Transcriber's Note: Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. Dialect spellings, contractions and discrepancies have been retained.
TEN BOYS FROM HISTORY
KATE DICKINSON SWEETSER
"TEN BOYS FROM DICKENS" "TEN GREAT ADVENTURERS" "BOOK OF INDIAN BRAVES" ETC.
GEORGE ALFRED WILLIAMS
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS NEW YORK AND LONDON
KATE DICKINSON SWEETSER
TEN AMERICAN GIRLS FROM HISTORY. Illustrated. BOOK OF INDIAN BRAVES. Illustrated. BOYS AND GIRLS FROM ELIOT. Illustrated. BOYS AND GIRLS FROM THACKERAY. Illustrated. TEN BOYS FROM DICKENS. Illustrated. TEN BOYS FROM HISTORY. Illustrated. TEN GIRLS FROM DICKENS. Illustrated. TEN GIRLS FROM HISTORY. Illustrated. TEN GREAT ADVENTURERS. Illustrated.
HARPER & BROTHERS, NEW YORK
TEN BOYS FROM HISTORY
Copyright, 1910, by HARPER & BROTHERS Printed in the United States of America
In this small volume the boys of many lands and races whose stories are told, have been selected not because they later became famous men, although some of them did, but because each one achieved something noteworthy as a boy. And in each boy's character, whether historic or legendary, courage was the marked trait. For this reason it is hoped that their stories will prove stimulating to some who read them.
K. D. S.
STEPHEN AND NICHOLAS: BOY CRUSADERS 11
PETER OF HAARLEM: THE BOY WHO SAVED HIS COUNTRY 45
DAVID: THE SHEPHERD BOY 55
LOUIS SEVENTEENTH: THE BOY KING WHO NEVER REIGNED 91
EDWARD THE BLACK PRINCE: THE BOY WARRIOR 131
TYRANT TAD: THE BOY IN THE WHITE HOUSE 145
S. F. B. MORSE: WHO INVENTED THE TELEGRAPH 169
DAVID FARRAGUT: THE BOY MIDSHIPMAN 179
MOZART: THE BOY MUSICIAN 197
MIDSHIPMAN FARRAGUT ON THE "ESSEX" Frontispiece
DAVID AND GOLIATH Facing p._ 70
THE BLACK PRINCE AT CRECY " 136
TYRANT TAD AND ABRAHAM LINCOLN " 154
DAVID FARRAGUT " 186
TEN BOYS FROM HISTORY
STEPHEN AND NICHOLAS:
"To the sea of fools Led the path of the children."
Just a word about the Crusades, or Holy Wars, before we begin our story.
A war is generally a conflict between nations, countries, or individuals, for possession of land or a throne, but the Holy Wars were not such. They were expeditions made by those Christians who were determined to rescue the Sepulchre, or tomb, of Christ and the City of Jerusalem, from the rule of unbelievers.
For eighty-eight years Christian kings ruled in Palestine, then all the land was conquered by the Mohammedans, except a few cities, and the Christians sent out another, and still another, and another expedition to subdue the enemy, but all were useless. The Holy City and the Holy Sepulchre were still in the hands of infidels, who persecuted the pilgrims who visited the Holy Tomb; and the Christians sent a heart-rending cry to all Europe for help, but Europe was slow to answer the appeal, and it was several years after Pope Innocent ordered a new Crusade, before an army departed for the scene of conflict.
It was during this interval that the Children's Crusade or Holy War, took place—of which we are about to read.
But first let us go back to the city of Chartres, on the 25th day of April, 1212, when a surging crowd of men and women is filling every street and by-way of the quaint city.
What are the crowds watching so eagerly? A procession of priests and laymen, carrying banners and black-draped crosses, and chanting in solemn unison as they march.
It is the day of the celebration in Chartres of the "Black Crosses," an old church ceremony instituted centuries before, by Gregory the Great, during the ravages of the Plague, but now celebrated as an appeal to the people to free Jerusalem and the Holy Tomb from the hands of the infidels.
The solemn ranks of the procession move slowly through the streets of Chartres, carrying black-draped symbols of a Saviour's death, chanting deep-toned litanies, and that the old ceremony has lost none of its emotional power is shown by the tears and silence of the watching throngs, while among all the crowd none is more profoundly stirred than a slender shepherd lad from the neighbouring town of Cloyes, who is seeing the ceremony for the first time.
Agile as such a lad should be, and sturdy in consequence of his out-of-door life, Stephen, for that was his name, found it an easy matter to breast the surging tide of spectators following the procession, to slip in where he could to best advantage watch the solemn ceremonies, to stand without fatigue while he drank in all the emotional thrill of the day.
The shrouded crosses, the appeals for rescue of an entombed Christ in the hands of an infidel enemy, the tears and cries of the crowds, worked on the impressionable shepherd lad, unaccustomed to aught but life with his flocks, worked on him so powerfully that he was hot with a desire to rush to Jerusalem and expel the hated Mohammedans from that land and city, once blessed by the living presence of Jesus, and hallowed by the possession of his tomb.
So filled with enthusiasm was Stephen that his burning cheeks and glowing eyes told the tale to an observant priest, who to accomplish his own end, kept close watch of the boy, spoke to him, making inquiries as to his name and occupation, and then decided to make him a tool of destiny.
But of this Stephen knew nothing. Filled with thoughts of what he had seen and heard, at evening he walked slowly towards his home in the little village of Cloyes, walking less on solid earth than on a cloud of dreams and desires, and from that moment he was never again the contented shepherd lad, son of the peasant of Cloyes. He was alive with new emotions now, and as he wandered on the hillside with his flock he was in imagination the hero of daring deeds, taking part in such pictured scenes as his excited fancy could conjure up, until at last, he was in a state of mind suited to any enterprise, prepared to believe any story, however improbable, to accept any life except that of his own monotonous peasant existence.
While in this mood there came to him on his hillside, several days later, a stranger in the dress of a pilgrim, returned, as he at first said, from Palestine. He was on his way to a distant home and in need of food.
Only too eagerly did Stephen share with him such food as he had, asking in return to be told of the wonders of the Holy Land and of the daring deeds of the heroes who had fallen there in battle. The stranger readily complied with this request and poured into the boy's credulous ears tales well calculated to thrill and excite his already inflamed fancy. Then, watching Stephen closely as he spoke, the stranger said with solemn earnestness:
"But this is not all I have to tell, my lad. There is work for you to do,—for you, the Lord's anointed, his chosen apostle, and in the name of Christ and his Holy Cross, I bid you arise and do his will."
"Work?—for me? From whom comes this message?"
Stephen's eyes were lit with the fire of excited desire and his voice trembled with emotion.
Very slowly the answering words fell from his companion's lips:
"The message is brought by him who sends it. Behold, lad, the Christ of history and of truth! I bid you arise—rouse up the youth of our land! Lead them to that Holy Sepulchre! As prophet and as leader, go thou where they shall follow, and bring to pass that which nobles and soldiers have failed to accomplish. Go lad—go!"
Stephen's breath came in quick gasps—his eyes were like coals of fire as he sank on his knees, crying:
"Oh bless me—bless me—I will go—Lord, I will go!"
A hand was laid gently on his head as the deep voice said, "In the name of Jesus, lad—in the name of the Crucified, lead thou thy troops to victory. Across the land, across the sea, lead them to victory!" Then in a less impassioned tone, the stranger added, "I leave with you a letter to the king of France. Haste thou to him with this proof of thy divine mission and he will aid thee in thy enterprise. In the name of Jesus, lad, arise and go!"
A letter was pressed into Stephen's hand. He heard retreating footsteps, and before he had gained his composure and risen to his feet, his divine guest was gone. He was alone with his straying flock, not sure except for the letter, whether he had had a vision or a visitor.
And how was he to know, innocent peasant lad, of an ignorant and superstitious ancestry, brought up on miraculous tales of saints and seers, that the Christ of his visit was no other than that priest whose attention Stephen had attracted by his emotion at Chartres, who with crafty keenness had chosen the peasant boy to carry out his purpose of arousing the youth of the land to undertake a new Crusade? How was Stephen, all aflame as he was, to be supposed to penetrate the priest's disguise, to realise his purpose, and throw off the thrill? He could not and he did not.
