SELECTIONS FOR READING
Young Benjamin Franklin — Nathaniel Hawthorne A Hard Word A Song — James Whitcomb Riley The Journey of Life. An Allegory What I live for Try Again! — Charlotte Elizabeth True Manliness The Miller of the Dee — Charles Mackay A Boy on a Farm — Charles Dudley Warner Meddlesome Mattie The Eagle The Old Eagle Tree — John Todd A New Kind of Fun — From the German Two Ways of telling a Story — Henry K. Oliver The Blind Men and the Elephant — John G. Saxe Harry's Riches A Happy New Year — Margaret E. Sangster Jeanette and Jo — Mary Mapes Dodge Watseka. An Indian Legend Harry and his Dog — Mary Russell Milford Little Boy Blue — Eugene Field If I were a Boy The Tempest — James T. Fields The Right Way — Frank R. Stockton An Adventure with Wolves The Old Oaken Bucket — Samuel Woodworth The Farmer and the Fox — James Anthony Frowde Hiawatha's Childhood — H. W. Longfellow At Rugby School — Thomas Hughes Somebody's Darling — Marie La Coste The Captive — John R. Musick The Star-Spangled Banner — F. S. Key Our National Banner — Edward Everett Burning the Fallow — Susanna Moodie Piccola — Celia L. Thaxter The Mountain and the Squirrel — R. W. Emerson Srange Stories of Ants: White Ants — Henry Drummond Red Ants — Jules Michelet Dear Country Mine — R. W. Gilder My Country The Four MacNicols — William Black The Blue and the Gray — Ellen H. Flagg The Captain's Feather — Samuel M. Peck The Ride to London — Charles Dickens The Planting of the Apple Tree — W. C. Bryant The Apple — John Burroughs The Bugle Song — Alfred Tennyson The Story of Captain John Smith — John Esten Cooke On the Banks of the Tennessee — W. D. Gallagher Good Will — J. T. Trowbridge The Good Reader A Legend of Bregenz — Adelaide A. Procter The Golden Touch — Nathaniel Hawthorne The Brook — Alfred Tennyson The Sermon on the Mount — Bible The Song of Steam — G. W. Cutter The Gentle Hand — T. S. Arthur Spring — Henry Timrod Marion's Men — William Gilmore Simms The Pied Piper of Hamelin — Robert Browning
YOUNG BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
BY NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE.
When Benjamin Franklin was a boy he was very fond of fishing; and many of his leisure hours were spent on the margin of the mill pond catching flounders, perch, and eels that came up thither with the tide.
The place where Ben and his playmates did most of their fishing was a marshy spot on the outskirts of Boston. On the edge of the water there was a deep bed of clay, in which the boys were forced to stand while they caught their fish.
"This is very uncomfortable," said Ben Franklin one day to his comrades, while they were standing in the quagmire.
"So it is," said the other boys. "What a pity we have no better place to stand on!"
On the dry land, not far from the quagmire, there were at that time a great many large stones that had been brought there to be used in building the foundation of a new house. Ben mounted upon the highest of these stones.
"Boys," said he, "I have thought of a plan. You know what a plague it is to have to stand in the quagmire yonder. See, I am bedaubed to the knees, and you are all in the same plight.
"Now I propose that we build a wharf. You see these stones? The workmen mean to use them for building a house here. My plan is to take these same stones, carry them to the edge of the water, and build a wharf with them. What say you, lads? Shall we build the wharf?"
"Yes, yes," cried the boys; "let's set about it!"
It was agreed that they should all be on the spot that evening, and begin their grand public enterprise by moonlight.
Accordingly, at the appointed time, the boys met and eagerly began to remove the stones. They worked like a colony of ants, sometimes two or three of them taking hold of one stone; and at last they had carried them all away, and built their little wharf.
"Now, boys," cried Ben, when the job was done, "let's give three cheers, and go home to bed. To-morrow we may catch fish at our ease."
"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!" shouted his comrades, and all scampered off home and to bed, to dream of to-morrow's sport.
In the morning the masons came to begin their work. But what was their surprise to find the stones all gone! The master mason, looking carefully on the ground, saw the tracks of many little feet, some with shoes and some barefoot. Following these to the water side, he soon found what had become of the missing building stones.
"Ah! I see what the mischief is," said he; "those little rascals who were here yesterday have stolen the stones to build a wharf with. And I must say that they understand their business well."
He was so angry that he at once went to make a complaint before the magistrate; and his Honor wrote an order to "take the bodies of Benjamin Franklin, and other evil-disposed persons," who had stolen a heap of stones.
If the owner of the stolen property had not been more merciful than the master mason, it might have gone hard with our friend Benjamin and his comrades. But, luckily for them, the gentleman had a respect for Ben's father, and, moreover, was pleased with the spirit of the whole affair. He therefore let the culprits off easily.
But the poor boys had to go through another trial, and receive sentence, and suffer punishment, too, from their own fathers. Many a rod was worn to the stump on that unlucky night. As for Ben, he was less afraid of a whipping than of his father's reproof. And, indeed, his father was very much disturbed.
"Benjamin, come hither," began Mr. Franklin in his usual stern and weighty tone. The boy approached and stood before his father's chair. "Benjamin," said his father, "what could induce you to take property which did not belong to you?"
"Why, father," replied Ben, hanging his head at first, but then lifting his eyes to Mr. Franklin's face, "if it had been merely for my own benefit, I never should have dreamed of it. But I knew that the wharf would be a public convenience. If the owner of the stones should build a house with them, nobody would enjoy any advantage but himself. Now, I made use of them in a way that was for the advantage of many persons."
"My son," said Mr. Franklin solemnly, "so far as it was in your power, you have done a greater harm to the public than to the owner of the stones. I do verily believe, Benjamin, that almost all the public and private misery of mankind arises from a neglect of this great truth,—that evil can produce only evil, that good ends must be wrought out by good means."
To the end of his life, Ben Franklin never forgot this conversation with his father; and we have reason to suppose, that, in most of his public and private career, he sought to act upon the principles which that good and wise man then taught him.
DEFINITIONS:—In defining words, that meaning is given which is appropriate to them in the connection in which they are used. The pupil should look in the dictionary for the meaning of all the others with which he is not perfectly familiar.
Quagmire, soft, wet, miry land. Outskirt, borders. Plague, bother, great trouble. Plight, condition. Wharf, a platform on the shore of a harbor, river, or lake, extending some way into the water. Comrades, companions, playfellows. Magistrate, an officer of the law, justice of the peace. Ringleader, the leader of several persons acting together. Culprits, wrong-doers. Solemnly, with great dignity. Induce, lead persuade. Benefit, profit, accomodation. Verily, truly.
