mother: "You really don't know What a burden my life is with Bella! Her stravagant habits I hope she'll outgrow. She buys her kid gloves by the dozen, you know, Sits for cartes de visites every fortnight or so, And don't do a thing that I tell her!"
Those stylish young ladies (the dollies, you know) Had complexions soft, pearly and waxen, With arms, neck and forehead, as white as the snow, Golden hair sweeping down to the waist and below, Eyes blue as the sky, cheeks with youth's ruddy glow,— Of a beauty pure Grecian and Saxon.
"Indeed!" said the other, "that's sad to be sure; But, ah," with a sigh, "no one guesses The cares and anxieties mothers endure. For though Dora appears so sedate and demure, She spends all the money that I can secure On her cloaks and her bonnets and dresses."
Then followed such prattle of fashion and style I smiled as I listened and wondered, And I thought, had I tried to repeat it erewhile, How these fair little Israelites, without guile, Would mock at my lack of their knowledge, and smile At the way I had stumbled and blundered.
And I thought, too, when each youthful mother had conned Her startling and touching narration, Of the dolls of which I in my childhood was fond, How with Dora and Arabelle they'd correspond, And how far dolls and children to-day are beyond Those we had in the last generation!
A TALE OF MANY TAILS.
BY KATHARINE B. FOOT.
Carry stood in the door-way with her dolly on one arm and her kitten hanging over the other. Kitty didn't look comfortable, but she bore up bravely, only once in a while giving a plaintive mew. Carry gazed into the bright white sunshine.
"It's melting hot," she said. "I guess, grandma, I'll take my doll and Friskarina out to the wash-house and have a party."
"Well," said grandma, looking over her spectacles, "I've no objection; only there's a black cloud coming up, and you may get caught out there in a thunder storm."
"If I do, can Jake come for me with an umbrella, and can I take off my shoes and stockings and come home barefoot?"
"Yes; I don't believe it would hurt you."
"Then I'll go;" and Carry picked up a box with a little tea-set in it, and started off, saying: "Do you believe it'll rain cats and dogs and pitchforks, grandma? That's what Jake says."
"No, my dear. You'd better ask him if he ever saw such a rain."
"So I will," and away went Carry through the sunshine. And she said to herself: "Wouldn't it be funny if it did rain so? I guess grandma wouldn't like it much if cats rained down, 'cause she says five cats are too many now."
The tea-party on an old chair without a back wasn't much of an affair, after all; for, although the doll—Miss Rose de Lorme—was propped up against a starch-box more than half a dozen times, she would keep on sliding feet first until she came down flat on her back and thumped her head. The kitten went to sleep in the corner just as Carry put her down.
"Oh, dear!" sighed the little girl. "It's so lonely with cats and dolls and things that can't talk!" And then she sat down in a corner by the old wash-boiler, where she could see out of the open door, and took Kitty into her lap.
The great fluffy clouds banked up higher and higher, and from being white and dazzling they began to grow black at the edges; and the black masses rolled up and up, until the sun was all hidden and the sky was dark. Then came the rain, gently at first, in drops far apart, but soon it fell faster and faster, and the little leaves on the currant-bushes jumped up and down and seemed to enjoy the shower-bath. To Carry's great delight, little streams began to creep over the path, now in separate little trickles, and presently with sudden little darts into one another, as they came to uneven places in the walk. She watched it all with great wide eyes, and felt quiet and cool just to smell the damp earth.
But soon the drops grew bigger, and all at once they weren't drops of rain at all!
"Good gracious!" cried Carry. "Kittens,—little blind kittens! It'll rain dogs next, I suppose!"
That's exactly what did happen; for down came puppies along with the kittens. They squirmed and mewed and hissed and yelped, and all the time kept growing bigger and bigger. Some came head first pawing the air as they fell; some tail first, looking scared to death; but most miserable of all were those that came down tumbling over and over. It made them so dizzy to come down in that whirligig fashion, that they staggered about when they tried to stand. Carry felt truly sorry for them, and yet she couldn't help laughing. And the cats and dogs who had come first laughed too.
"Dear me! That's sort of funny, isn't it?" she thought; but the surprise didn't last long, for, in the midst of a tremendous shower, down came two most remarkable figures, and, with them, what at first sight appeared to be several long sticks; but, on looking again, Carry saw these were pitchforks!
"Oh!" said she, "I thought they'd come."
Then she stared for a minute at the two odd figures, and cried: "Why! it's Mother Hubbard's dog and Puss in Boots!" And sure enough, so it was!
Puss had a blue velvet cloak on his shoulders, large boots, and a velvet cap with a long plume. He turned toward Carry and made her a low bow, gracefully doffing his hat.
"You are right, Mademoiselle," said he. "I am that renowned personage, and your humble servant. Permit me to add, Mademoiselle, that my eyes have not beheld a fairer damsel than they now rest upon, since last I saw my beloved mistress, the charming Marquise de Carabas."
Mother Hubbard's dog was dressed in a suit of fine old-fashioned clothes, and held tightly between his teeth a very short stemmed pipe from which he puffed great clouds of smoke.
He came up beside Puss, and said, without removing his pipe: "Stuff and nonsense! We don't talk so stupidly in our village. Don't waste your time in silly yarns, but let's settle this fight at once."
Puss turned away and, addressing Carry, said:
"Mademoiselle, this plebeian does not understand the language of court circles, to which I have been used for many years. Mademoiselle will pardon his ignorance." And here Puss rolled up his eyes and placed his hand upon his heart and bowed so low that he was actually standing on his head before he had finished. But he turned a graceful somersault and came right side up again in half a second, without looking at all disturbed.
"Sir!" said the dog, with dignity, "this matter should be settled at once, or the sun will be out, and then——" he stopped short and winked at Puss in a very knowing manner.
"Ah! that is true," replied the cat, "I had forgotten. Shall it be a general or a single combat?"
"Well," said the dog, gravely, sitting down on a large flower-pot nearby, "I think, as we have been wanting to fight this out for some time,—indeed, I may say, almost since time began,—we had better allow every one to have a tooth and a claw in it. Then, perhaps, this matter will be settled forever."
"Quite my opinion," responded Puss. "But first the ladies, infants, and weak and wounded, must be removed from the field."
"All right!" said the dog. "But look here. You first stop that, will you?" and he pointed to a fine gray cat that was rubbing herself against a large, comfortable-looking Newfoundland.
"Immediately," said Puss, and he bawled in a loud voice: "There is to be no friendly intercourse between soldiers of the two armies. It is in the highest degree detrimental to military discipline."
And the dog shouted: "Stop being pleasant to each other, right off. I can't have it. You always have fought, and you've got to fight now."