Leaving his flocks to ramble at will over the plains and neighbouring hills, with the divine letter clasped in his hand, Stephen ran homeward through the little village where he lived, past its dilapidated church, its quaint shops and rows of houses, over the old stone bridge by which the main street crosses the little river Loir, running in a southerly direction to join the beautiful Loire. The bridge is a pleasant place to linger on a summer day, and recalls many a historic memory of Joan of Arc, who once passed that way, on her way to Orleans—of Philip Augustus—of Richard Coeur-de-Lion—but on naught save his divine mission was the lad Stephen intent as he crossed the bridge on that April day.
Having reached home, he hastily called his parents from their labour, and gathering together such neighbours as could be summoned, he told of his talk with the Saviour, who had come to call him, Stephen, the shepherd boy, from tending his flocks, to rescue the Holy City and tomb from wicked hands, and in proof of the truth of his story he showed the letter from Jesus Christ to the King of France asking the king's aid for Stephen in his holy mission.
As I have said, this was an age of dense ignorance and superstition among the peasant classes. Those who had heard Stephen's tale were dumb with awe and wonder and doubted not its truth. Only his father spoke against the plan, mentioning his son's youth—commanding him to go back to his flocks. But to these commands Stephen turned a deaf ear, for was not he the Lord's anointed? Who could dictate to him, now that the Divine voice had spoken in accents clear and strong?
On the next day and the next, even until darkness fell over the little town, Stephen narrated his story in the market-place to ever-increasing audiences, telling that now when the defenders of the Holy Sepulchre were so few, and older and stronger Crusaders had failed to carry out their divine purpose by reason of the ravages of war and disease, God had revealed his plan to give the possession of Palestine to those children who should enlist in his holy cause.
"For the last time have we heard of defeat," cried Stephen. "Hereafter shall children show mailed warriors and proud barons how invulnerable are youths when God leads them!"
This cry stirred the youths of Cloyes profoundly, and they all rushed to enlist under the banner of Stephen and the Holy Cross, but the number was not large enough to satisfy Stephen's ambition. He was determined now to rouse all France and in consequence of that desire, he decided to leave his home and go to a town five miles north of Paris—St. Denys, the great shrine of the land, where lie the bones of the martyr Dionysius, the object of countless pilgrimages, where to ever-changing crowds, he could preach his Crusade, and gain recruits for his army.
And so to St. Denys, Stephen of Cloyes went, in May of 1212. Dressed in his shepherd's clothes, for he had no others, with his crook in his hand and a little wallet by his side, he left quiet Cloyes for ever. With a heart throbbing with hope and excitement, he journeyed on, feeling neither fatigue nor fear, and as he went he preached his mission in towns and cities by the way, and ever the interest deepened in this lad who spoke with such burning eloquence, proclaiming himself God's chosen instrument to rescue the Holy Sepulchre, and everywhere he gained recruits. But even in Paris and Chartres, he did not linger long, being eager to reach St. Denys. At last he arrived there, and standing at the door of the historic church which contained the martyr's tomb, proclaimed his new Crusade to astonished crowds whom he fascinated by his unusual eloquence as he told the old story of the sufferings of the Christians in the Holy Land, telling it so simply and so vividly that his audiences were profoundly stirred, especially by Stephen's last and best appeal. He pointed to the Sepulchre of St. Denys, to which worshippers were thronging, and contrasted its condition with that of the Sepulchre of the Saviour, asking if his hearers would not help him make the Saviour's tomb as honoured and as free from disturbing influences as was that of the saint. He then read his letter to the king and asked if God's commands were to be disregarded, telling of his interview with Christ, and adding that after his day in Chartres, he had gone in search of his flocks and found them missing, but had later discovered them in a field of grain, from which he was about to drive them angrily, when they fell on their knees and begged his forgiveness. This, he said, with other signs, had led him to believe that he was truly God's anointed, even before he had been visited by Christ.
It may well be asked here how a lad scarcely over twelve years of age and born of the peasant class, could have suddenly become so eloquent—so capable of appealing to audiences, and the answer is not easy to give unless one thoroughly understands the spirit of that age in which Stephen lived—an age in which there was much high-coloured and stirring language used by the priests, language which appealed so strongly to an impressionable lad like Stephen, that he unconsciously took it for his own and made use of it; being often carried on the tide of his emotion, far beyond his own understanding of the words and thoughts he was uttering.
Immediately, he became the Saint of the day, and the martyr's bones were deserted by those who preferred to listen to the lad's stirring appeals. It is even reported that he worked miracles to support his own divine claim, and the enthusiasm to join his army grew daily more intense. As pilgrims went back to their homes they carried news of Stephen's Crusade to their children, who, filled with excitement, in turn passed the news on to their friends. And so the interest spread like a contagion throughout all parts of France, through Brittany, where the English ruled, through Normandy, recently added to Philip's domain, to Aquitaine and Provence, to Toulouse and peaceful Gascony. Whatever feuds their parents were engaged in, the children did not care, and were not interested in the wars for power. So while their elders were prevented from unity of action by the strife and political divisions of the land, the young were one in feeling and in desire, and joined gleefully in Stephen's stirring cry:
"Long enough have you knights and warriors, so boastful and so honoured, been making your fruitless attempts to rescue the tomb of Christ! God can wait no longer! He is tired of your vain puny efforts. Stand back and let us, whom you despise, carry out his commission! He who calls can insure the victory, and we will show you what the children can do!"
Among the children who listened to Stephen's appeals, the more enterprising returned home determined to play a part in the Crusade only second to that of the Prophet, as Stephen was now called. Everywhere in France, they went through their home districts, begging their companions to join the Crusade, and it is probable that these children had much help from priests who sought in every way to inflame the youthful host, and to lead them on to concerted action.
As the army grew larger, the children formed into bands, and marched through towns and villages with all the pomp and display possible, despite much opposition from their parents, who saw with alarm that the excitement was growing daily more intense. The bands of recruits carried lighted candles, waving perfumed censers, and at the head of every band there marched a proud youth carrying the Oriflamme—a copy of the flag of the church, which was kept at St. Denys. The design of this banner was a red triple-tongued flame, symbolic of the tongues of fire that came down at Pentecost. This banner, like the colours of a regiment, was a symbol of honour, and an object of the young Crusader's devotion.
As the bands marched, they either sang hymns, such as had kept up the courage of previous Crusaders, or others composed on the spur of the moment by their revered children's minds, and in all of the hymns came the refrain—"Lord, restore Christendom! Lord, restore to us the true and holy Cross!"
And too they adopted the watchword which for two centuries had rung through Asia. Crying, "God wills it!" children of all classes and conditions and ages, cast aside authority, and joined the army, and soon the movement became like the surge of a great wave, carrying the youth of France out on its dangerous tide—girls as well as boys—weak as well as strong—joining the forces.
Of course, the matter attracted the attention of the king, Philip Augustus, who at first, for political reasons, was inclined to favour the young Crusaders, but then seeing how serious the matter really was, and that if it were not suppressed it would bear away the youth of the land, to almost certain disaster, finally issued an edict or command that the children return to their homes.
Kings are too wise to pay any attention even to messages written by a divine hand, and there is no evidence to show that Philip was in any way influenced by the letter given to Stephen by his celestial visitor, and Philip's edict went forth, that there be an end to the uprising of the children.
But in vain was the edict, which the King did not attempt to enforce, in vain were all the commands and threats and pleas of parents and guardians. Stephen's Crusade had become an epidemic. If a lad were locked up that he might not join its ranks, he straightway sickened; some even died of pining; where commands were the only bar to freedom, the youths utterly disregarded them and ran away. So, after a few weeks of Stephen's inflamed preaching there was rebellion in many a before happy household in France, agony in many a mother's heart, who saw her children leaving her, never, as her mother instinct told her, to return.
In the ranks of recruits were many noble youths, sons of counts and barons, who had from birth been brought up with knights and warriors who had won fame and honour in former Crusades, and who told glowing tales of the beauty and charm of the Holy Land to their children, and these were naturally thrilled at the thought of seeing such scenes and doing such deeds of valour, in gorgeous armour and on prancing steeds, for so did they picture themselves, as their fathers had done before them.