EXERCISE.—Where is Boston? How long ago did Benjamin Franklin live? Learn all that you can about his life and work, and repeat it to the class at the next recitation.
A HARD WORD.
"P-o po, p-o po, Popo, c-a-t cat, Popocat—Oh dear, what a hard word! Let me see, Po-po-cat-e-petl. I can never pronounce it, I am sure. I wish they would not have such hard names in geography," said George Gould, quite out of patience. "Will you please tell me how to pronounce the name of this mountain, father?"
"Why, do you call that a hard word to pronounce, George? I know much harder words than that."
"Well, father this is the hardest word I ever saw," replied George. "I wish they had put the name into the volcano, and burned it up."
"I know how to pronounce it," said Jane. "It is Po-po' ca-ta'petl."
"Po-po' ca-ta'petl," said George, stopping at each syllable. "Well, it is not so very hard, after all; but I wish they would not have any long words, and then one could pronounce them easily enough."
"I do not think so," said his father. "Some of the hardest words I have ever seen are the shortest. I know one little word, with only two letters in it, that very few children, or men either, can always speak."
"Oh, I suppose it is borne French or German word; isn't it, father?"
"No: it is English; and you may think it strange, but it is just as hard to pronounce in one language as another."
"Only two letters! What can it be?" cried both the children.
"The hardest word," replied their father, "I have ever met with in any language—and I have learned several—is a little word of two letters—N-o, no."
"Now you are making fun of us!" cried the children: "that is one of the easiest words in the world." And, to prove that their father was mistaken, they both repeated, "N-o, no; n-o, no," a great many times.
"I am not joking in the least. I really think it is the hardest of all words. It may seem easy enough to you to-night, but perhaps you cannot pronounce it to-morrow."
"I can always say it, I know I can;" said George with much confidence—"NO! Why, it is as easy to say it as to breathe."
"Well, George, I hope you will always find it as easy to pronounce as you think it is now, and that you will be able to speak it when you ought to."
In the morning George went bravely to school, a little proud that he could pronounce so hard a word as "Popocatepetl." Not far frown the schoolhouse was a large pond of very deep water, where the boys used to skate and slide when it was frozen over.
Now, the night before, Jack Frost had been busy changing the surface of the pond into beautiful crystals of ice; and when the boys went to school in the morning they found the pond as smooth and clear as glass. The day was cold, and they thought that by noon the ice would be strong enough to skate upon.
As soon as school was dismissed the boys all ran to the pond,—some to try the ice, and others merely to see it.
"Come, George," said William Green; "now we shall have a glorious time sliding."
George hesitated, and said he did not believe it was strong enough, for it had been frozen over only one night.
"Oh, come on!" said another boy: "I know it is strong enough. I have known it to freeze over in one night, many a time, so it would bear: haven't you, John?"
"Yes," answered John Brown: "it did so one night last winter; and it wasn't so cold as it was last night, either."
But George still hesitated, for his father had forbidden him to go on the ice without special permission.
"I know why George won't go," said John; "he's afraid he might fall down and hurt himself."
"Or the ice might crack," said another; "and the noise would frighten him. Perhaps his mother might not like it."
"He's a coward, that's the reason he won't come."
George could stand this no longer, for he was rather proud of his courage. "I am not afraid," said he; and he ran to the pond, and was the first one on the ice. The boys enjoyed the sport very much, running and sliding, and trying to catch one another on its smooth surface.
More boys kept coming on as they saw the sport, and soon all thought of danger was forgotten. Then suddenly there was a loud cry, "The ice has broken! the ice has broken!" And sure enough, three of the boys had broken through, and were struggling in the water; and one of them was George.
The teacher had heard the noise, and was coming to call the boys from the ice just as they broke through. He tore some boards from a fence close by, and shoved them out on the ice until they came within reach of the boys in the water. After a while he succeeded in getting the three boys out of the water, but not until they were almost frozen.
George's father and mother were very much troubled when he was brought home, and they learned how narrowly he had escaped drowning. But they were so glad to know that. he was safe that they did not ask him any questions until he was warm and comfortable again. But in the evening, when they were all gathered together about the cheerful fire, his father asked him how he came to disobey his positive command.
George answered that he did not want to go on the ice, but the boys made him.
"How did they make you? Did they take hold of you, and drag you on?" asked his father.
"No," said George, "but they all wanted me to go."
"When they asked you, why didn't you say 'No'?"
"I was going to do so: but they called me a coward, and said I was afraid to go; and I couldn't stand that."
"And so," said his father, "you found it easier to disobey me, and run the risk of losing your life, than to say that little word you thought so easy last night. You could not say 'No.'"
George now began to see why this little word"No" was so hard to pronounce. It was not because it was so long, or composed of such difficult sounds; but because it often requires so much real courage to say it,—to say "No" when one is tempted to do wrong.
After that, whenever George was tempted to do wrong, he remembered his narrow escape from drowning, and the importance of the little word "No." The oftener he said it, the easier it became; and in time he could say it, when necessary, without much effort.
DEFINITIONS:—Popocatepetl, a volcano in Mexico (sometimes inaccurately pronounced po po cat' a petl). Prounounce, say distinctly. Syllable, one of the distinct parts of a word. Attracted, drawn. Hesitated, paused. Importance, value. Special, particular.
BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY
There is ever a song somewhere, my dear, There is ever a something sings alway: There's the song of the lark when the skies are clear, And the song of the thrush when the skies are gray. The sunshine showers across the grain, And the bluebird trills in the orchard tree; And in and out, when the eaves drip rain, The swallows are twittering carelessly.
There is ever a song somewhere, my dear, Be the skies above or dark or fair; There is ever a song that our hearts may hear— There is ever a song somewhere, my dear— There is ever a song somewhere!
There is ever a song somewhere, my dear, In the midnight black or the midday blue: The robin pipes when the sun is here, And the cricket chirrups the whole night through; The buds may blow and the fruit may grow, And the autumn leaves drop crisp and sere: But whether the sun or the rain or the snow, There is ever a song somewhere, my dear.
* From "Afterwhiles." Copyright, 1887. By permission of the Bowen-Merrill Company, publishers; Indianapolis, Indiana.
THE JOURNEY OF LIFE.
Once upon a time, a good many years ago, there was a traveler, and he set out upon a journey. It was a magic journey, and was to seem very long when he began it, and very short when he got halfway through.
He traveled along a rather dark path for some little time, without meeting anything, until at last he came to a beautiful child. So he said to the child, "What do you here?" And the child said, "I am always at play. Come and play with me."
So he played with the child the whole day long, and they were very merry. The sky was so blue, the sun was so bright, the water was so sparkling, the leaves were so green, the flowers were so lovely, and they heard so many singing birds, and saw so many butterflies, that everything was beautiful. This was in fine weather.