The big Newfoundland at once made a snap at the gray cat, and she put up her back, spit and clawed at him, and ran off as fast as she could.
Then Puss waved his handkerchief, as a flag of truce, and said in a loud voice, "There will be a cessation of hostilities for five minutes, until the non-combatants are removed."
The able-bodied cats arranged themselves in rows, and the dogs did the same. The two generals stepped grandly in front of the lines, and the battle seemed about to begin, when a young and frisky cat, at the far end of the front rank, took advantage of a dog opposite who had turned his head, and jumped upon his back, clawing him in so cruel a way that he howled dreadfully.
At this, Mother Hubbard's dog advanced angrily, and taking the cat by the nape of the neck, threw her among the cat army, saying: "The trumpet hasn't sounded, and we haven't begun yet. That was a real sneaky trick, just like a cat."
"Sir!" cried Puss in Boots, loftily, "Do you mean to insinuate that I am a sneak?"
"I didn't say so precisely," returned the dog. "But if you want me to, I will." Then he added, in a taunting tone, "You are a sneak!"
Puss trembled with rage at this insult, and drew the little sword he wore at his side.
"Prove it!" he cried, brandishing his blade.
"Didn't you sneak yourself and your master into a castle and fine clothes that you had no right to?"
"Didn't you pretend to be dead once and frighten your poor mistress nearly out of her wits? Take that, sir!" and he made a furious cut at him.
But the dog dodged the weapon, and, with a cutlass suddenly pulled from behind him, made a fierce blow at the cat. Puss leaped nimbly away, with a scream of triumph and defiance. Then they set to with all their skill and hate and cunning.
Presently Puss fell, apparently dead, and Sir John Hubbard, the victor, was leaning on his cutlass, looking sorry, when suddenly Puss jumped up, grasped his sword and made a savage lunge at the dog. "That was only one of my lives!" he screamed. "I have eight left. Cats have nine lives, but you—you miserable dog—have only one."
Then they fought worse than ever, and neither seemed willing to yield.
But the fight ended in a strange way. Just as the dog again laid Puss low, a tremendous shower of pitchforks fell, beating on everything with dreadful effect. Sir John saved himself by getting under a tree, but poor Puss couldn't move to a shelter, and his remaining seven lives were being rapidly knocked out of him, when the brave dog rushed out into the storm and proved himself a generous foe by shielding Puss from the pitchforks with his own body.
"You are a dear good dog!" cried Carry. "I always loved you the best!" But even as she was speaking there came a terrific clap of thunder, and her own cat, who had been trembling with fear, sprang to her shoulder and buried her claws there and as Carry shrieked with fright and pain, Jake was holding her in his arms.
"Were you frightened, out here all alone?" said he. "I was busy and I didn't think you'd mind the rain; but when the thunder began I came out quick."
"Rain?" said Carry, "I don't mind rain, Jake; but I don't like it to rain cats and dogs when they fight. Why, where are they?" She lifted her face from Jake's shoulder, and looked about her amazed, for not a cat was to be seen nor a dog, but only the steady rain, pouring straight down.
"Cats and dogs!" said Jake, laughing.
"And pitchforks, too, Jake,—yes, really!"
"Well," said Jake; "if you aint the most curious little gal!"
But Carry don't think she is half as curious as other people are who wont believe what she saw with her own eyes.
UNDER THE LILACS.
BY LOUISA M. ALCOTT.
Bab and Betty had been playing in the avenue all the afternoon, several weeks later, but as the shadows began to lengthen both agreed to sit upon the gate and rest while waiting for Ben, who had gone nutting with a party of boys. When they played house, Bab was always the father, and went hunting or fishing with great energy and success, bringing home all sorts of game, from elephants and crocodiles to humming-birds and minnows. Betty was the mother, and a most notable little housewife, always mixing up imaginary delicacies with sand and dirt in old pans and broken china, which she baked in an oven of her own construction.
Both had worked hard that day, and were glad to retire to their favorite lounging-place, where Bab was happy trying to walk across the wide top bar without falling off, and Betty enjoyed slow, luxurious swings while her sister was recovering from her tumbles. On this occasion, having indulged their respective tastes, they paused for a brief interval of conversation, sitting side by side on the gate like a pair of plump gray chickens gone to roost.
"Don't you hope Ben will get his bag full? We shall have such fun eating nuts evenings," observed Bab, wrapping her arms in her apron, for it was October now, and the air was growing keen.
"Yes, and Ma says we may boil some in our little kettles. Ben promised we should have half," answered Betty, still intent on her cookery.
"I shall save some of mine for Thorny."
"I shall keep lots of mine for Miss Celia."
"Doesn't it seem more than two weeks since she went away?"
"I wonder what she'll bring us."
Before Bab could conjecture, the sound of a step and a familiar whistle made both look expectantly toward the turn in the road, all ready to cry out with one voice, "How many have you got?" Neither spoke a word, however, for the figure which presently appeared was not Ben, but a stranger,—a man who stopped whistling, and came slowly on, dusting his shoes in the way-side grass, and brushing the sleeves of his shabby velveteen coat as if anxious to freshen himself up a bit.
"It's a tramp, let's run away," whispered Betty, after a hasty look.
"I aint afraid," and Bab was about to assume her boldest look when a sneeze spoiled it, and made her clutch the gate to hold on.
At that unexpected sound the man looked up, showing a thin, dark face, with a pair of sharp, black eyes, which surveyed the little girls so steadily that Betty quaked, and Bab began to wish she had at least jumped down inside the gate.
"How are you?" said the man with a good-natured nod and smile, as if to re-assure the round-eyed children staring at him.
"Pretty well, thank you, sir," responded Bab, politely nodding back at him.
"Folks at home?" asked the man, looking over their heads toward the house.
"Only Ma; all the rest are gone to be married."
"That sounds lively. At the other place all the folks had gone to a funeral," and the man laughed as he glanced at the big house on the hill.
"Why, do you know the Squire?" exclaimed Bab, much surprised and re-assured.
"Come on purpose to see him. Just strolling round till he gets back," with an impatient sort of sigh.
"Betty thought you was a tramp, but I wasn't afraid. I like tramps ever since Ben came," explained Bab, with her usual candor.
"Who's Ben?" and the man came nearer so quickly that Betty nearly fell backward. "Don't you be scared, Sissy. I like little girls, so you set easy and tell me about Ben," he added, in a persuasive tone, as he leaned on the gate, so near that both could see what a friendly face he had in spite of its eager, anxious look.
"Ben is Miss Celia's boy. We found him almost starved in the coach-house, and he's been living near here ever since," answered Bab, comprehensively.