And there were others whose fathers had died in the Wars of the Cross, whose feverish dream was to make use of their father's honoured sword and shield and thus complete the work that Death had cut short. When these youths from the hills on which their homes stood, watched the processions passing with uplifted crosses and banners waving high, when they heard the songs and shouts of triumph, they could not be held back from joining the throng, and from their thousand homes they came to join the army, while higher and higher swelled the excitement, despite the opposition of king and clergy.
While Stephen was preaching at St. Denys, trying to gather his army together with all speed, tidings of the new Crusade were brought to a boy in a village near Cologne, a boy who had always been keenly interested in reading and hearing of the Crusades, and who was at once filled with a desire to follow the leadership of Stephen.
Nicholas, for that was this German lad's name, had a father who was both clever and ambitious. He knew the precocity of his son, and desiring to have the boy's talents bring him fame, and perhaps worldly benefits, worked on the boy's young mind in every possible way, until Nicholas believed himself to be called of God to imitate the example of Stephen, and to go to Cologne and preach as Stephen was doing at St. Denys.
Old Cologne was a great and influential city, and at that time the religious centre of Germany, and there Nicholas went and preached, telling, and doubtless with much suggestion and help from his father, many marvellous tales of the cross of blazing light which had been his pledge of success in the Holy War. Now we hear him speaking in impassioned words by the door of the old Cathedral, now on a platform surrounded by his credulous audience, and again simply standing on the street corner telling his story, while like the widening ripples from a stone thrown into the still waters of a lake, widened the ripples of interest in the new Crusade among the German children.
For reasons politic, the Emperor suppressed the matter where he could, but in the vicinity of the Rhine and the neighbouring land of Burgundy, the mania spread like wildfire, and as in France, overcame all opposition, until in little over a month after the first preaching of Nicholas, his bands were ready to depart for the Holy Land, while Stephen, Prophet and leader in France, was still waiting for the completion of his army, recruits for which were ever pouring into St. Denys, and although Stephen had never seen Nicholas, it must have been anything but an easy matter for him to control his feelings and act as such a divinely appointed leader should, when he heard that Nicholas was ready to lead his forces on to victory, while he, Stephen, first called of God, was left behind.
But there was no help for it, and on a morning of early July, in 1212, the German bands were ready to march to glory. Most of them wore the long grey coat of the Crusader, with its Cross upon the right shoulder, which, with the addition of the palmer's staff they carried, and the broad-brimmed hat they wore, made a quaint and pleasing effect upon the childish figures—while it showed to great advantages the broad shoulders and fine figure of sturdy Nicholas, who was as different as possible in physique and temperament from high-strung sensitive Stephen.
Now the hour of their departure has come. The army of Nicholas is ready to start from Cologne—a great crowd of spectators surrounds them, watching their movements in breathless silence. Nicholas stands with up-raised hands, gives a signal—the army forms into a solid body—starts—moves—and in a moment, despite opposition, protestations, pleas and sobs, twenty thousand children have commenced their march to Palestine. On they move, banners flying, songs and cheers floating on the clear air, and while there is many a dimmed eye and choked voice among those gathered to see them start, in the ranks of the Crusaders there is only enthusiasm and joy. On to victory! is their cry as they disappear behind the hills, a winding ribbon of humanity, and soon the sound of their cheers and shouts sinks into silence.
And now let us follow them, as along the Rhine they journey. Across the fields—beyond the river—southward through wilderness and vineyard, they go—marching by an occasional castle rising from some lofty crag, connected in many a childish mind with oft-heard legend and with song.
As they march on, they while away the tedious hours with hymns and tales, the children from the castles telling of knightly deeds done by men of famous name, the peasants, telling of miraculous visions of the Saints; and in the hearing and the telling of the tales, the children became as one family, bound up in one holy purpose—to outdo all deeds of heroic valour which had ever been the theme of song or story.
A motley army they—strangest of all the armies ever seen before—with face and form and voice of youth, but filled with older purpose and courage, as on and on they march with Nicholas in command, the lines stretching behind for several miles; and still are their banners proudly borne aloft, and still as they march, this famous old Crusader's hymn rises on the still air:
Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all Nature, O thou of God and man the Son! Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honour, Thou, my soul's glory, joy and crown.
Fair are the meadows, Fairer still the woodlands, Robed in the blooming garb of spring; Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer, Who makes the woeful heart to sing.
And still they journey southward, with Palestine their goal, and in their young minds there is no fear of a way to cross the Mediterranean sea, for had not Christ assured Stephen, and a vision revealed to Nicholas, that the drought at that time parching the land was God's evidence that they were to pass through the sea as on dry land, its waters having been parted for their benefit?
So fearlessly and happily they travelled on through the lands of the lords and nobles who owed allegiance to France, and everywhere their fame had preceded them, and in every village they won fresh recruits, until at length their number was so great that no city on the way could contain their army.
Some slept in houses, invited by the kind-hearted, others lay in the streets or market-place, while others lay down outside the walls of the cities, or if they were in open country when night fell, slept in barns or hovels, or by brooks, or under protecting trees, and so weary were they from their tiresome march that wherever they were, it mattered not, they slept as soundly as on beds of down. Then when morning came they ate whatever they had left, or begged or bought what food they could, for some among them still had money in their pockets. The line of march was again formed, the banners unfurled, the crosses uplifted, and with songs and shouts another day was begun. At noon they rested by some stream or in a shaded nook to eat their scanty meal, and then again marched on, feeling more keenly each day the distance lying between them and the land of their dreams, for the great trials of the young Crusaders had begun. Every day the march grew harder and more tiresome to the weary travellers, each meal the supply of food was more scanty, and even those children who had any money were robbed or cheated of it by hangers-on and thieves. Disorder and lawlessness increased rapidly in the ranks of the army, until at last they moved on without any rank or discipline, and under various leaders, who now openly defied the authority of Nicholas. At last they reached the territory now called Switzerland, which was then a number of small districts, mostly belonging to the Emperor; and the army winding through its beautiful valleys and passing along the banks of its turbulent rivers, came at last to the shores of Lake Leman and camped by the walls of Geneva. From thence their task was to cross the trackless heights of the Alps.
Weary and worn, but singing as they went, they journeyed bravely on over Mt. Cenis, which in the Middle Ages was the most frequented of all the mountain passes to Italy, and on that journey many children gave way to exhaustion. The rocks cut their unprotected feet, the air of dark chasms chilled them, they saw no prospect of rest or food until the pass was traversed, and go any farther in such misery they could not. Many turned back, and sadder and wiser, sought again the protection and comfort of their homes.
But the majority of the army still feverishly excited and inflamed with hope, pressed on and on, then suddenly in a moment of unexpected vision, before them in the distance they saw winding rivers, tapestried hills, and vine-yards and valleys of such luxuriant beauty as they had never seen in their Northern lands.
With new courage and strength they hurried on now, and soon they were in Italy, where, alas, poor children, they met with all sorts of oppression and cruelty as they journeyed, for the Italians were embittered against the Germans because of the constant wars carried on by their emperors, and visited the sins of their fathers upon these innocent children who were in their power, refusing them entrance to many towns, and subjecting them to all sorts of cruelties. But still such of the army as remained pressed on and on, and then one day, oh, joyous sight, not far beyond they saw the sea, blue and boundless, and on its shore, bathed in sunlight, lay "Genoa, the proud," a vision of fairyland to their dazzled eyes.
Discords were forgotten, songs not sung before for many a tearful day, rose again on the clear air. Crosses and banners were again uplifted as of old, and Nicholas was once more prophet and leader, as, forgetful of the past and its miseries, the army of children stood on the 25th day of August, at the gates of the city of Genoa, waiting to be admitted.
Bright were the floating banners, proud were the waiting youths, as Nicholas made his plea:—
"In the name of Christ and his Holy Cross, admit us, his soldiers to your city! Grant us rest on our journey, to rescue the Holy Sepulchre from the hands of the enemy! Men of Genoa, we ask not for transportation across the sea rolling between us and our goal. On the morrow God will part that sea that we may go over as on dry land, to achieve a victory denied to the wise and powerful of the land. Yea, he has said, 'Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength, because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.' Men of Genoa, open thy gates to us, in the name of Christ!"
A large number of dignified Senators, or rulers of the city, heard the petition of Nicholas, heard it with pity mingled with amusement, and offered the protection of the city for a week to the deluded youths, for by that time—so thought the Senators—the youths would discover their deception and return homeward.