When it rained, they loved to watch the falling drops and smell the fresh scents. When it blew, it was delightful to listen to the wind, and fancy what it said, as it came rushing from its home, whistling and howling, and driving the clouds before it, bending the trees, rumbling in the chimneys, shaking the house and making the sea roar in fury.
But when it snowed, that was the best of all; for they liked nothing so well as to look up at the white flakes falling fast and thick, like down frown the breasts of millions of white birds, and to see how smooth and deep the drift was, and to listen to the hush upon the paths and roads.
But one day of a sudden the traveler lost the child. He called to him over and over again, but got no answer. So he went on for a little while without meeting anything, until at last he came to a handsome boy. He said to the boy, "What do you here?" And the boy said, "I am always learning. Come and learn with me."
So he learned with the boy about Jupiter and Juno, and the Greeks and Romans,—more than I could tell, or he either; for he soon forgot a great deal of it. But they were not always learning; they had the merriest games that ever were played.
They rowed upon the river in summer, and skated on the ice in winter; they were active afoot and active on horseback; at cricket, and all games of ball; at prisoner's base, hare-and-hounds, follow-my-leader, and more sports than I can think of: nobody could beat them. As to friends, they had such dear friends, and so many of them, that I want the time to reckon them up. They were all young, like the handsome boy, and were never to be strange to one another all their lives through.
Still, one day, in the midst of all these pleasures, the traveler lost the boy, as he had lost the child, and, after calling him in vain, went on upon his journey. So he went on for a while without seeing anything, until at last he came to a young man. He said to the young man, "What do you here?" And the young man said, "I am always in love. Come and love with me."
But the traveler lost the young man as he had lost the rest of his friends, and, after calling to him to come back, which he never did, went on upon his journey. At last he came to a middle-aged gentleman. So he said to him, "What are you doing here?" And his answer was, "I am always busy. Come and be busy with me."
The traveler began to be very busy with the gentleman, and they went on through the wood together. The whole journey was through a wood, only it had been open and green at first, like a wood in spring, and now began to be thick and dark, like a wood in summer; some of the little trees that had come out earliest were even turning brown.
The gentleman was not alone, but had a lady of about the same age with him, who was his wife; and they had children, who were with them too. They all went on together through the wood, cutting down the trees, and making a path among the branches, and carrying burdens and working hard.
Sometimes they came to a long green avenue that opened into deeper woods. Then they would hear a very distant little voice crying, "Father, father, I am another child! Stop for me!" And presently they would see a very little figure, growing larger as it came along, running to join them. When it came up, they all crowded round it, and kissed and welcomed it; and then they all went on together.
Sometimes they came to several avenues at once; and then they all stood still, and one of the children said, "Father, I am going to sea;" and another said, "Father, I am going to India;" and another, "Father, I am going to seek my fortune where I can;" and another, "Father, I am going to heaven."
So, with many tears at parting, they went, solitary, down those avenues, each child upon its way; and the child who went to heaven rose into the golden air and vanished.
Whenever these partings happened, the traveler looked at the gentleman, and saw him glance up at the sky above the trees, where the day was beginning to decline, and the sunset to come on. He saw, too, that his hair was turning gray. But they could never rest long, for they had their journey to perform, and it was necessary for them to be always busy.
At last, there had been so many partings that there were no children left, and only the traveler, the gentleman, and the lady went upon their way in company. And now the wood was yellow; and now brown; and the leaves, even of the forest trees, began to fall.
They came to an avenue that was darker than the rest, and were pressing forward on their journey without looking down it, when the lady stopped.
"My husband," said the lady, "I am called."
They listened, and they heard a voice a long way down the avenue say, "Mother, mother!"
It was the voice of the child who had said, "I am going to heaven!" and the father cried, "I pray not yet. The sunset is very near. I pray not yet."
But the voice called, "Mother, mother!" without minding him, though his hair was now quite white, and tears were on his face.
Then the mother, who was already drawn into the shade of the dark avenue, and moving away with her arms still around his neck, kissed him and said, "My dearest, I am summoned, and I go!" And she was gone. The traveler and he were left alone together.
And they went on and on, until they came very near to the end of the wood; so near, that they could see the setting sun shining red before them through the trees.
Yet once more, while he broke his way among the branches, the traveler lost his friend. He called and called, but there was no reply, and when he passed out of the wood and saw the peaceful sun going down upon a wide purple prospect, he came to an old man sitting upon a fallen tree. He said to the old man, "What do you here?" And the old man said, with a calm smile, "I am always remembering. Come and remember with me."
So the traveler sat down by the side of the old man, face to face with the serene sunset; and all his friends came softly back and stood around him. The beautiful child, the handsome boy, the young man, the father, mother, and children every one of them was there, and he had lost nothing. He loved them all, and was kind and forbearing with them all, and they all honored and loved him.
DEFINITIONS:—Scents, smells. Cricket, a game at ball very popular in England.Solitary, alone. Summoned, called. Allegory, a truth related in the form of a story.
WHAT I LIVE FOR.
I live for those who love me, Whose hearts are kind and true, For the heaven that smiles above me, And awaits my spirit, too; For all human ties that bind me, For the task my God assigned me, For the bright hopes left behind me, And the good that I can do. I live to learn their story, Who suffered for my sake; To emulate their glory, And follow in their wake; Bards, patriots, martyrs, sages, The noble of all ages, Whose deeds crown History's pages, And Time's great volume make.
I live to hail that season, By gifted minds foretold, When man shall live by reason, And not alone by gold; When man to man united, And every wrong thing righted, The whole world shall be lighted As Eden was of old.
I live for those who love me, For those who know me true; For the heaven that smiles above me, And awaits my spirit, too; For the cause that needs assistance, For the wrongs that need resistance, For the future in the distance, And the good that I can do.
DEFINITIONS:—Assigned, allotted, marked out. Emulate, to strive to equal or excel, to rival. Wake, the track left by a vessel in the water; hence, figuratively, in the trail of. Bard, a poet. Martyr, one who scarifices what is of great value to him for the sake of principle. Sage, a wise man.
BY CHARLOTTE ELIZABETH.
"Will you give my kite a lift?" said my little nephew to his sister, after trying in vain to make it fly by dragging it along the ground. Lucy very kindly took it up and threw it into the air, but, her brother neglecting to run off at the same moment, the kite fell down again.
"Ah! now, how awkward you are!" said the little fellow. "It was your fault entirely," answered his sister. "Try again, children," said I.
Lucy once more took up the kite. But now John was in too great a hurry; he ran off so suddenly that he twitched the kite out of her hand, and it fell flat as before. "Well, who is to blame now?" asked Lucy. "Try again," said I.