"Tell me all about it. I like tramps too," and the man looked as if he did, very much, as Bab told the little story in a few childish words that were better than a much more elegant account.
"You were very good to the little feller," was all the man said when she ended her somewhat confused tale, in which she had jumbled the old coach and Miss Celia, dinner-pails and nutting, Sancho and circuses.
"Course we were! He's a nice boy and we are fond of him, and he likes us," said Bab, heartily.
"'Specially me," put in Betty, quite at ease now, for the black eyes had softened wonderfully, and the brown face was smiling all over.
"Don't wonder a mite. You are the nicest pair of little girls I've seen this long time," and the man put a hand on either side of them, as if he wanted to hug the chubby children. But he didn't do it; he merely rubbed his hands and stood there asking questions till the two chatter-boxes had told him everything there was to tell, in the most confiding manner, for he very soon ceased to seem like a stranger, and looked so familiar that Bab, growing inquisitive in her turn, suddenly said:
"Haven't you ever been here before? It seems as if I'd seen you."
"Never in my life. Guess you've seen somebody that looks like me," and the black eyes twinkled for a minute as they looked into the puzzled little faces before him. Then he said, soberly:
"I'm looking round for a likely boy; don't you think this Ben would suit me? I want just such a lively sort of chap."
"Are you a circus man?" asked Bab, quickly.
"Well, no, not now. I'm in better business."
"I'm glad of it—we don't approve of 'em; but I do think they're splendid!"
Bab began by gravely quoting Miss Celia, and ended with an irrepressible burst of admiration which contrasted drolly with her first remark.
Betty added anxiously, "We can't let Ben go, any way. I know he wouldn't want to, and Miss Celia would feel bad. Please don't ask him."
"He can do as he likes, I suppose. He hasn't got any folks of his own, has he?"
"No, his father died in California, and Ben felt so bad he cried, and we were real sorry, and gave him a piece of Ma, 'cause he was so lonesome," answered Betty, in her tender little voice, with a pleading look which made the man stroke her smooth cheek and say, quite softly:
"Bless your heart for that! I wont take him away, child, or do a thing to trouble anybody that's been good to him."
"He's coming now. I hear Sanch barking at the squirrels!" cried Bab, standing up to get a good look down the road.
The man turned quickly, and Betty saw that he breathed fast as he watched the spot where the low sunshine lay warmly on the red maple at the corner. Into this glow came unconscious Ben, whistling "Rory O'Moore," loud and clear, as he trudged along with a heavy bag of nuts over his shoulder and the light full on his contented face. Sancho trotted before and saw the stranger first, for the sun in Ben's eyes dazzled him. Since his sad loss Sancho cherished a strong dislike to tramps, and now he paused to growl and show his teeth, evidently intending to warn this one off the premises.
"He wont hurt you——" began Bab, encouragingly; but before she could add a chiding word to the dog, Sanch gave an excited howl, and flew at the man's throat as if about to throttle him.
Betty screamed, and Bab was about to go to the rescue when both perceived that the dog was licking the stranger's face in an ecstasy of joy, and heard the man say as he hugged the curly beast:
"Good old Sanch! I knew he wouldn't forget master, and he doesn't."
"What's the matter?" called Ben, coming up briskly, with a strong grip of his stout stick.
There was no need of any answer, for, as he came into the shadow, he saw the man, and stood looking at him as if he were a ghost.
"It's father, Benny; don't you know me?" asked the man, with an odd sort of choke in his voice as he thrust the dog away, and held out both hands to the boy.
Down dropped the nuts, and crying, "Oh, Daddy, Daddy!" Ben cast himself into the arms of the shabby velveteen coat, while poor Sanch tore round them in distracted circles, barking wildly, as if that was the only way in which he could vent his rapture.
What happened next, Bab and Betty never stopped to see, but, dropping from their roost, they went flying home like startled Chicken Littles with the astounding news that "Ben's father has come alive, and Sancho knew him right away!"
Mrs. Moss had just got her cleaning done up, and was resting a minute before setting the table, but she flew out of her old rocking-chair when the excited children told the wonderful tale, exclaiming as they ended:
"Where is he? Go bring him here. I declare it fairly takes my breath away!"
Before Bab could obey, or her mother compose herself, Sancho bounced in and spun round like an insane top, trying to stand on his head, walk upright, waltz and bark all at once, for the good old fellow had so lost his head that he forgot the loss of his tail.
"They are coming! they are coming! See, Ma, what a nice man he is," said Bab, hopping about on one foot as she watched the slowly approaching pair.
"My patience, don't they look alike! I should know he was Ben's Pa anywhere!" said Mrs. Moss, running to the door in a hurry.
They certainly did resemble one another, and it was almost comical to see the same curve in the legs, the same wide-awake style of wearing the hat, the same sparkle of the eye, good-natured smile and agile motion of every limb. Old Ben carried the bag in one hand while young Ben held the other fast, looking a little shame-faced at his own emotion now, for there were marks of tears on his cheeks, but too glad to repress the delight he felt that he had really found Daddy this side heaven.
Mrs. Moss unconsciously made a pretty little picture of herself as she stood at the door with her honest face shining and both hands out, saying in a hearty tone, which was a welcome in itself:
"I'm real glad to see you safe and well, Mr. Brown! Come right in and make yourself to home. I guess there isn't a happier boy living than Ben is to-night."
"And I know there isn't a gratefuler man living than I am for your kindness to my poor forsaken little feller," answered Mr. Brown, dropping both his burdens to give the comely woman's hands a hard shake.
"Now don't say a word about it, but sit down and rest, and we'll have tea in less 'n no time. Ben must be tired and hungry, though he's so happy I don't believe he knows it," laughed Mrs. Moss, bustling away to hide the tears in her eyes, anxious to make things sociable and easy all round.
With this end in view she set forth her best china, and covered the table with food enough for a dozen, thanking her stars that it was baking day, and everything had turned out well. Ben and his father sat talking by the window till they were bidden to "draw up and help themselves" with such hospitable warmth that everything had an extra relish to the hungry pair.
Ben paused occasionally to stroke the rusty coat-sleeve with bread-and-buttery fingers to convince himself that "Daddy" had really come, and his father disposed of various inconvenient emotions by eating as if food was unknown in California. Mrs. Moss beamed on every one from behind the big tea-pot like a mild full moon, while Bab and Betty kept interrupting one another in their eagerness to tell something new about Ben and how Sanch lost his tail.
"Now you let Mr. Brown talk a little; we all want to hear how he 'came alive,' as you call it," said Mrs. Moss, as they drew round the fire in the "settin'-room," leaving the tea-things to take care of themselves.