Eagerly did Nicholas and his army accept permission to enter the city whose streets and palaces were in such sharp contrast to those of their own homelands, Genoa being at that time at the height of her prosperity and greatness, but their joyful wonder found its match in that of the inhabitants, whose astonished eyes saw so many fair-haired children marching through their city, with banners and crosses carried high, singing their splendid songs, and full of such grim determination to rescue the Holy Land, a feat which experienced warriors had failed to accomplish.
As the children marched through Genoa, changed indeed was the appearance of their army; of the twenty thousand who had left the banks of the Rhine under the leadership of Nicholas, there were only seven thousand remaining now. Of the rest some were on their homeward journey, some in new homes which they had found by the way, others were lying in undiscovered graves in forest or on hillsides. Only the strongest and most resolute of that great army remained, and in consequence it was the flower of the youth of the Rhinelands, who entered Genoa, rugged and healthy, though their clothes were worn and faded, their feet bruised and bleeding, their faces burned by sun and wind, and their expressions aged and saddened by experience.
The merchants left their desks, the children stopped their play, and stared in wonderment, the grave nobles were moved to surprise, and the mothers wiped their eyes as the army of blue-eyed youths marched by.
No sooner had the Senators extended the hospitality of the city to the youths than they decided to retract it, for three reasons: They were afraid of the effect on the morals of the city, which might be produced by the entrance of seven thousand unrestrained boys—also they feared that such a sudden addition to the population might produce a famine, for situated as Genoa was, there was never any too great a quantity of food. Also, most weighty reason of all, the German Emperor was at war with the Pope and in the contest, Genoa was on the Guelph, or papal side. To shelter German children then, even though on a Crusade, would be to harbour foes and to care for a hated race which the Pope had declared outlawed.
In consequence of these reasons the children were told that they could stay only one night in the city, after all, except those who desired to make it their permanent home, and abandoning their wild scheme, promise to become good citizens.
But the youths laughed scornfully in answer—saying:
"We only ask to rest one night. To-morrow you shall see how God cares for his army! Who would remain here, when there lies a path in the sea, between emerald walls, to the land where glory waits us?"
So saying they slept that night, in proud and peaceful hope of the morning's glory, and in the morning rushed early to the shore, that they might see the path across which they were to journey to the promised land. Alas for hopes and promises and visions! The blue waves rippled—the sea rolled on. Hours wore away and yet no path was cleared through the depths, night all too soon came on, and there was no alternative for the army but to leave the city, and then decide upon their next step. Some of the children awoke to the deception of that undivided sea and resolved to stay in Genoa under the conditions imposed by the Senators, for the comforts of the city appealed strongly to them after such hardships as they had experienced.
But on that day, Sunday, August 26th, the remainder of the army which had so proudly and happily entered the city on the day before, went from its gates with hanging heads and sad hearts—a crestfallen band. Outside the city walls they gathered in a field near by, to discuss their plans for the future. Was it wiser to stay and perhaps die in sunny Italy, than to lose their lives on the weary journey separating them from their homes?
One cheery lad made answer, "Are there no other cities which will give us shelter? Why think that Genoa was meant to be the place at which the way through the sea was to be made? Let us push on to the southward until we find the passage which God has promised!"
His courage was contagious, as courage always is, and the diminished band decided to press on still further, until God should show his sign. This resolve made, all turned to Nicholas for his approval of their decision, and so intense had been their excitement during the discussion of their plans that no one had noticed that their leader was no longer one of the group. Alas, for his consecration to a sacred calling, Nicholas was not to be found, either then or later! Their leader, who had led them on to glory, where was he? No one ever knew. Never again was Nicholas seen by any one of those comrades who had followed him so far and so faithfully, trusted him so fully, and barest surmise fills in the mystery of his disappearance.
Nicholas was no high-strung, emotional boy, carried away, as was Stephen, by the glory of his holy calling, he was a calm quiet lad, who, once impressed with the fact that there was work for him to do, always did it to the best of his ability, but always with a keen businesslike instinct of serving his own interests to the best advantage. His father had impressed upon him the glory and rewards which would come to him as leader of a victorious Crusade, and Nicholas had responded to the call.
Now defeat had come instead, and he, the leader of the army, must bear the brunt of the disgrace which would weigh heavily upon his shoulders as long as his life lasted,—of that he felt sure. His comrades were as competent to press on, or to journey homeward without him as under his leadership. So he argued with himself and even as he argued, yielded to a great temptation, and like Esau, sold his honour for a mess of pottage.
A nobleman of Genoa, who was rich and powerful, and who saw in the lad a resemblance to his long lost son sought Nicholas secretly, and offered tempting prospects of a home and such advantages as the lad had never dreamed of having in all his simple life, if he would abandon his leadership and forsake his army, and Nicholas yielded to temptation. With careful strategy he slid away from that little group of disheartened followers, feverishly discussing what was best to do, and all that flock who had trusted him so fully, mourned for him, and mourning, trusted still, accounting him as one whom the Lord God of Hosts had for some wise reason taken from them.
And even while they were mourning for him as for one dead, Nicholas in new garments, more rich and showy than any he had ever worn before, was being shown the wonders of his new home, where servants stood ready to do his bidding, where every article of furnishing was a miracle of fairy fashioning, where cultured voices spoke in gentle tones, and where, oh, rapture far beyond all else, in the near-by stable there stood a prancing steed that was to be his own. Truly a worthy Crusade leader, he—Nicholas, the German lad!
Without a leader now, and without discipline or regulations, the discouraged, disorganised band whom he had deserted, bravely started on again, and reached Pisa, where they had far kinder treatment than in Genoa, and from which place two shiploads of them sailed for the Holy Land, but which we have no record that they ever reached. Those who did not embark, broke up into various small bands and straggling groups, travelling still southward, and at last reached Rome where they told their piteous tale to the authorities, who granted them an audience with the Pope.
Kneeling before him, they told in graphic words the story of their wanderings and sufferings and discouragements, to which unmoved the Pope listened, then, praising their zeal, he commanded them to make no further attempt to reach Palestine, telling them of the hopelessness of the undertaking. But he added, that the cross of a Crusader once assumed, bound one for ever to the Holy Cause, and that when they were older they must fight again for the rescue of the Holy Sepulchre, whenever he should call them to do so.
This bound the children to a repetition of their hardships and adventures, which, considering the courage and suffering of that little band of youths who knelt before him, was little less than cruelty.
Despairing now, and worn out with what they had endured, they were forced to obey the Pope's decree, and so with shattered hopes and dreams of glory for ever abandoned, they retraced their steps, and found their pathway homeward far more trying than the rest of their journey had been.
Many of them died on the way, and of those who lived, it was said in towns and cities through which they passed, that where in departing they passed in parties and troops, happy and never without the song of cheer, they now returned in silence, barefoot and hungry, and with no band of followers.
Day by day they straggled into Cologne—victims of a sad delusion. Alas, how bitterly they had paid for their wilful disobedience!
When asked where they had been, they said they did not know, and had only wild confused tales to tell of strange lands and countries, costumes and customs, and many a mother's heart was broken with sorrow that her boy had not survived the journeying.
Winter had passed and Spring had come and gone before all the wanderers had returned, all the lost been given up, and for many a year to come, peasants and nobles, with tear-dimmed eyes told the story of the German children's march to the sea, and of the supposed martyrdom of their lost leader, Nicholas—whose father, the afflicted parents whose homes had been desolated by the Crusade, turned on in such a frenzy of bitterness and anger, feeling that he had strongly influenced his son to leadership that they laid violent hands on him and hanged him in revenge.
Meanwhile, during all the weeks while Nicholas and his army were marching southward on their way to Italy, Stephen was still preaching at St. Denys, and his young lieutenants were still gathering recruits for his army from all parts of France—but at length in late June, all was ready except the last preparations for departure, and Stephen then sent out a command to his forces to gather at Vendome, a city near Cloyes, which was not only one of considerable importance, but from which roads lay in many directions from which bands could arrive.
From that moment every day some new band came into Vendome with a young leader in command, and was loudly welcomed by the other waiting bands; while coming across the plains, other groups could be seen marching towards the city, with their flags and oriflammes waving high, and their crosses held higher yet. As they drew near the city their songs could be heard louder and louder until when they reached the city gates, the words were so distinct that their dialect disclosed the province from which they had come.