They did, and with more care; but a side wind coming suddenly, as Lucy let go the kite, it was blown against some shrubs, and the tail became entangled in a moment, leaving the poor kite hanging with its head downward.
"There, there!" cried John, "that comes of your throwing it all to one side." "As if I could make the wind blow straight," said Lucy. In the meantime, I went to the kite's assistance; and having disengaged the long tail, I rolled it up, saying, "Come, children, there are too many trees here; let us find a more open space, and then try again."
We soon found a fine, open space, covered with green grass, and free from shrubs and trees. Then, all things being ready, I tossed the kite up just as little John ran off. It rose with all the dignity of a balloon, and promised a lofty flight; but John, delighted to find it pulling so hard at the string, stopped short to look upward and admire. The string slackened, the kite wavered, and, the wind not being very strong, down came the kite to the grass. "O John, you should not have stopped," said I. "However, try again."
"I won't try any more," replied he, rather sullenly. "It is of no use, you see. The kite won't fly, and I don't want to be plagued with it any longer."
"Oh, fie, my little man! would you give up the sport, after all the pains we have taken both to make and to fly the kite? A few disappointments ought not to discourage us. Come, I have wound up your string, and now try again."
And he did try, and succeeded, for the kite was carried upward on the breeze as lightly as a feather; and when the string was all out, John stood in great delight, holding fast the stick and gazing on the kite, which now seemed like a little white speck in the blue sky. "Look, look, aunt, how high it flies! and it pulls like a team of horses, so that I can hardly hold it. I wish I had a mile of string: I am sure it would go to the end of it."
After enjoying the sight as long as he wished, little John proceeded to roll up the string slowly; and when the kite fell, he took it up with great glee, saying that it was not at all hurt, and that it had behaved very well. "Shall we come out to-morrow, aunt, and try again?"
"Yes, my dear, if the weather is fine. And now, as we walk home, tell me, what you have learned from your morning's sport."
"I have learned to fly my kite properly."
"You may thank aunt for it, brother," said Lucy, "for you would have given it up long ago, if she had not persuaded you to try again."
"Yes, dear children, I wish to teach you the value of perseverance, even when nothing more depends upon it than the flying of a kite. Whenever you fail in your attempts to do any good thing, let your motto be,—TRY AGAIN."
DEFINITIONS:—Entangled, twisted in, disordered. Assistance, help, aid. Disengaged, cleared, set free. Dignity, majestic manner. Disappointments, failures or defeats of expectation. Discourage, take away courage. Glee, joy. Perseverance, continuance in anything once begun. Motto, a short sentence or a word full of meaning.
EXERCISE—What is the subject of this lesson? Why was John discouraged in his attempts to fly his kite? What did his aunt say to him? What may we learn from this? What should be our motto if we expect to be successful?
"Please, mother, do sit down and let me try my hand," said Fred Liscom, a bright active boy, twelve years old. Mrs. Liscom, looking pale and worn, was moving languidly about, trying to clear away the breakfast she had scarcely tasted.
She smiled, and said, "You, Fred, you wash dishes?" "Yes, indeed, mother," answered Fred; "I should be a poor scholar if I couldn't, when I've seen you do it so many times. Just try me."
A look of relief came over his mother's face as she seated herself in her low rocking-chair. Fred washed the dishes and put them in the closet. He swept the kitchen, brought up the potatoes from the cellar for the dinner and washed them, and then set out for school.
Fred's father was away from home, and as there was some cold meat in the pantry, Mrs. Liscom found it an easy task to prepare dinner. Fred hurried home from school, set the table, and again washed the dishes.
He kept on in this way for two or three days, till his mother was able to resume her usual work, and he felt amply rewarded when the doctor, who happened in one day, said, "Well, madam, it's my opinion that you would have been very sick if you had not kept quiet."
The doctor did not know how the "quiet" had been secured, nor how the boy's heart bounded at his words. Fred had given up a great deal of what boys hold dear, for the purpose of helping his mother, coasting and skating being just at this time in perfection.
Besides this, his temper and his patience had been severely. tried. He had been in the habit of going early to school, and staying to play after it was dismissed.
The boys missed him, and their curiosity was excited when he would give no other reason for not coming to school earlier, or staying after school, than that he was "wanted at home."
"I'll tell you," said Tom Barton, "I'll find him out, boys—see if I don't!"
So, one morning on his way to school, he called for Fred. As he went around to the side door he walked lightly. and somewhat nearer the kitchen window than was absolutely needful. Looking in, he saw Fred standing at the table with a dishcloth in his hand.
Of course he reported this at school, and various were the greetings poor Fred received at recess. "Well, you're a brave one to stay at home washing dishes!" "Girl boy!" "Pretty Bessie!" "Lost your apron, haven't you, Polly!"
Fred was not wanting either in spirit or in courage, and he was strongly tempted to resent these insults, and to fight some of his tormentors. But his consciousness of right and his love for his mother helped him.
While he was struggling for self mastery, his teacher appeared at the door of the schoolhouse. Fred caught his eye, and it seemed to look, if it did not say, "Don't give up! Be really brave!" He knew the teacher had heard the insulting taunts of his thoughtless schoolmates.
The boys received notice during the day that Fred must not be taunted or teased in any manner. They knew that the teacher meant what he said; and so the brave little boy had no further trouble.
"Fire! fire! " The cry crept out on the still night air, and the fire bells began to mug. Fred was wakened by the alarm and the red light streaming into his room. He dressed himself very quickly, and then tapped at the door of his mother's bedroom.
"It is Mr. Barton's house, mother. Do let me go," he said in eager, excited tones. Mrs. Liscom thought a moment. He was young, but she could trust him, and she knew how much his heart was in the request.
"Yes, you may go," she answered; "but be careful, my boy. If you can help, do so; but do nothing rashly." Fred promised to follow her advice, and hurried to the fire.
Mr. and Mrs. Barton were not at home. The house had been left in charge of the servants. The fire spread with fearful speed, for there was a high wind, and it was found impossible to save the house. The servants ran about screaming and lamenting, but doing nothing to any purpose.
Fred found Tom outside, in safety. "Where is Katy?" he asked. Tom, trembling with terror, seemed to have had no thought but of his own escape. He said, "Katy is in the house!" "In what room?" asked Fred. "In that one," answered Tom, pointing to a window in the upper story.
It was no time for words, but for instant, vigorous action. The staircase was already on fire; there was but one way to reach Katy, and that full of danger. The second floor might fall at any moment, and Fred knew it. But he trusted in an arm stronger than his own, and silently sought help and guidance.