It was not a long story, but a very interesting one to this circle of listeners: all about the wild life on the plains, trading for mustangs, the terrible blow that nearly killed Ben, senior, the long months of unconsciousness in the California hospital, the slow recovery, the journey back, Mr. Smithers's tale of the boy's disappearance, and then the anxious trip to find out from Squire Allen where he now was.
"I asked the hospital folks to write and tell you as soon as I knew whether I was on my head or my heels, and they promised; but they didn't; so I came off the minute I could, and worked my way back, expecting to find you at the old place. I was afraid you'd have worn out your welcome here and gone off again, for you are as fond of traveling as your father."
"I wanted to, sometimes, but the folks here were so dreadful good to me I couldn't," confessed Ben, secretly surprised to find that the prospect of going off with Daddy even cost him a pang of regret, for the boy had taken root in the friendly soil, and was no longer a wandering thistle-down, tossed about by every wind that blew.
"I know what I owe 'em, and you and me will work out that debt before we die, or our name isn't B.B.," said Mr. Brown, with an emphatic slap on his knee, which Ben imitated half unconsciously as he exclaimed heartily:
"That's so!" adding, more quietly, "What are you going to do now? Go back to Smithers and the old work?"
"Not likely, after the way he treated you, Sonny. I've had it out with him, and he wont want to see me again in a hurry," answered Mr. Brown, with a sudden kindling of the eye that reminded Bab of Ben's face when he shook her after losing Sancho.
"There's more circuses than his in the world; but I'll have to limber out ever so much before I'm good for much in that line," said the boy, stretching his stout arms and legs with a curious mixture of satisfaction and regret.
"You've been living in clover and got fat, you rascal," and his father gave him a poke here and there, as Mr. Squeers did the plump Wackford, when displaying him as a specimen of the fine diet at Do-the-boys Hall. "Don't believe I could put you up now if I tried, for I haven't got my strength back yet, and we are both out of practice. It's just as well, for I've about made up my mind to quit the business and settle down somewhere for a spell, if I can get anything to do," continued the rider, folding his arms and gazing thoughtfully into the fire.
"I shouldn't wonder a mite if you could right here, for Mr. Towne has a great boarding-stable over yonder, and he's always wanting men," said Mrs. Moss, eagerly, for she dreaded to have Ben go, and no one could forbid it if his father chose to take him away.
"That sounds likely. Thanky, ma'am. I'll look up the concern and try my chance. Would you call it too great a come-down to have father an 'ostler after being first rider in the 'Great Golden Menagerie, Circus, and Colosseum,' hey Ben?" asked Mr. Brown, quoting the well-remembered show-bill with a laugh.
"No, I shouldn't; it's real jolly up there when the big barn is full and eighty horses have to be taken care of. I love to go and see 'em. Mr. Towne asked me to come and be stable-boy when I rode the kicking gray the rest were afraid of. I hankered to go, but Miss Celia had just got my new books, and I knew she'd feel bad if I gave up going to school. Now I'm glad I didn't, for I get on first rate and like it."
"You done right, boy, and I'm pleased with you. Don't you ever be ungrateful to them that befriended you, if you want to prosper. I'll tackle the stable business a Monday and see what's to be done. Now I ought to be walking, but I'll be round in the morning, ma'am, if you can spare Ben for a spell to-morrow. We'd like to have a good Sunday tramp and talk; wouldn't we, Sonny?" and Mr. Brown rose to go, with his hand on Ben's shoulder, as if loth to leave him even for the night.
Mrs. Moss saw the longing in his face, and forgetting that he was an utter stranger, spoke right out of her hospitable heart.
"It is a long piece to the tavern, and my little back bed-room is always ready. It wont make a mite of trouble if you don't mind a plain place, and you are heartily welcome."
Mr. Brown looked pleased, but hesitated to accept any further favor from the good soul who had already done so much for him and his. Ben gave him no time to speak, however, for running to a door he flung it open and beckoned, saying, eagerly:
"Do stay, father; it will be so nice to have you. This is a tip-top room; I slept here the night I came, and that bed was just splendid after bare ground for a fortnight."
"I'll stop, and as I'm pretty well done up, I guess we may as well turn in now," answered the new guest; then, as if the memory of that homeless little lad so kindly cherished made his heart overflow in spite of him, Mr. Brown paused at the door to say hastily, with his hands on Bab and Betty's heads, as if his promise was a very earnest one:
"I don't forget, ma'am, and these children shall never want a friend while Ben Brown's alive;" then he shut the door so quickly that the other Ben's prompt "Hear, hear!" was cut short in the middle.
"I s'pose he means that we shall have a piece of Ben's father, because we gave Ben a piece of our mother," said Betty, softly.
"Of course he does, and it's all fair," answered Bab, decidedly. "Isn't he a nice man, Ma?"
"Go to bed, children," was all the answer she got; but when they were gone, Mrs. Moss, as she washed up her dishes, more than once glanced at a certain nail where a man's hat had not hung for five years, and thought with a sigh what a natural, protecting air that slouched felt had.
If one wedding were not quite enough for a child's story, we might here hint what no one dreamed of then, that before the year came round again Ben had found a mother, Bab and Betty a father, and Mr. Brown's hat was quite at home behind the kitchen door. But, on the whole, it is best not to say a word about it.
THE GREAT GATE IS OPENED.
The Browns were up and out so early next morning that Bab and Betty were sure they had run away in the night. But on looking for them, they were discovered in the coach-house criticising Lita, both with their hands in their pockets, both chewing straws, and looking as much alike as a big elephant and a small one.
"That's as pretty a little span as I've seen for a long time," said the elder Ben, as the children came trotting down the path hand in hand, with the four blue bows at the ends of their braids bobbing briskly up and down.
"The nigh one is my favorite, but the off one is the best goer, though she's dreadfully hard bitted," answered Ben the younger, with such a comical assumption of a jockey's important air that his father laughed as he said in an undertone:
"Come, boy, we must drop the old slang since we've given up the old business. These good folks are making a gentleman of you, and I wont be the one to spoil their work. Hold on, my dears, and I'll show you how they say good-morning in California," he added, beckoning to the little girls, who now came up rosy and smiling.
"Breakfast is ready, sir," said Betty, looking much relieved to find them.
"We thought you'd run away from us," explained Bab, as both put out their hands to shake those extended to them.
"That would be a mean trick. But I'm going to run away with you," and Mr. Brown whisked a little girl to either shoulder before they knew what had happened, while Ben, remembering the day, with difficulty restrained himself from turning a series of triumphant somersaults before them all the way to the door, where Mrs. Moss stood waiting for them.