From every province in France they came, bringing with them their different languages, costumes and peculiarities, and consequently, there was great confusion and variety in the ranks of Stephen's army, but though their dialects and costumes varied greatly, the youths were bound together by a single hope, led by a common aim, as they marched into Vendome ready to start on their perilous journey.
Like the German youths, they were assured that no vessels would be needed to take them across the Mediterranean, for had not Stephen said:
"Between waters which are to be to us as a wall on the right hand and the left, are we to cross the untrodden bed of the sea and with dry feet will we stand on the distant beach by the walls of Acre or of Tripoli. We bear no weapons and we wear no armour! The pathway of other Crusaders may be marked by the stain of blood and the glitter of steel, but our pilgrims' robes are our armour, our crosses are our swords and our hymns shall time our march!"
Not all wore the Crusader's grey coat, but all wore the Cross which was made of muslin cloth and sewed on the right shoulder of the coat. To place the cross there was the duty of the prophets—as the young leaders of each band were called. Receiving the cross was the formal act of enlistment, and proud indeed were the lads who wore them.
At last the latest band had come to Vendome, and fully thirty thousand children were gathered together there, eagerly awaiting the command to start on their journey. What a sight that was, the army of children as they stood waiting for the command to march!
Pleading parents and weeping friends begged the youths to repent and stay at home where their duty lay, but pleas and cries were all counteracted by applause and encouragement from thoughtless enthusiasts, and after religious exercises in which God's blessing was asked, and the oriflammes and crosses raised triumphantly, the army formed in line of march, and then with a volume of cheers which drowned the sound of sobs and protests, moved on, out of Vendome under the protection and leadership of Stephen.
It was only a few weeks since the young prophet had been the humble shepherd lad of Cloyes, but that was forgotten now, and as he led his army from Vendome he had assumed a pomp and dignity quite out of harmony with the appearance of his army. A leader of such a mighty host must not walk, so Stephen rode. The Lord's own general and prophet must assume the style which became his rank. He therefore rode in a chariot as splendid as could be procured, covered with rare carpets of brilliant colours. Over his head to protect him from the heat of the sun was a canopy from which there hung draperies of every hue. Around this chariot to guard him and carry out his commands, as well as to add to the impressiveness of his station, rode a band of chosen youths of noble birth, on chargers, dressed in splendid uniforms and armed with lances and spears. This pomp and splendour increased the confidence of his followers, who, too young to see the inconsistency of his conduct, listened to his words as to those of God, and regarded his wishes as law.
Out of Vendome, amid songs and shouts and tears and applause of the crowd gathered to see the departure, moved the ranks of youths, their eyes dazzled with the wonder and the glory of the leader—their hearts on fire to do his bidding. And in Stephen there burned the zeal of the real leader. In order to keep up the spirit of the host, which fatigue would tend to lessen, he spoke to them often in stirring words. At morning or noon or evening when they halted or encamped and also while they marched, he leaned often from his chariot and spoke encouraging words. Sometimes they thronged around him so closely when he spoke that it was hard work for his guards to protect him from the consequences of their weak homage and as they pushed forward to be near him, many of the weak and small were crushed to death. The veneration for the Boy Prophet was carried to such an extent that all vied with each other to procure a thread of his clothing, a piece of the trappings of his car, while they who had a single hair of his head felt they had a priceless treasure. It is small wonder that this shepherd boy, sensitive as he was to impressions, and duped as he was in the belief that he was anointed by God to a holy calling, and then worshipped by an ever-increasing tide of followers, should have been affected by the rapid change in his circumstances and surroundings. He was evidently possessed of no slight ability to carry out plans, and had much power over people, and his whole nature was aflame with the emotional credulous piety of the Middle Ages. Such was the lad Stephen, shepherd of Cloyes, prophet of the Children's Crusade, when with pomp and ceremony he led his army out of Vendome.
The pathway of his army was marked by far fewer hardships than those the German children were encountering, for the country through which they travelled was more peopled and the distance they had to go much shorter. They did not have to sleep on rocky heights or on freezing moors, and in the lands through which they passed they encountered only sympathy and interest. So their ranks were scarcely thinned by desertion or death, and yet even so, the trip was none too easy, especially on account of the great heat and drought of the summer, to which Stephen constantly referred as a sure sign from God that the sea was to be dried up for their benefit as he had predicted.
His army did not bear heat, want and exhaustion as well as the sturdier German children did, and in an incredibly short time its ranks lost all discipline and authority, and at last each one of his band of followers became keen only to outwit the others in a search for food, and in endeavours to hide it, they struggled on—a loose, undisciplined mass, until finally Stephen's authority was entirely lost and the march became only a race for the sea. All original enthusiasm of the army had vanished, and the courage which for a while had been kept up by Stephen's zeal, and by spirited songs and stories, died away, and Stephen was obliged to make use of constant deceptions in answer to questions as to when the weary march would be over, saying that a few more days or hours would bring them to the sea, and so ignorant of geography were the youths that the falsehoods were not detected. Day by day they awoke with fresh hope which was fed by the sight of a castle or walled town which they thought might be Jerusalem, and night after night they lay down victims of a cruel deception—poor deluded, wilful, little pilgrims! On and on they marched through central France, through Burgundy, and beautiful Provence, and finally from the last range of hills they had to climb, there burst on them a view of the cool, blue sea, and from their ranks there came a mighty cheer! With renewed hope they hurried down to the walls of the city of Marseilles which they saw lying below the hills, an enchanting vision of cool green beauty to their untravelled eyes. Their shouts announced their arrival to the people of the city, who hurried to street corners and to market places, and saw with curious and astonished eyes the strangest of all armies which had ever visited their city before, and young and old listened with wide-eyed astonishment to the tale they told. Three hundred miles they had come, those children, in about a month, and the sea was now to divide that they might pass over in safety to accomplish their holy object!
Unlike the German army, their numbers were scarcely lessened, as many new recruits had joined the ranks and replaced those few who had deserted or fallen by the way-side. So it was not a small and tattered or worn-out band who made their appeal to the Marseillian authorities, but an imposing band of twenty thousand youths, still flushed with health and hope.
Having no political reason to refuse them entrance to the city, and possibly rejoicing to have such an influx of pilgrims, permission to stay was given to the host of youths, who with their leader and the older companions who had followed the army, accepted the hospitality of Marseilles and were housed in various places for the one night which was to be the preface to that miracle which would prove their Divine mission.
After a night of fitful sleep and vivid dreams, Stephen at dawn crept out alone, and hastened to the shore of the sea, where he feasted his hungry eyes on its surging depths, crying, "How long, oh, Lord, how long, before thou wilt show thy power?" For hours he remained there, by the sea, and yet there came no pathway for their pilgrim feet to tread. Soon his army had clustered around him, and there they watched, and waited, asking eager questions, and Stephen's hour for victory or defeat had come.
Standing on a rocky height, he spoke, with flashing eyes and ringing voice, yes, and with an honest conviction of the truth of what he said, spoke words of hope and cheer that allowed of no backsliding or complaint, among his followers; and still the weary band kept up their watch by the shore of that surging sea. The afternoon light deepened, the sunset came, night spread its glamour over the scene, and yet the waves rolled on, showing no sign of marvel or of miracle. Over-strained and broken by discouragement, yet still hopeful, the army waited through three long days and nights, and still the sea surged on unchanged, undivided!
Stephen's followers knew the truth at last,—they had been deceived by a false hope, led by a false leader. Crying out against him who had brought them to such a plight, so far from home, they vanished one by one, until of the army that had entered the city, only five thousand remained.
Bewildered, discouraged, frightened, Stephen knew not where to turn for help. Dropping on his knees he prayed earnestly for a voice to tell him of his duty and of God's desire.
Then suddenly his disheartened band of followers saw an unexpected sight. Stephen, the Prophet, marching alone through the streets of Marseilles, waving the Oriflamme, singing a song of triumph, shouting in clear and ringing tones, "God wills it—God wills it!"
They surrounded him, when at last he halted, and he spoke first in denunciation of their unbelief, and then he told of two Marseillian merchants who had come to him even as he was on his knees praying for guidance, and offered him vessels to carry his army to Palestine.