A ladder was quickly brought, and placed against the house. Fred mounted it, followed by the hired man, dashed in the sash of the window, and pushed his way into the room where the poor child lay nearly suffocated with smoke.
He roused her with some difficulty, carried her to the window, and placed her upon the sill. She was instantly grasped by strong arms, and carried down the ladder, Fred following as fast as possible. They had scarcely reached the ground before a crash of falling timbers told them that they had barely escaped with their lives.
Tom Barton never forgot the lesson of that night; and he came to believe, and to act upon the belief, in after years, that true manliness is in harmony with gentleness, kindness, and self-denial.
DEFINITIONS:—Languidly, feebly. Amply, fully. Opinion, judgment, belief. Absolutely, wholly, entirely. Resent, to consider as an injury. Consciousness, inward feeling, knowledge of what passes in one's own mind.
THE MILLER OF THE DEE.
BY CHARLES MACKAY.
There dwelt a miller hale and bold Beside the river Dee; He worked and sang from morn till night, No lark more blithe than he; And this the burden of his song Forever used to be,— "I envy nobody; no, not I, And nobody envies me!"
"Thou'rt wrong, my friend!" said good King Hal; "Thou'rt wrong as wrong can be; For could my heart be light as thine, I'd gladly change with thee. And tell me now, what makes thee sing, With voice so loud and free, While I am sad, though I'm the king, Beside the river Dee."
The miller smiled and doffed his cap: "I earn my bread," quoth he; "I love my wife, I love my friend, I love my children three; I owe no penny I cannot pay; I thank the river Dee, That turns the mill that grinds the corn, To feed my babes and me."
"Good friend," said Hal, and sighed the while, "Farewell! and happy be; But say no more, if thou'dst be true, That no one envies thee. Thy mealy cap is worth my crown, Thy mill my kingdom's fee; Such men as thou are England's boast, Oh miller of the Dee!"
DEFINITIONS:—Hale, hearty, strong. Blithe, happy. Quoth, said. Fee, wealth, possession.
A BOY ON A FARM.
BY CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER.
Say what you will about the general usefulness of boys, it is my impression that a farm without a boy would very soon come to grief. What the boy does is the life of the farm. He is the factotum, always in demand, always expected to do the thousand indispensable things that nobody else will do. Upon him fall all the odds and ends, the most difficult things.
After everybody else is through, he has to finish up. His work is like a woman's,—perpetually waiting on others. Everybody knows how much easier it is to eat a good dinner than it is to wash the dishes afterward. Consider what a boy on a farm is required to do; things that must be done, or life would actually stop.
It is understood, in the first place, that he is to do all the errands, to go to the store, to the post office, and to carry all sorts of messages. If he had as many legs as a centiped, they would tire before night. His two short limbs seem to him entirely inadequate to the task. He would like to have as many legs as a wheel has spokes, and rotate about in the same way.
This he sometimes tries to do; and the people who have seen him "turning cart wheels" along the side of the road, have supposed that he was amusing himself and idling his time; he was only trying to invent a new mode of locomotion, so that he could economize his legs, and do his errands with greater dispatch.
He practices standing on his head, in order to accustom himself to any position. Leapfrog is one of his methods of getting over the ground quickly. He would willingly go an errand any distance if he could leapfrog it with a few other boys.
He has a natural genius for combining pleasure with business. This is the reason why, when he is sent to the spring for a pitcher of water, he is absent so long; for he stops to poke the frog that sits on the stone, or, if there is a penstock, to put his hand over the spout, and squirt the water a little while.
He is the one who spreads the grass when the men have cut it; he mows it away in the barn; he rides the horse, to cultivate the corn, up and down the hot, weary rows; he picks up the potatoes when they are dug; he drives the cows night and morning; he brings wood and water, and splits kindling; he gets up the horse, and puts out the horse; whether he is in the house or out of it, there is always something for him to do.
Just before the school in winter he shovels paths; in summer he turns the grindstone. He knows where there are lots of wintergreens and sweet flags, but, instead of going for them, he is to stay indoors and pare apples, and stone raisins, and pound something in a mortar. And yet, with his mind full of schemes of what he would like to do, and his hands full of occupations, he is an idle boy, who has nothing to busy himself with but school and chores!
He would gladly do all the work if somebody else would do the chores, he thinks; and yet I doubt if any boy ever amounted to anything in the world; or was of much use as a man, who did not enjoy the advantages of a liberal education in the way of chores. —From "Being a Boy."
DEFINITIONS:—Factotum, a person employed to do all kinds of work. Indispensable, absolutely necessary. Perpetually, continually. Centiped, an insect with a great number of feet. Economize, to save. Dispatch, diligence, haste. Penstock, a wooden tube for conducting water. Chores, the light work of the household either within or without doors.
EXERCISE.—Call you tell of anything else that a boy on a farm must do? What advantages has a country boy over a city boy? What advantages has the city boy?
Oh, how one ugly trick has spoiled The sweetest and the best! Matilda, though a pleasant child, One grievous fault possessed, Which, like a cloud before the skies, Hid all her better qualities.
Sometimes, she'd lift the teapot lid To peep at what was in it; Or tilt the kettle, if you did But turn your back a minute. In vain you told her not to touch, Her trick of meddling grew so much.
Her grandmamma went out one day, And, by mistake, she laid Her spectacles and snuffbox gay, Too near the little maid; "Ah! well," thought she, "I'll try them on, As soon as grandmamma is gone."
Forthwith, she placed upon her nose The glasses large and wide; And looking round, as I suppose, The snuffbox, too, she spied. "Oh, what a pretty box is this! I'll open it," said little miss.
"I know that grandmamma would say, 'Don't meddle with it, dear;' But then she's far enough away, And no one else is near; Beside, what can there be amiss In opening such a box as this?"
So, thumb and finger went to work To move the stubborn lid; And, presently, a mighty jerk The mighty mischief did; For all at once, ah! woeful case! The snuff came puffing in her face.
Poor eyes, and nose, and mouth, and chin A dismal sight presented; And as the snuff got further in, Sincerely she repented. In vain she ran about for ease, She could do nothing else but sneeze.
She dashed the spectacles away, To wipe her tingling eyes; And, as in twenty bits they lay, Her grandmamma she spies. "Heyday! and what's the matter now?" Cried grandmamma, with angry brow.
Matilda, smarting with the pain, And tingling still, and sore, Made many a promise to refrain From meddling evermore; And 'tis a fact, as I have heard, She ever since has kept her word.
DEFINITIONS:—Qualities, traits of character. Meddling, interfering without right. Forthwith, at once. Spied, saw. Amiss, wrong, faulty. Woeful, sad, sorrowful. TIngling, smarting. Refrain, to keep from.