After breakfast, Ben disappeared for a short time, and returned in his Sunday suit, looking so neat and fresh that his father surveyed him with surprise and pride as he came in full of boyish satisfaction in his trim array.
"Here's a smart young chap! Did you take all that trouble just to go to walk with old Daddy?" asked Mr. Brown, stroking the smooth head, for they were alone just then, Mrs. Moss and the children being upstairs preparing for church.
"I thought may be you'd like to go to meeting first," answered Ben, looking up at him with such a happy face that it was hard to refuse anything.
"I'm too shabby, Sonny, else I'd go in a minute to please you."
"Miss Celia said God didn't mind poor clothes, and she took me when I looked worse than you do. I always go in the morning; she likes to have me," said Ben, turning his hat about as if not quite sure what he ought to do.
"Do you want to go?" asked his father in a tone of surprise.
"I want to please her, if you don't mind. We could have our tramp this afternoon."
"I haven't been to meeting since mother died, and it don't seem to come easy, though I know I ought to, seeing I'm alive and here," and Mr. Brown looked soberly out at the lovely autumn-world as if glad to be in it after his late danger and pain.
"Miss Celia said church was a good place to take our troubles, and to be thankful in. I went when I thought you were dead, and now I'd love to go when I've got my Daddy safe again."
No one saw him, so Ben could not resist giving his father a sudden hug, which was warmly returned as the man said earnestly:
"I'll go, and thank the Lord hearty for giving me back my boy better'n I left him!"
For a minute, nothing was heard but the loud tick of the old clock and a mournful whine from Sancho, shut up in the shed lest he should go to church without an invitation.
Then, as steps were heard on the stairs, Mr. Brown caught up his hat, saying hastily:
"I ain't fit to go with them, you tell 'em, and I'll slip into a back seat after folks are in. I know the way." And, before Ben could reply, he was gone.
Nothing was seen of him along the way, but he saw the little party, and rejoiced again over his boy, changed so greatly for the better; for Ben was the one thing which had kept his heart soft through all the trials and temptations of a rough life.
"I promised Mary I'd do my best for the poor baby she had to leave, and I tried, but I guess a better friend than I am has been raised up for him when he needed her most. It wont hurt me to follow him in this road," thought Mr. Brown as he came out into the highway from his stroll "across lots," feeling that it would be good for him to stay in this quiet place for his own as well as for his son's sake.
The bell had done ringing when he reached the green, but a single boy sat on the steps and ran to meet him, saying with a reproachful look:
"I wasn't going to let you be alone and have folks think I was ashamed of my father. Come, Daddy, we'll sit together."
So Ben led his father straight to the Squire's pew, and sat beside him with a face so full of innocent pride and joy that people would have suspected the truth if he had not already told many of them. Mr. Brown, painfully conscious of his shabby coat, was rather "taken aback," as he expressed it, but the Squire's shake of the hand and Mrs. Allen's gracious nod enabled him to face the eyes of the interested congregation, the younger portion of which stared steadily at him all sermon time, in spite of paternal frowns and maternal tweakings in the rear.
But the crowning glory of the day came after church, when the Squire said to Ben, and Sam heard him:
"I've got a letter for you from Miss Celia. Come home with me and bring your father. I want to talk to him."
The boy proudly escorted his parent to the old carry-all, and tucking himself in behind with Mrs. Allen, had the satisfaction of seeing the slouched felt hat side by side with the Squire's Sunday beaver in front, as they drove off at such an unusually smart pace that, it was evident, Duke knew there was a critical eye upon him. The interest taken in the father was owing to the son at first, but, by the time the story was told, old Ben had won friends for himself, not only because of the misfortunes which he had evidently borne in a manly way, but because of his delight in the boy's improvement, and the desire he felt to turn his hand to any honest work, that he might keep Ben happy and contented in this good home.
"I'll give you a line to Towne. Smithers spoke well of you, and your own ability will be the best recommendation," said the Squire, as he parted from them at his door, having given Ben the letter.
Miss Celia had been gone a fortnight, and every one was longing to have her back. The first week brought Ben a newspaper, with a crinkly line drawn round the "marriages" to attract attention to that spot, and one was marked by a black frame with a large hand pointing at it from the margin. Thorny sent that, but the next week came a parcel for Mrs. Moss, and in it was discovered a box of wedding-cake for every member of the family, including Sancho, who ate his at one gulp and chewed up the lace paper which covered it. This was the third week, and as if there could not be happiness enough crowded into it for Ben, the letter he read on his way home told him that his dear mistress was coming back on the following Saturday. One passage particularly pleased him:
"I want the great gate opened, so that the new master may go in that way. Will you see that it is done, and all made neat afterward. Ronda will give you the key, and you may have out all your flags if you like, for the old place cannot look too gay for this home-coming."
Sunday though it was, Ben could not help waving the letter over his head as he ran in to tell Mrs. Moss the glad news, and begin at once to plan the welcome they would give Miss Celia, for he never called her anything else.
During their afternoon stroll in the mellow sunshine, Ben continued to talk of her, never tired of telling about his happy summer under her roof. And Mr. Brown was never weary of hearing, for every hour showed him more plainly what a lovely miracle her gentle words had wrought, and every hour increased his gratitude, his desire to return the kindness in some humble way. He had his wish, and did his part handsomely when he least expected to have a chance.
On Monday he saw Mr. Towne, and, thanks to the Squire's good word, was engaged for a month on trial, making himself so useful that it was soon evident he was the right man in the right place. He lived on the hill, but managed to get down to the little brown house in the evening for a word with Ben, who just now was as full of business as if the President and his Cabinet were coming.
Everything was put in apple-pie order in and about the old house; the great gate, with much creaking of rusty hinges and some clearing away of rubbish, was set wide open, and the first creature who entered it was Sancho, solemnly dragging the dead mullein which long ago had grown above the top of it. October frosts seemed to have spared some of the brightest leaves for this especial occasion, and on Saturday the gate-way was decorated with gay wreaths, red and yellow sprays strewed the flags, and the porch was a blaze of color with the red woodbine, that was in its glory when the honeysuckle was leafless.
Fortunately, it was a half-holiday, so the children could trim and chatter to their hearts' content, and the little girls ran about sticking funny decorations where no one would ever think of looking for them. Ben was absorbed in his flags, which were sprinkled all down the avenue with a lavish display, suggesting several Fourth-of-Julys rolled into one. Mr. Brown had come down to lend a hand, and did so most energetically, for the break-neck things he did with his son during the decoration fever would have terrified Mrs. Moss out of her wits if she had not been in the house giving last touches to every room, while Ronda and Katy set forth a sumptuous tea.