These merchants said they asked no passage money of Christ's soldiers for the trip, the only reward they wished was the consciousness of duty done to pilgrims in a holy cause, the prayers of the children, and the honour of having helped the young Crusaders.
Great was the rejoicing now, and great the shame at having for one moment doubted God's help and the good faith of his servant, Stephen.
Pressing around him as he told his thrilling tale, his followers begged forgiveness for their lack of faith, which Stephen graciously accorded and became once again the beloved leader, the honoured prophet.
Such vessels as were needed for the expedition were speedily made ready, and in Marseilles loud praises were heard on every side of the generous men who were helping the young Crusaders to fulfil their mission, then people began to gather to watch the little host embark.
It was a thrilling sight—there in that quiet bay, to see the Crusaders, trembling with excitement at this new experience—enter the vessels which were waiting to receive them, while on shore the citizens of Marseilles were crowding to the front to see the expedition start, and the gay colours of the flying banners, the bright costumes of the women, blended with the sunlight in which the fronts of the quaint old houses were bathed, together with the blue water and the bluer sky, made a picture both dazzling and beautiful.
When the little army had entered the ships provided for their use, the solemn ceremonies took place which in those days, when sea voyages were so perilous, always preceded such an expedition. Then, the religious exercises being over, all parts of the ships were examined to see that they were in proper order for such a dangerous voyage, the sailors were stationed at their respective posts, the anchor chains were loosened, ready to release the vessels, and the ropes held in hand. There was a brief silence, then upon the elevated "castle" or stern of each ship, the young army of Crusaders commenced to chant that dear old hymn "Veni Creator Spiritus" which the church in all ages has used on solemn occasions, and as its words floated from one vessel, they were taken up on another until the air was full of harmony which was wafted back to the hills and shore, where the seven vessels were being eagerly watched out of sight. With none of the noise of modern steamers, those seven vessels glided out of the quiet harbour, in stately procession and passed beneath the lofty rock of Notre Dame, and the little voyagers were at sea.
Soon their songs grow faint as they float over the water, then die away. After that the flags and banners still tell of joy and hope, until they too are invisible. The day draws to a close, darkness drops down and envelops the seven ships sailing towards the promised land with five thousand courageous little pilgrims on board.
But, alas, for hopes and plans, alas, for the holy ideals of that little band. Not one of them ever realised his ambition!
Two of those ships which sailed so gaily from the harbour of Marseilles, laden with the fair and hopeful youths of France, whose mission was to rescue the Holy Tomb from infidel hands, were wrecked in a wild storm off the Hermit's rock, lying beneath the cliffs of San Pietro.
There beneath the "unplumbed, salt estranging sea" lies Stephen, the boy Prophet—who even while the tempest was hurling his army to death on the open sea, proved the sincerity of his piety; for clinging to a spar, while drifting to a certain doom, he led his little flock in song and prayer, and even as wave after wave dashed over the deck, above the roar of the tempest could his clear triumphant young voice be heard—"In the name of Christ and His cross, be brave. We go to victory—to victory!"
Hideous indeed were the sufferings of the brave youths in the other ships, when they saw their comrades drifting to their death, and little did they dream that they had escaped that terrible storm only to meet still greater perils. Soon they found that they were victims of an infamous treachery, that the merchants who had been so praised in preparing vessels for their use, were simply slave-dealers who had contracted (and probably for an enormous amount of money)—to sell those unsuspecting children to the Mohammedans—the very nation whom the youthful Crusaders had gone forth to conquer, to whom such a consignment of fair young slaves would be of rare value.
Surrounded by vessels of the enemy, they were taken from the ships in which they embarked, and despite their agony of fright and pleading, were carried either to Brijeiah or to Alexandria by their captors, where among the fairest scenes, and the most wonderful and tropical beauty they had ever dreamed of, they were sold into hopeless slavery. Not one of all that army of Stephen's ever saw Europe again, and the Children's Crusade ended as all enterprises end, whether undertaken by young or old, layman or priest, warrior or statesman, when conceived and carried out in a spirit of rebellion and frenzy.
Nicholas and Stephen—boy leaders of the Children's Crusade, one of the most pathetic and thrilling events in all history, one lived—one died. Which, think you, had the right to wear the emblem of the Holy Cross?
PETER OF HAARLEM:
The Boy Who Saved His Country
It was an April day, and Haarlem, an old Dutch town near Amsterdam was gay with tulips, for there in Haarlem are grown the most famous tulips in all the world, as well as hyacinths, and if you had driven through the country roads on that April day, you would have seen the meadows and roadsides overspread with a brilliant carpet of the vari-coloured flowers, while the air was full of the sweet perfume of the hyacinths, and you could have carried away with you as many flowers as you had time and patience to pick.
Holland and its provinces and towns are famous for many other things, as well as for tulips and hyacinths, for it is a country quite different from the others which we visit and study about more often, and although it is a small country in comparison to others which are so vast in territory, yet there has been none more celebrated for courage than brave little Holland, and its fight for independence has made it famous in the historical annals of the world. Sturdy and plucky are the Dutch, and quaint and curious are the customs and manners still prevailing in many of the country districts. Every district has its own costume peculiar to its inhabitants, and the many colours of these costumes, the curious caps worn with them, the heavy wooden shoes, or sabots, which all true Dutch people wear, and the clothes worn by the men, so different from the conventional dress of men of other nations, make a picturesque and interesting sight when the Dutch people are gathered together on the day of a "Pardon" or religious fete day.
Their homes, too, are quaint and strange in appearance to our conventional eyes, and it has been said that the Dutch people dressed up like quaint dolls, with their gay little homes and their little canals, which cut up their bright green fields into many sections, live in a country which is like a charming, attractive toy, it is so clean, so tidy and so bright, and it seems a natural thing that the gorgeous tulip should be their favourite flower. And that brings us back to the old town of Haarlem in whose roads we were wandering on an April day.
Now one of the greatest differences between Holland and other countries, is that it lies below the level of the sea, and so has to be very carefully guarded from the surging flood at its very door, or it would be either swept bare by the relentless sea, or entirely wiped out of existence. To prevent this calamity the patient Dutchmen have built wonderful dykes which guard their little country and keep the tyrant sea in check. These dykes are huge banks of earth which tower high above the lowlands and are the only safeguards of the country. Of course, these dykes could only be made gradually, as the sea was turned from one spot to another by dams and locks, and no greater proof of Dutch industry and patience is shown than the way they have protected their land from the sea.
When a dyke has been built, then on the edge of it, a windmill is erected, which works a pump, and as the windmill draws up the water from the sea, it is discharged into a canal. These canals which flow through all Holland in a network of winding ways, run to the sea, and where they meet the sea, in the dykes, great oaken gates, called sluices are placed across the entrance to the canals, to regulate the amount of water which shall flow into the canals, from the sea. These gates are in charge of men called sluicers whose duty it is, when water is needed, to open the gates more or less, according to the amount of water required, and then to close them carefully at night, so that too much water may not flow into the canals, overflow them, and flood the whole country. Even the smallest child in Holland is brought up with a keen knowledge of the grave importance of a sluicer's duty and of the danger to the country if he should neglect it, and the men chosen for that position are always those whose reputation for faithful service is unchallenged.
Naturally, a country lying as Holland lies is very damp and misty, and its entire surface is covered with the network of canals running through the meadows to the sea. If you could stand on a hill and look down on it, it would look like an enormous puzzle, consisting of hundreds of small vivid green pieces cut apart by the canals and decorated by the quaint red-roofed houses of which we have spoken.
Through all the canals flows the same water, and all of them are connected with each other, and are so very wide in some places that there is much traffic on them. Then, too, through miles of the green fields flow the narrower canals, draining the pasturelands, and everywhere one feels the nearness and the menace of the everlasting sea, and the protection of the dykes rearing the huge bulwarks between the peaceful country and its treacherous enemy.
And that brings us back again to Haarlem on that April day when the quaint little town was gay with the red and yellow tulips and the air sweet with the scent of hyacinths.
On that bright spring day a little boy whose name is said to have been Peter, and whose father was a sluicer, had for his dinner some cakes of which he was very fond, and which his mother had baked because she knew how much Peter liked them.
Peter was a very unselfish boy, and whenever he had anything he liked, his first thought always was to share it with someone else. So, as soon as he had finished his meal, he jumped up from the table and begged his mother to let him go to see a poor blind man who lived not far away, and to let him carry with him those cakes which had not been eaten.