EXERCISE.—Write the story of Meddlesome Mattie, using your own words and not trying to make rhymes. What lesson may be learned from this story? What is a snuffbox? This story was written almost a hundred years ago. Do ladies use snuffboxes now?
The eagle is called the king of the birds. He is a large, fierce bird of prey, of immense strength and great courage; and he sweeps through the air with a majesty and dignity well becoming to his noble title.
The eagle leads a solitary life in the wild places of the earth. He dwells on the crags of mountains or on the lonely peaks of huge rocks, at whose base the ocean dashes its waves. He swoops down through dark forests, and uninhabited prairies, and gloomy glens, seeking his prey.
The Golden Eagle is a splendid bird. The female at full growth is three feet and a half in length, while the wings stretch from tip to tip no less than nine feet. The male is not quite so large, but very nearly so. The name "golden" is taken from the color of the plumes of the head and neck, which are of a rich golden red hue. The rest of the body is for the most part covered with rich blackish brown feathers.
The eagle is well armed for battle and plunder. The beak is powerful, and bent like a hook, with edges as sharp as a knife. The feet are furnished with four terrible toes, which have long and sharp nails, called talons. The eyes are piercing, and flash forth the proudest glances.
The eagle flies with most graceful ease. On his broad wings, moved by strong muscles, he sweeps boldly through the air, rising in circles till he is all but lost to the sight of the beholder. From this high position he can see far and wide beneath him; his keen eye singles out his prey at a long distance; and down he dives with the suddenness of a flash of lightning.
This terrible suddenness of attack commonly kills the victim on the instant. The weapon of death is not the beak, but either the wing or the claws; a flap of the wing or a clutch of the talons is usually enough for the purpose. The eagle kills and eats birds that are smaller and weaker than himself, he lives upon the best of the game, and he drags the best of the fish out of the river or the sea. He carries off the farmer's poultry, and often also young pigs or lambs; sometimes, it is said, he has carried off to his nest even a little boy or girl.
The eagle's nest, or eyrie, is high up on the ledge of some precipice, where hardly any enemy can come. Of course it is a very large nest; but it is not carefully or nicely built. It is a rough affair, like the rook's nest; a lot of sticks and twigs, and heath or grass, with a more comfortable hollow in the middle, which is padded with softer materials. Here the young are reared; and here the male bird brings home prey for the female and the eaglets; bones and flesh are scattered about everywhere. The eagle is much attached to the spot where he makes his home; he dwells in the same eyrie year after year, and shows little desire to seek his fortunes elsewhere.
DEFINITIONS:—Immense, very great. Majesty, stateliness, elevation of manner. Dignity, grace, loftiness of manner. Title, name. Solitary, living by oneself. Crags, steep, rugged rocks. Base, foot, bottom. Plumes, feathers. Talons, claws. Eyrie, the nest of a bird that builds in a lofty place. Ledge, a ridge or projection. Rook, a bird resembling a crow, but smaller. Reared, brought up. Eaglets, young eagles.
EXERCISE.—What qualities of the eagle may be admired? What traits has he that are not to be admired?
THE OLD EAGLE TREE.
BY JOHN TODD.
In a distant field stood a large tulip tree, apparently of a century's growth, and one of the most gigantic. It looked like the father of the surrounding forest. A single tree of huge dimensions, standing all alone, is a sublime object.
On the top of this tree, an old eagle, commonly called the "Fishing Eagle," had built her nest every year, for many years, and, undisturbed, had raised her young. A remarkable place to choose, as she procured her food from the ocean, and this tree stood full ten miles from the seashore. It had long been known as the "Old Eagle Tree."
On a warm, sunny day, the workmen were hoeing corn in an adjoining field. At a certain hour of the day, the old eagle was known to set off for the seaside, to gather food for her young. As she this day returned with a large fish in her claws, the workmen surrounded the tree, and by yelling and hooting, and throwing stones, so scared the poor bird that she dropped her fish, and they carried it off in triumph.
The men soon dispersed, but Joseph sat down under a bush near by, to watch, and to bestow unavailing pity. The bird soon returned to her nest, without food. The eaglets at once set up a cry for food, so shrill, so clear, and so clamorous that the boy was greatly moved.
The parent bird seemed to try to soothe them; but their appetites were too keen, and it was all in vain. She then perched herself on a limb near them, and looked down into the nest in a manner that seemed to say, "I know not what to do next."
Her indecision was but momentary; again she poised herself, uttered one or two sharp notes, as if telling them to "lie still," balanced her body, spread her wings, and was away again for the sea.
Joseph was determined to see the result. His eye followed her till she grew small, smaller, a mere speck in the sky, and then disappeared. What boy has not thus watched the flight of the bird of his country!
She was gone nearly two hours, about double her usual time for a voyage, when she again returned, on a slow weary wing, flying uncommonly low, in order to have a heavier atmosphere to sustain her, with another fish in her talons.
On nearing the field, she made a circuit round it, to see if her enemies were again there. Finding the coast clear, she once more reached the tree, drooping, faint, and weary, and evidently nearly exhausted. Again the eaglets set up their cry, which was soon hushed by the distribution of a dinner, such as, save the cooking, a king might admire.
"Glorious bird!" cried the boy, "what a spirit! Other birds can fly more swiftly, others can sing more sweetly, others scream more loudly; but what other bird, when persecuted and robbed, when weary, when discouraged, when so far from the sea, would have done this?
"Glorious bird! I will learn a lesson from thee to-day. I will never forget hereafter, that when the spirit is determined it can do almost anything. Others would have drooped, and hung the head, and mourned over the cruelty of man, and sighed over the wants of the nestlings; but thou, by at once recovering the loss, hast forgotten all.
"I will learn of thee, noble bird! I will remember this. I will set my mark high. I will try to do something, and to be something in the world; I will never yield to discouragements."
DEFINITIONS:—Century, the space of a hundred years. Gigantic, very large. Dimensions, size. Sublime, grand, noble. Disperse, scattered. Unavailing, useless. Eaglets, young eagles. Clamorous, loud, noisy. Indecision, want of fixed purpose. Momentary, for a single moment. Circuit, movement round in a circle. Exhausted, wholly tired out. Nestlings, young birds in the nest.
EXERCISE.—What lesson may be learned from this story? Why is the eagle called the bird of our country? What is meant by the expression "finding the coast clear"? What is the advantage of setting one's mark high? Can you think of any other story which teaches the lesson that one should never yield to discouragements?
A NEW KIND OF FUN.
A certain German nobleman provided his son with a tutor whose duty it was to cultivate the mind. and morals of the youth.