All was going well, and the train would be due in an hour, when luckless Bab nearly turned the rejoicing into mourning, the feast into ashes. She heard her mother say to Ronda, "There ought to be a fire in every room, it looks so cheerful, and the air is chilly spite of the sunshine," and never waiting to hear the reply that some of the long-unused chimneys were not safe till cleaned, off went Bab with an apron full of old shingles and made a roaring blaze in the front room fire-place, which was of all others the one to be let alone, as the flue was out of order. Charmed with the brilliant light and the crackle of the tindery fuel, Miss Bab refilled her apron and fed the fire till the chimney began to rumble ominously, sparks to fly out at the top, and soot and swallows' nests to come tumbling down upon the hearth. Then, scared at what she had done, the little mischief-maker hastily buried her fire, swept up the rubbish, and ran off, thinking no one would discover her prank if she never told.
Everybody was very busy, and the big chimney blazed and rumbled unnoticed till the cloud of smoke caught Ben's eye as he festooned his last effort in the flag line, part of an old sheet with the words "Father has come!" in red cambric letters, half a foot long, sewed upon it.
"Hullo, I do believe they've got up a bonfire without asking my leave! Miss Celia never would let us, because the sheds and roofs are so old and dry; I must see about it. Catch me, Daddy, I'm coming down!" cried Ben, dropping out of the elm with no more thought of where he might alight than a squirrel swinging from bough to bough.
His father caught him, and followed in haste as his nimble-footed son raced up the avenue, to stop in the gate-way, frightened at the prospect before him, for falling sparks had already kindled the roof here and there, and the chimney smoked and roared like a small volcano, while Katy's wails and Ronda's cries for water came from within.
"Up there, with wet blankets, while I get out the hose!" cried Mr. Brown, as he saw at a glance what the danger was.
Ben vanished, and, before his father got the garden hose rigged, he was on the roof with a dripping blanket over the worst spot. Mrs. Moss had her wits about her in a minute, and ran to put in the fire-board and stop the draught. Then, stationing Ronda to watch that the falling cinders did no harm inside, she hurried off to help Mr. Brown, who might not know where things were. But he had roughed it so long that he was the man for emergencies, and seemed to lay his hand on whatever was needed, by a sort of instinct. Finding that the hose was too short to reach the upper part of the roof, he was on the roof in a jiffy with two pails of water, and quenched the most dangerous flames before much harm was done. This he kept up till the chimney burned itself out, while Ben dodged about among the gables with a watering-pot, lest some stray sparks should be overlooked and break out afresh.
While they worked there, Betty ran to and fro with a dipper of water trying to help, and Sancho barked violently, as if he objected to this sort of illumination. But where was Bab, who reveled in flurries? No one missed her till the fire was out, and the tired, sooty people met to talk over the danger just escaped.
"Poor Miss Celia wouldn't have had a roof over her head if it hadn't been for you, Mr. Brown," said Mrs. Moss, sinking into a kitchen chair, pale with the excitement.
"It would have burnt lively, but I guess it's all right now. Keep an eye on the roof, Ben, and I'll step up garret and see if all's safe there. Didn't you know that chimney was foul, ma'am?" asked the man, as he wiped the perspiration off his grimy face.
"Ronda said it was, and I'm surprised she made a fire there," began Mrs. Moss, looking at the maid, who just then came in with a pan full of soot.
"Bless you, ma'am, I never thought of such a thing, nor Katy neither. That naughty Bab must have done it, and so don't dar'st to show herself," answered the irate Ronda, whose nice room was in a mess.
"Where is the child?" asked her mother, and a hunt was immediately instituted by Betty and Sancho, while the elders cleared up.
Anxious Betty searched high and low, called and cried, but all in vain, and was about to sit down in despair, when Sancho made a bolt into his new kennel and brought out a shoe with a foot in it, while a doleful squeal came from the straw within.
"Oh, Bab, how could you do it? Ma was frightened dreadfully," said Betty, gently tugging at the striped leg, as Sancho poked his head in for another shoe.
"Is it all burnt up!" demanded a smothered voice from the recesses of the kennel.
"Only pieces of the roof. Ben and his father put it out, and I helped," answered Betty, cheering up a little as she recalled her noble exertions.
"What do they do to folks who set houses afire?" asked the voice again.
"I don't know; but you needn't be afraid; there isn't much harm done, I guess, and Miss Celia will forgive you, she's so good."
"Thorny wont; he calls me a 'botheration,' and I guess I am," mourned the unseen culprit, with sincere contrition.
"I'll ask him; he is always good to me. They will be here pretty soon, so you'd better come out and be made tidy," suggested the comforter.
"I never can come out, for every one will hate me," sobbed Bab among the straw; and she pulled in her foot, as if retiring forever from an outraged world.
"Ma wont, she's too busy cleaning up; so it's a good time to come. Let's run home, wash our hands, and be all nice when they see us. I'll love you, no matter what anybody else does," said Betty, consoling the poor little sinner, and proposing the sort of repentance most likely to find favor in the eyes of the agitated elders.
"P'r'aps I'd better go home, for Sanch will want his bed," and Bab gladly availed herself of that excuse to back out of her refuge, a very crumpled, dusty young lady, with a dejected face, and much straw sticking in her hair.
Betty led her sadly away, for she still protested that she never should dare to meet the offended public again; but in fifteen minutes both appeared in fine order and good spirits, and naughty Bab escaped a lecture for the time being, as the train would soon be due.
At the first sound of the car whistle every one turned good-natured as if by magic, and flew to the gate, smiling as if all mishaps were forgiven and forgotten. Mrs. Moss, however, slipped quietly away, and was the first to greet Miss Celia as the carriage stopped at the entrance of the avenue, so that the luggage might go in by way of the lodge.
"We will walk up and you shall tell us the news as we go, for I see you have some," said the young lady, in her friendly manner, when Mrs. Moss had given her welcome and paid her respects to the gentleman, who shook hands in a way that convinced her he was indeed what Thorny called him, "regularly jolly," though he was a minister.
That being exactly what she came for, the good woman told her tidings as rapidly as possible, and the new-comers were so glad to hear of Ben's happiness they made very light of Bab's bonfire, though it had come near burning their house down.
"We wont say a word about it, for every one must be happy to-day," said Mr. George, so kindly that Mrs. Moss felt a load taken off her heart at once.
"Bab was always teasing me for fire-works, but I guess she has had enough for the present." laughed Thorny, who was gallantly escorting Bab's mother up the avenue.