His mother was pleased with this thought of Peter's for the poor old man, and at once brought a basket and filled it with cakes for him to carry to the invalid, while Peter's father was making him promise not to stay out too late, and soon the boy was on his way to his friends, happy in the beauty of the day, and in the thought of the pleasure his present would give the blind man.
And he was not mistaken, the old man was delighted with the cakes, and at once broke and ate one, while he began to tell Peter one of the stories for which he was famous, and which he knew Peter loved to hear. But Peter suddenly remembered his promise not to stay out late, and finally became so uneasy that he told the old man he must not wait to hear the end of the story, and, hastily bidding him farewell, started towards home.
His path lay beside the dyke, and along its grassy banks grew beautiful wild flowers of many varieties, so numerous and attractive that Peter decided to pick a bunch of them to carry home to his mother, who was so much of an invalid that she was seldom out of the house. So he picked a few here and a few there—blue and yellow and pink, until he had a handful of those varieties of which he knew his mother was most fond, and as he walked on, to keep himself from feeling lonesome, he hummed a gay little song.
Presently, he stopped, and neither sang nor smiled, as he looked at a slender thread of water trickling through the grass. Where did it come from? Surely not from the canal, and there was nowhere else for it to come from unless it came from the dyke itself.
The thought was enough to make even a child turn pale and tremble. Only the dykes stood between the boundless sea and the safety of little Holland. He looked again, and to his imagination, the stream seemed greater already. What could he do? Night was coming on, the road was a solitary one. There was only the barest chance of anyone passing that way whom he might hail, or of whom he could ask advice.
Then came a quick recollection of his promise to his father, and he started homeward again, but a force as mighty as a giant's grasp, made him turn back again to watch that trickling stream of water.
He was near one of the great oaken sluices, and bounding up beside it he carefully examined the dyke. There, as small as his finger, was a hole—strange and unaccountable happening,—and through that little hole was flowing the stream of water at his feet.
Like lightning the flash of intuition came to Peter, if that hole were not stopped up instantly, the force of the flow through it would rapidly increase from the pounding of that mighty sea behind it. In a night the flood would break through the dyke and perhaps destroy all the homes in Holland.
What could he do? No stone would fit the hole, no amount of earth packed into the crevice could resist the pressure of the water. Peter was desperate. Forgotten now were his bunch of flowers which fell unheeded from his hand. He strained his eyes in a vain search for travellers on that lonely road, vainly he shouted out for help until his throat was hoarse. What could he do? It was no common instinct that came in that lightning flash to Peter. Climbing again up the steep bank, from stone to stone, he thrust his finger in the hole and, oh, joy, it fitted! It stopped the trickling water for the moment, but, oh, what would happen when he took it out?
Ah, it was as clear as daylight, what to do. He would not take it out until someone should come to relieve him. Forgetful of what this idea might bring to him, if carried out, he chuckled with a boyish delight in this real adventure.
"Ha, ha!" he said to himself. "The water can't come down now. Haarlem shall not be drowned while I am here to keep the flood back."
For awhile excitement kept him warm and fearless. Then the chill darkness of the night surrounded him. All sorts of strange noises fell upon his unaccustomed ears, he seemed to see giants and demons lurking near, ready to pounce upon him and kill him. Although he was a sturdy lad, tears came at last, when he could no longer keep back thoughts of his comfortable bed at home, of the parents who might be even then worrying about his safety, although as he before remained over night with the old man, Jansen, he felt that his mother and father had probably gone to bed and to sleep, while he was out in the dark night alone and in such a misery of pain. The pain grew greater, the misery harder to bear every moment now, and still Peter kept his finger in that dangerous hole.
He tried to whistle, hoping to attract the attention of some straggling traveller, but his teeth chattered so much that he gave it up, and then he remembered what he had been taught at his mother's knee, and Peter prayed to the great God who could control the surging sea and protect a boy who was doing his best. Peter was only a child, but if he ever prayed with his whole heart, he prayed so that night in the darkness, with his numbed finger thrust through that hole in the dyke, and when his prayer was said he somehow felt braver, stronger and older than before, and in his heart he said:
"I will not take it out till someone comes. I will stay till morning."
Longer and longer grew the hours, the minutes, the seconds, and yet he never moved—there were strange noises in his head, his thoughts were confused, pictures of his playmates, of events long ago forgotten danced before his eyes. He was not sure he could draw his finger out of the hole even if he wished to do so, it felt so strangely numb. What did it mean that knives seemed to be cutting, and pins pricking him from head to foot? What would happen if no one ever found him—no one ever came to help?
At last the rose and silver of the dawn flushed the sky. Day had come and along that lonesome road came the first traveller in all the hours of Peter's vigil.
A clergyman whose night had been spent by the bedside of a sick parishioner, hurrying homeward on the path beside the dyke, heard a groan, a feeble sound of one in mortal agony. Turning, he glanced, first here and there, and looking up, at last, he saw beside the dyke, the figure of a child writhing in agony.
In a single bound, the clergyman stood beside him exclaiming:
"In the name of wonder, boy, what are you doing here?"
"I am keeping the water from running out," said Peter. "Oh, can't you ask them to come quick."
And they did. The town of Haarlem, even Holland itself, had been saved, through the courage of a little boy who did his duty, and from that day to this there has never been a child in Holland who has not heard the stirring story of Peter, whose pluck was worthy of a sluicer's son, and whose name will never be forgotten, or effaced from the page of historic legend.
The Shepherd Boy
A rare good fortune it is to have a friend so true and so faithful that it is as safe to tell him a secret as to whisper it to yourself, one to whom your interests are as important as his own, and who would do any sort of unselfish act to show his devotion to you. It was just such a comradeship as this which existed between two boys of long ago, the story of whose intimacy has come down to us from Bible times as a most wonderful example of what a friendship can be.
Those boys were David, the son of Jesse of Bethlehem, and Jonathan, the son of Saul, King of Israel, and when you hear two persons spoken of as "a David and a Jonathan" you may know that they are the closest kind of friends.
To appreciate thoroughly the friendship between David and Jonathan, and what it meant to both of them, let us go back a little into the history of the time in which the boys lived, and look at the circumstances which led up to their friendship, for that is very important to a clear understanding of the story of David and Jonathan.
At that time the kingdom of Israel was in a deplorable condition, for the Philistines, a war-like tribe who lived in a small territory on the coast, had over-run and conquered most of Israel, and Samuel who was the aged guide and advisor of the Israelites, as well as the last of the judges and the first of the prophets of Israel, saw that the only hope for his people lay in having a higher moral standard and a central government. To bring this about, Samuel established the schools of the prophets in Ramah and other cities, where men could be trained to teach their nation how to live wiser, purer lives—and Samuel also anointed Saul as King of Israel, and for a while Saul ruled wisely and well. Then he disobeyed the command of God, and began to care for conquest in war only when it brought him glory or the spoils of battles, and Samuel seeing this, was much troubled, and finally went to Saul and told him that he must repent and do differently or he would no longer be worthy to be the King of Israel, that God demanded more honest service than he was giving. Saul was considerably troubled at this plain speaking of Samuel and promised to do better in future, but when Samuel left him, it was with a heavy heart, for he felt sure that there would be need of a new king—that Saul would not keep his promises.
And so Samuel at once began to look for a man whom he could anoint as the future King, although no one knew of this purpose but himself, and the voice of God within him inspired him to go to Bethlehem and seek among the sons of Jesse for the King he wished to find. So Samuel went to Bethlehem, but in order that the real purpose of his visit might not be discovered, he took with him beside the horn of oil with which he would anoint the new King if he should find him, also a young calf to offer as a sacrifice, that he might have a suitable excuse to give to the people for his visit.
Of course the coming of Samuel created a great excitement in the little town of Bethlehem, for the people feared that he came to reprove them for some wrong-doing, until Samuel assured them that this was not so, that he came peaceably, and in proof of it invited them to the sacrifice which he was preparing to offer on a hill just outside the gate of the city. According to the rule of Oriental hospitality, it was customary that some prominent man from the village should invite Samuel to return to his home after offering the sacrifice, to break bread with him and to pass the night under his roof if Samuel desired to do so, and as Samuel had invited Jesse to the sacrifice, it came about quite naturally that, as Samuel desired, it was Jesse's home to which the aged Prophet went.