One day as the tutor and his pupil were taking a walk in the country, they came to the edge of a wood, where they observed a half-felled tree, and saw lying by it a pair of wooden shoes. The day being warm, the workman, resting from his toil, was cooling his feet in a neighboring brook. The young nobleman, in a spirit of fun, picked up a few small rounded pebbles and said: "I'll put these in the old fellow's shoes, and we'll enjoy his grimaces when he tries to put them on. It will be great fun."
"Well," said the tutor, "I doubt if you will get much fun out of that. He must be a poor man. No doubt his lot is a hard one. Would there be fun in adding to his troubles? I can't help thinking that if you were to surprise him in a different way, say by putting a little money in each shoe, you would enjoy his grimaces better. You have plenty of money. What do you say? Is it worth trying?"
The boy who, though mischievous, was very kind-hearted and generous, caught quickly at the proposal of the tutor, and slipped a silver coin into each shoe. Then they hid behind a tree to watch the outcome of their innocent prank. They had not very long to wait. An elderly man came back to his work—hard work it was, too hard for a man of his years—and slipped his right foot into his shoe.
Feeling something hard in the shoe he withdrew his foot and looked to see what the object might be, when lo! he discovered the coin. A look of puzzled amazement came over his sad face, which made the two watchers chuckle with amusement. He turned the coin over and over in his hand, and gazed at it in astonishment.
As he looked at it he felt with his foot for the other shoe, and slipped that one on. To his great surprise that shoe, too, held a coin. Holding up both silver pieces, and staring at them in silence, he made a most impressive picture, which was by no means lost upon the two beholders. Then suddenly clasping his hands together he fell upon his knees and gave thanks for the blessing that had come upon him.
As he prayed, the boy and his tutor learned from his words that his poor wife was sick and helpless at hone, and that his orphaned grandchildren were suffering for food, while he, old and feeble, was striving by heavy toil to earn a crust. The old man invoked the blessing of Heaven upon the unknown but generous soul who had pitied his poverty—the kind heart, whosesoever it might be, that could thus beat warm in charity and kindness for the hungry and the poor.
"He has gone," said the old man, "without even waiting to be thanked. But go where he may, far as he may, the earth is not wide enough but that the blessing of an old man shall seek him out and find him. The blessing of the poor flies fast," he cried; "it will overtake him and abide with him to the end of life.
"May the charity of God and the care of His angels go with him, keep him from poverty, shield him froln sickness, guard him from evil, and ever fill his heart with warmth and joy, as he has filled mine this day! I'll work no more to-day. I'll go home to my wife and children, and they shall join me in calling for blessings upon their kind helper." He put on his shoes, shouldered his ax, and departed.
Then the two watchers had a little dialogue.
"Now I call this the best kind of fun," said the tutor. "Why, boy, what are you sniveling at?"
"You are sniveling, too," said the boy.
"Well, then, both of us are sniveling," said the tutor. "So, you see, fun may lead to sniveling as well as to laughing. Of all the pleasures of life, those are the most blessed which are expressed by tears rather than laughter."
"Come on!" said the boy.
"Where next?" asked the tutor.
"Why, to follow him, to be sure. I want to know where they live and who they are. Do you think I will let his wife be sick and his grandchildren be hungry if I can help it? I have learned a new kind of fun, and I want more of it."
"My dear boy, I don't for a moment think you will stop with one good joke of this kind. Youth, with a heart like yours, never does things by halves."
So they followed the subject of their joke to his home, and the young nobleman, by means of his well-filled purse, found means to enjoy much more of his new-found variety of fun.
DEFINITIONS:—Tutor, teacher. Grimace, distortion of the face. Impressive, touching. Invoked, called down.
TWO WAYS OF TELLING A STORY.
BY HENRY K. OLIVER.
In one of the most populous cities of New England, a few years ago, a party of lads, all members of the same school, got up a grand sleigh ride. The sleigh was a very large one, drawn by six gray horses.
On the following day, as the teacher entered the schoolroom, he found his pupils in high glee, as they chattered about the fun and frolic of their excursion. In answer to some inquiries, one of the lads gave him an account of their trip and its various incidents.
As he drew near the end of his story, he exclaimed: "Oh, sir! there was one thing I had almost forgotten. As we were coming home, we saw ahead of us a queer-looking affair in the road. It proved to be a rusty old sleigh, fastened behind a covered wagon, proceeding at a very slow rate, and taking up the whole road.
"Finding that the owner was not disposed to turn out, we determined upon a volley of snowballs and a good hurrah. They produced the right effect, for the crazy machine turned out into the deep snow, and the skinny old pony started on a full trot.
"As we passed, some one gave the horse a good crack, which made him run faster than he ever did before, I'll warrant.
"With that, an old fellow in the wagon, who was buried up under an old hat, bawled out, 'Why do you frighten my horse?' 'Why don't you turn out, then?' says the driver. So we gave him three rousing cheers more. His horse was frightened again, and ran up against a loaded wagon, and, I believe, almost capsized the old creature—and so we left him."
"Well, boys," replied the teacher, "take your seats, and I will tell you a story, and all about a sleigh ride, too. Yesterday afternoon a very venerable old clergyman was on his way from Boston to Salem, to pass the rest of the winter at the house of his son. That he might be prepared for journeying in the following spring he took with him his wagon, and for the winter his sleigh, which he fastened behind the wagon.
"His sight and hearing were somewhat blunted by age, and he was proceeding very slowly; for his horse was old and feeble, like its owner. He was suddenly disturbed by loud hurrahs from behind, and by a furious pelting of balls of snow and ice upon the top of his wagon.
"In his alarm he dropped his reins, and his horse began to run away. In the midst of the old man's trouble, there rushed by him, with loud shouts, a large party of boys, in a sleigh drawn by six horses. 'Turn out! turn out, old fellow!' 'Give us the road!' 'What will you take for your pony?' 'What's the price of oats, old man?' were the various cries that met his ears.
"'Pray, do not frighten my horse!' exclaimed the infirm driver. 'Turn out, then! turn out!' was the answer, which was followed by repeated cracks and blows front the long whip of the 'grand sleigh,' with showers of snowballs, and three tremendous hurrahs from the boys.
"The terror of the old man and his horse was increased, and the latter ran away with him, to the great danger of his life. He contrived, however, to stop his horse just in season prevent his being dashed against a loaded wagon. A short distance brought him to the house of his son. That son, boys, is your instructor, and that 'old fellow' was your teacher's father!"
When the boys perceived how rude and unkind their conduct appeared from another point of view, they were very much ashamed of their thoughtlessness, and most of them had the manliness to apologize to their teacher for what they had done.
DEFINITIONS:—Populous, full of inhabitants. Excursion, a pleasure trip. Incidents, things that happens, events. Warrant, to declare with assurance. Capsized, upset. Venerable, deserving of honor and respect. Blunted, dulled.