"Every one is so kind! Teacher was out with the children to cheer us as we passed, and here you all are making things pretty for me," said Miss Celia, smiling with tears in her eyes, as they drew near the great gate, which certainly did present an animated if not an imposing appearance.
Ronda and Katy stood on one side, all in their best, bobbing delighted courtesies; Mr. Brown, half hidden behind the gate on the other side, was keeping Sancho erect, so that he might present arms promptly when the bride appeared. As flowers were scarce, on either post stood a rosy little girl clapping her hands, while out from the thicket of red and yellow boughs, which made a grand bouquet in the lantern frame, came Ben's head and shoulders, as he waved his grandest flag with its gold paper "Welcome Home!" on a blue ground.
"Isn't it beautiful!" cried Miss Celia, throwing kisses to the children, shaking hands with her maids, and glancing brightly at the stranger who was keeping Sanch quiet.
"Most people adorn their gate-posts with stone balls, vases, or griffins; your living images are a great improvement, love, especially the happy boy in the middle," said Mr. George, eying Ben with interest, as he nearly tumbled overboard, top-heavy with his banner.
"You must finish what I have only begun," answered Miss Celia, adding gayly, as Sancho broke loose and came to offer both his paw and his congratulations, "Sanch, introduce your master, that I may thank him for coming back in time to save my old house."
"If I'd saved a dozen it wouldn't have half paid for all you've done for my boy, ma'am," answered Mr. Brown, bursting out from behind the gate quite red with gratitude and pleasure.
"I loved to do it, so please remember that this is still his home till you make one for him. Thank God, he is no longer fatherless!" and Miss Celia's sweet face said even more than her words, as the white hand cordially shook the brown one with a burn across the back.
"Come on, sister. I see the tea-table all ready, and I'm awfully hungry," interrupted Thorny, who had not a ray of sentiment about him, though very glad Ben had got his father back again.
"Come over, by and by, little friends, and let me thank you for your pretty welcome,—it certainly is a warm one;" and Miss Celia glanced merrily from the three bright faces above her to the old chimney, which still smoked sullenly.
"Oh, don't!" cried Bab, hiding her face.
"She didn't mean to," added Betty, pleadingly.
"Three cheers for the bride!" roared Ben, dipping his flag, as leaning on her husband's arm his dear mistress passed through the gay party, along the leaf-strewn walk, over the threshold of the house which was to be her happy home for many years.
The closed gate where the lonely little wanderer once lay was always to stand open now, and the path where children played before was free to all comers, for a hospitable welcome henceforth awaited rich and poor, young and old, sad and gay, Under the Lilacs.
HAPPY LITTLE FROGGY.
BY E. MUeLLER.
Happy little Froggy, he Was proud enough Of his trousers and his coat, Green and buff.
Came and caught him Rob and Bess, Quick as flash, Dressed him up in Dolly's dress, And her sash.
Froggy gave a frantic leap, And in three springs Took into the water deep All Dolly's things.
HOW TO KEEP A JOURNAL.
BY W. S. JEROME.
Autumn is as good a time as any for a boy or girl to begin to keep a journal. Too many have the idea that it is a hard and unprofitable task to keep a journal, and especially is this the case with those who have begun, but soon gave up the experiment. They think it is a waste of time, and that no good results from it. But that depends upon the kind of journal that you keep. Everybody has heard of the boy who thought he would try to keep a diary. He bought a book, and wrote in it, for the first day, "Decided to keep a journal." The next day he wrote, "Got up, washed, and went to bed." The day after, he wrote the same thing, and no wonder that at the end of a week he wrote, "Decided not to keep a journal," and gave up the experiment. It is such attempts as this, by persons who have no idea of what a journal is, or how to keep it, that discourage others from beginning. But it is not hard to keep a journal if you begin in the right way, and will use a little perseverance and patience. The time spent in writing in a journal is not wasted, by any means. It may be the best employed hour of any in the day, and a well-kept journal is a source of pleasure and advantage which more than repays the writer for the time and trouble spent upon it.
The first thing to do in beginning a journal, is to resolve to stick to it. Don't begin, and let the poor journal die in a week. A journal, or diary, should be written in every day, if possible. Now, don't be frightened at this, for you do a great many things every day, and this isn't a very awful condition. The time spent may be longer or shorter, according to the matter to be written up; but try and write, at least a little, every day. "Nulla dies sine linea"—no day without a line—is a good motto. It is a great deal easier to write a little every day, than to write up several days in one.
Do not get for a journal a book with the dates already printed in it. That kind will do very well for a merchant's note-book, but not for the young man or woman who wants to keep a live, cheerful account of a happy and pleasant life. Sometimes you will have a picnic or excursion to write about, and will want to fill more space than the printed page allows. Buy a substantially bound blank-book, made of good paper; write your name and address plainly on the fly-leaf, and, if you choose, paste a calendar inside the cover. Set down the date at the head of the first page, thus: "Tuesday, October 1, 1878." Then begin the record of the day, endeavoring as far as possible to mention the events in the correct order of time,—morning, afternoon and evening. When this is done, write in the middle of the page, "Wednesday, October 2," and you are ready for the record of the next day. It is well to set down the year at the top of each page.
But what are you to write about? First, the weather. Don't forget this. Write, "Cold and windy," or "Warm and bright," as the case may be. It takes but a moment, and in a few years you will have a complete record of the weather, which will be found not only curious, but useful.
Then put down the letters you have received or written, and, if you wish, any money paid or received. The day of beginning or leaving school; the studies you pursue; visits from or to your friends; picnics or sleigh-rides; the books you have read; and all such items of interest should be noted. Write anything that you want to remember. After trying this plan a short time, you will be surprised at the many things constantly occurring which you used to overlook, but which now form pleasant paragraphs in your book. But don't try to write something when there is nothing to write. If there is only a line to be written, write that, and begin again next day.
Do not set down about people anything which you would not wish them to see. It is not likely that any one will ever see your writing, but it is possible, so, always be careful about what you write. The Chinese say of a spoken word, that once let fall, it cannot be brought back by a chariot and six horses. Much more is this true of written words, and once out of your possession, there is no telling where they will go, or who will see them.
The best time to write in a journal is in the evening. Keep the book in your table-drawer, or on your desk, and, after supper, when the lamps are lighted, sit down and write your plain account of the day. Don't try to write an able and eloquent article, but simply give a statement of what you have seen or done during the day. For the first week or two after beginning a journal, the novelty of the thing will keep up your interest, and you will be anxious for the time to come when you can write your journal. But, after a while, it becomes tedious. Then is the time when you must persevere. Write something every day, and before long you will find that you are becoming so accustomed to it, that you would not willingly forego it. After that, the way is plain, and the longer you live the more valuable and indispensable your journal will become.