After they had arrived there, Samuel and Jesse sat and talked together alone, for although Jesse had eight sons and two daughters, and they were no longer children, the Eastern custom forbade a man's family to enter his presence unless he expressly asked them to do so. And so Samuel and Jesse were alone together, until Samuel asked Jesse if he had no sons. Jesse replied that he had, and Samuel then requested to see them. It was natural for a father to be pleased at such a request and Jesse at once sent for Eliab, his eldest son, who promptly came into the presence of his father and the aged Prophet, and Samuel looked earnestly at the tall, handsome fellow, but a voice within him told Samuel that Eliab was not the king-to-be, and after a brief talk with the young man, he was dismissed, and Jesse called another and then another of his sons, until Samuel had seen seven of them, but the prophet only shook his head as he saw each one of them, for the voice of inspiration or instinct said within him:
"Neither hath the Lord chosen this." Then Samuel turned once more to Jesse and asked:
"Are here all thy children?" And Jesse answered reluctantly:
"There remaineth yet the youngest, and behold he keepeth the sheep."
Then Samuel bade Jesse send for David, which he did, and David, who was as usual roaming with his flock in the Judean pasture-land, was greatly surprised to see a messenger coming to him in breathless haste, and still more was he surprised to receive his father's message that he was to come home at once, as the prophet Samuel had asked to see him before leaving. It was an unexpected command, but young David was always ready for any emergency, and so, simply taking up his shepherd's staff, which was a long stick with a handle crooked in such a way that by its aid David could examine the limbs of his flock, or roll a sheep over with it, when unruly and without further preparation, David accompanied the messenger, although filled with wonder as to the reason for being summoned to appear before the aged prophet Samuel.
See him as he enters his home and stands before Samuel, red-cheeked, fair-skinned, glowing with health and happiness, with arms strong enough to break a bow of steel, and with limbs like a deer's in their swiftness to escape a foe or to scale a wall. Sturdy and fearless he stood before Samuel, the picture of youthful vigour and courage, and when Samuel had scarcely more than glanced at him, the voice of God spoke within the prophet saying:
"Arise, anoint him, for this is he."
Then Samuel rose with simple earnestness and laid a hand on David's shoulder, looking long and solemnly into the clear bright eyes which answered his glance, then more solemnly still, Samuel took up the horn of oil which he had brought with him, and with the customary ceremony, anointed David, the fair-haired young shepherd boy, to be the future King of Israel. As only kings were anointed and Samuel always performed this ceremony, Jesse could not have failed to understand the solemn rite, although he must have marvelled over it, wondering why it should be performed over this, his youngest and least important son. Doubtless, although the Bible narrative does not tell us so, the aged prophet later spoke to Jesse of the meaning of his act, and one can imagine Jesse's flutter of heart at the thought that one of his boys should have been chosen to fill such a great position. David also, young as he was, must have understood in some measure what the ceremony meant, although he must have been completely at a loss to understand how he, a mere child, could be the Lord's anointed. Probably, like any other boy of to-day, he wanted to ask questions, but there was not the freedom allowed young people in those days that there is now and David, looking from the awe-struck face of his father, to the solemn one of the prophet, doubtless kept silent. Then with an appropriately reverential farewell to the aged prophet he must have been sent from the presence of Jesse and Samuel, sent back again to his accustomed task and to await the fulfilling of that destiny which, from the moment when he thrilled at the touch of the prophet's hand on his head, and the sound of his solemn words, he felt sure was in some way to link his life in consecrated service to that of the people of Israel.
But that belief did not alter his conduct in his daily routine of duty, and with the faithfulness which was one of his marked characteristics, he continued to care for his sheep, tending them with increased watchfulness under the stimulus of his new day-dream.
And from that moment David had unconsciously taken the motto which was his through all his adventurous life:
"I shall not raise my hand against the Lord's anointed."
From that hour when he went back to tend his sheep, after Samuel's visit, to the time when his destiny was fulfilled, David, even under the stress of fierce temptation, never moved a finger to hasten events; never tried to force his way to the throne of Israel, but with buoyant courage, did his duty day by day, and the monotony of his early shepherd's life was varied only by an occasional unexpected adventure.
Look—listen—as he wanders over the hillside at dusk, he shows alarm—he hears a dreaded sound! Ah, yes, one he knew too well—the stealthy glide of a creeping foe coming to attack his flock.
Alone, with only his sling for weapon, in that wild unpeopled country, the shepherd boy stands, brave and alert, ready to protect his sheep. Ah, a lion! the stealthy beast creeps nearer, nearer.
Suddenly David draws his sling, the stone strikes the lion between the eyes, he falls by a single shot. But look—this is not the end of the battle. Even while David is encountering the lion, that most dreaded of all foes of the flock, a huge bear glides with stealthy steps, and seizes a lamb. Quick as an arrow David hurls himself upon the monstrous beast, who drops his prey and rises in angry power on his hind legs to hug and crush his enemy. But David is too quick for him, he grasps the bear by the jaw with iron force, grapples with him, the great creature snarls, moans, writhes and is no more, while David, hot with the joy of victory, turns back to quiet his frightened flock.
Does not this encounter give a hint of the fearless courage that made David such a famous warrior in later life?
Now let us note another side of his many-sided character while we listen to the melodies he so dearly loved to play on his harp as he wandered over the hills and plains with his flock. David had in him the making of a mighty warrior, a great king, but he had too, a dreamy, sensitive, poetic side to his nature, which made him deeply appreciate and enjoy all the beauty of nature which he tried to express in his music, and which long years later, came out more clearly in those wonderful psalms which he wrote, and which have comforted and helped so many generations of Christian people.
In those days Saul was becoming less and less of a dignified, self-controlled leader, as he began to realise that he was not powerful enough to hold his people, and he frequently gave way to fits of terrible anger or prolonged melancholy, from which no one could rouse him. At that time when the Philistines were gaining so many victories over the Israelites, it was most important that Saul should not give way to such attacks, as they unfitted him to perform his public or private duties, and every means of quieting him was tried, but in vain. Finally, it was suggested that music has a soothing effect on troubled spirits, and when the idea was mentioned to Saul it pleased him, and he at once commanded that a musician be found and brought to him. Then came the question of who that musician should be, and one of Saul's counsellors said:
"Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse, the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing and a comely person, and the Lord is with him."
The description pleased Saul and he at once sent a messenger to Jesse, saying:
"Send me David, thy son, which is with the sheep."
And so once again, there came to David a new experience for which he had had no preparation, and again, as before, he neither refused nor questioned the call to a different life, but while Jesse, his father, was preparing a present to send to Saul by David, according to the custom of the times, David was making hasty preparations to leave home. Soon he was ready to set off, and taking with him an ass laden with bread, a bottle of wine and a young kid, which were Jesse's present to Saul, on he journeyed over the hills and through the valleys until he reached the court of the King, and presently stood in the presence of Saul, who almost as soon as he had looked at the lad with his fair, bright face and sturdy figure, took a great fancy to him, and commanded him to become one of his household and to come and play to him whenever he should be summoned, and also sent this message back to Jesse:
"Let David, I pray thee, stand before me, for he hath found favour in my sight."
So David stayed at the King's court, and whenever Saul gave way to an attack of anger or depression, the young minstrel would hasten to him, and play melodies grave and gay, sweet and brilliant, playing with such skill that before he knew it, Saul would be in good humour again, or drop into a deep, refreshing sleep, and little did he dream that the lad who had such power to soothe and amuse him had been anointed by Samuel to rule over Israel in his place. That David thought often and earnestly about this, would be only natural to suppose, and we can but fancy that in those days amid surroundings such as he had never had before, the young lad learned much of the manners and customs of a king's life, and learned too, from the weakness that he saw in Saul's nature what a king ought to be and do. Probably much of David's tact in dealing with men and circumstances at a later day came from his observations in those early days when he was but a minstrel at the court of Saul.
How long he remained there, we do not know, but until Saul's attacks of passion and melancholy had been entirely overcome. Then, in the same spirit of unquestioning obedience as he showed before to the call of circumstances, as soon as he was no longer needed by Saul, David went back again to his home in Bethlehem and again tended his father's flocks in the Judean pasture-lands.