But some practical young person asks: What is the good of a journal? There is very much. In the first place, it teaches habits of order and regularity. The boy or girl who every evening arranges the proceedings of the day in systematic order, and regularly writes them out, is not likely to be careless in other matters. It helps the memory. A person who keeps a journal naturally tries during the day to remember things he sees, until he can write them down. Then the act of writing helps to still further fix the facts in his memory. The journal is a first-class teacher of penmanship. All boys and girls should take pride in having the pages of their journals as neat and handsome as possible. Compare one day's writing with that of the one before, and try to improve every day. Keeping a journal cultivates habits of observation, correct and concise expression, and gives capital practice in composition, spelling, punctuation, and all the little things which go to make up a good letter-writer. So, one who keeps a journal is all the while learning to be a better penman, and a better composer, with the advantage of writing original, historical, and descriptive articles, instead of copying the printed letters and sentences of a writing-book.
But, best of all, a well-kept journal furnishes a continuous and complete family history, which is always interesting, and often very useful. It is sometimes very convenient to have a daily record of the year, and the young journalist will often have occasion to refer to his account of things gone by. Perhaps, some evening, when the family are sitting and talking together, some one will ask, "What kind of weather did we have last winter?" or, "When was the picnic you were speaking of?" and the journal is referred to. But the pleasure of keeping a journal is itself no small reward. It is pleasant to exercise the faculty of writing history, and to think that you are taking the first step toward writing newspapers and books. The writer can practice on different kinds of style, and can make his journal a record, not only of events, but of his own progress as a thinker and writer.
"Simple Simon went a-fishing, For to catch a whale, And all the water that he had, Was in his mother's pail."
BY EDITH A. EDWARDS.
Prince Cucurbita was very unhappy. His smooth, shiny face was all puckered up into little wrinkles, every now and then a big sob shook his jolly little person till you really felt like crying yourself at the sight of him. Here was a prince living in a lovely garden full of birds and flowers, surrounded by a large family of brothers and sisters, and always dressed in a pretty green jacket, which could not get soiled or torn. In spite of all this, he was not happy, for Queen Cucurbita, in order to keep her children out of harm's way, had hoisted them all up on a high trellis, and would never let them get down.
You may think the Prince might have been smart enough, or naughty enough, to have jumped down when his mother's back was turned, but, alas! how could he? for she held tightly to the tassel of his cap, and his cap fitted so closely to his head that no effort of his was ever able to get it off. Across the way lived another big family, the Filberts. They were just the merriest set that ever was seen, nodding gayly to Cucu now and then when they could spare the time from their own fun, and telling stories to each other, which must have been very amusing; for sometimes they all laughed together till they nearly fell out of bed, and their mother was obliged to shake them all round. One day, there was a great commotion among the Filberts. The eldest brother had determined to go out into the world and seek his fortune, so he climbed out of bed and quietly dropped to the ground.
"Oh, dear me!" cried Cucu; "it is too mean that I should have to stay up on this old trellis."
"Naughty boy!" scolded his mother. "What are you talking about? That ever I should be afflicted with such a fractious child; 'tis enough to turn me yellow;" and she spread out her pretty green apron, and waved her ribbons in the air, while she took a firmer hold upon the poor little Prince's cap.
"Don't you know that if I were to let go, off you would fall flat on your back upon the nasty wet ground, and very likely lie there all the rest of your life, growing wrinkled and yellow and sickly, while great ugly worms crawled over you, and everybody blamed me for a careless parent? No! no! I shall take good care you don't get away from me, you may be sure."
So, Cucu had to accept his fate as best he might, and amused himself watching his neighbors. Every day, now, one or more of them left home and disappeared among the grass and flowers below. Cucu imagined them as traveling off around the garden, but if he had seen them lying half buried in the earth, their bright brown faces dirty and streaked with tears, their merry little hearts nearly broken with woe, he would not have envied them so much.
Day after day passed, and the month of October came with its clear and cool nights. Queen Cucurbita did not relish this at all, and, every morning, when the sun peeped at her, he wondered how he ever could have admired such a dried-up yellow old creature. Cucu's heart, on the contrary, grew happier all the time, he lifted up his heavy head that seemed to be lighter each day, and when the wind blew, he rattled against the trellis and wondered how it was he could move so easily. "Poor Prince!" the Cat-bird whistled, as she perched above him, "your face is getting as brown and shining as one of those little Filberts, your cap is no longer green and pretty, and you look so light that a breath might blow you away."
"I don't care," returned Cucu, "for I feel delighted, and so long as I can't see my own face, what's the odds?"
The next night was clear and very cold. The people to whom the garden belonged brought out sheets and covered over the tender heliotropes and other flowers they valued, but they couldn't have cared much for Queen Cucurbita, for they never gave her a thought. When Cucu woke up bright and early and said good-morning to his mother, she did not reply. He turned his head to look at her. Oh, frightful sight! she hung to the trellis wilted and dead; her green dress was brown and torn, but her hard and wrinkled hand still grasped poor Cucu's cap.
After the sun had been up some hours, a lady came into the garden and approached the home of the Cucurbita family.
"Oh, you beauty!" she cried, "what a lovely basket I shall make of you!" and, placing a hand on each of Cucu's cheeks, she gave him a slight twist,—his mother's fingers let go; he was free. The lady put him in her basket, and now he was really setting off on his travels.
This was, in fact, only the beginning of his career. The lady with a sharp knife lifted his cap from his head; then she painted him all over a pale green. After the paint was dry, she bored three holes in his sides. My! how it hurt! but it was soon over, and she had fastened three slender chains through them, and hung the little Prince up in a sunny window. "What next?" he wondered. If he had got to hang here all his life, it wouldn't be much better than the old trellis. But that wasn't the end, for his mistress filled him with nice black earth, and planted delicate little ferns and runaway-robins which climbed over and twined lovingly round his face. They patted his cheeks with their soft little hands, and whispered pretty stories of the woods they had come from.
"Dear Cucu," said they, "how much we love you, and how kind you are to hold us all so carefully!" When they said this, he felt so proud and happy that he could not contain himself any longer, and sang at the top of his voice; but the people in the house did not hear him, for mortal ears are not adapted to such music. Only the Cat-bird flying past understood and stopped to congratulate him.
"Plenty to do, and plenty to love," she sang; "that is the way to be happy. I found it out last spring when it took me from morning till night to find food for my four hungry babies. Good-bye! I am going south with them to-day. I haven't a bit of time to lose," and away she flew.