EXERCISES.—Repeat the boy's story of the sleigh ride. The teacher's story. Were the boys ill-natured or only thoughtless? Is thoughtlessness any excuse for rudeness or unkindness?
THE BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT.
BY JOHN G. SAXE.
It was six men of Indostan, To learning much inclined, Who went to see the elephant, (Though all of them were blind,) That each by observation Might satisfy his mind.
The first approached the elephant, And, happening to fall Against his broad and sturdy side, At once began to bawl "God bless me! but the elephant Is very like a wall!"
The second, feeling of the tusk, Cried: "Ho! what have we here. So very round, and smooth, and sharp? To me 'tis very clear, This wonder of an elephant Is very like a spear!"
The third approached the animal, And, happening to take The squirming trunk within his hands, Thus boldly up he spoke: "I see," quoth he, "the elephant Is very like a snake!"
The fourth reached out his eager hand, And felt about the knee: "What most this wondrous beast is like Is very plain," quoth he; "'Tis clear enough the elephant Is very like a tree!"
The fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, Said: "E'en the blindest man Can tell what this resembles most: Deny the fact who can, This marvel of an elephant Is very like a fan!"
The sixth no sooner had begun About the beast to grope, Than, seizing on the swinging tail That fell within his scope, "I see," quoth he, "the elephant Is very like a rope!"
And so these men of Indostan Disputed loud and long, Each in his own opinion Exceeding stiff and strong, Though each was partly in the right And all were in the wrong!
DEFINITIONS:—Indostan, Hindostan, a county in Asia now commonly called India. Quoth, said.
One day, our little Harry spent the morning with his young playmate, Johnny Crane, who lived in a fine house, and on Sundays rode to church in the grandest carriage to be seen in all the country round.
When Harry returned home, he said, "Mother, Johnny has money in both pockets!"
"Has he, dear?"
"Yes, ma'am; and he says he could get ever so much more if he wanted it."
"Well, now, that's very pleasant for him," I returned cheerfully, as a reply was plainly expected. "Very pleasant; don't you think so?"
"Yes, ma'am; only—"
"Only what, Harry?"
"Why, he has a big popgun, and a watch, and a hobbyhorse, and lots of things." And Harry looked up at my face with a disconsolate stare.
"Well, my boy, what of that?"
"Nothing, mother," and the telltale tears sprang to his eyes, "only I guess we are very poor, aren't we?"
"No, indeed, Harry, we are very far from being poor. We are not so rich as Mr. Crane's family, if that is what you mean."
"O mother!" insisted the little fellow, "I do think we are very poor; anyhow, I am!"
"O Harry!" I exclaimed reproachfully.
"Yes, ma'am, I am," he sobbed; "I have scarcely anything—I mean anything that's worth money—except things to eat and wear, and I'd have to have them anyway."
"Have to have them?" I echoed, at the same time laying my sewing upon the table, so that I might reason with him on that point; "do you not know, my son—"
Just then Uncle Ben looked up frown the paper he had been reading: "Harry," said he, "I want to find out something about eyes; so, if you will let me have yours, I will give you a dollar apiece for them."
"For my eyes!" exclaimed Harry, very much astonished.
"Yes," resumed Uncle Ben, quietly, "for your eyes. I will give you chloroform, so it will not hurt you in the least, and you shall have a beautiful glass pair for nothing, to wear in their place. Come, a dollar apiece, cash down! What do you say? I will take them out as quick as a wink."
"Give you my eyes, uncle!" cried Harry, looking wild at the very thought, "I think not." And the startled little fellow shook his head defiantly.
"Well, five, ten, twenty dollars, then." Harry shook his head at every offer.
"No, sir! I wouldn't let you have them for a thousand dollars! What could I do without my eyes? I couldn't see mother, or the baby, or the flowers, or the horses, or anything," added Harry, growing warmer and warmer.
"I will give you two thousand," urged Uncle Ben, taking a roll of bank notes out of his pocket. Harry, standing at a safe distance, shouted that he never would do any such thing.
"Very well," continued the uncle, with a serious air, at the same time writing something in his notebook, "I can't afford to give you more than two thousand dollars, so I shall have to do without your eyes; but," he added, "I will tell you what I will do, I will give you twenty dollars if you will let me put a few drops from this bottle in your ears. It will not hurt, but it. will make you deaf. I want to try some experiments with deafness, you see. Come quickly, now! Here are the twenty dollars all ready for you."
"Make me deaf!" shouted Harry, without even looking at the gold pieces temptingly displayed upon the table. "I guess you will not do that, either. Why, I couldn't hear a single word if I were deaf, could I?"
"Probably not," replied Uncle Ben. So, of course, Harry refused again. He would never give up his hearing, he said, "no, not for three thousand dollars."
Uncle Ben made another note in his book, and then came out with large bids for "a right arm," then "left arm," "hands," "feet," "nose," finally ending with an offer of ten thousand dollars for "mother," and five thousand for "the baby."
To all of these offers Harry shook his head, his eyes flashing, and exclamations of surprise and indignation bursting from his lips. At last, Uncle Ben said he must give up his experiments, for Harry's prices were entirely too high.
"Ha! ha!" laughed the boy, exultingly, and he folded his dimpled arms and looked as if to say, "I'd like to see the man who could pay them!"
"Why, Harry, look here!" exclaimed Uncle Ben, peeping into his notebook, "here is a big addition sum, I tell you! " He added the numbers, and they amounted to thirty-two thousand dollars.
"There, Harry," said Uncle Ben, "don't you think you are foolish not to accept some of my offers?" "No, sir, I don't," answered Harry, resolutely. "Then," said Uncle Ben, "you talk of being poor, and by your own showing you have treasures for which you will not take thirty-two thousand dollars. What do you say to that?"
Harry didn't know exactly what to say. So he blushed for a second, and just then tears came rolling down his cheeks, and he threw his chubby arms around my neck. "Mother," he whispered, "isn't God good to make everybody so rich?"
DEFINITIONS:—Disconsolate, filled with grief. Reproachfully, with censure or reproof. Chloroform, an oily liquid, the vapor of which causes insensibility. Startled, shocked. Defiantly, daringly. Afford, to be able to pay for. Experiments, acts performed to discover some truth. Exclamations, expressions of surprise, anger, etc. Exultingly, in a triumphant manner. Treasures, things which are very much valued.
A HAPPY NEW YEAR.
BY MARGARET E. SANGSTER.
Coming, coming, coming! Listen! perhaps you'll hear Over the snow the bugles blow To welcome the glad new year. In the steeple tongues are swinging, There are merry sleigh bells ringing, And the people for joy are singing, It's coming, coming near.
Flying, sighing, dying, Going away to-night, Weary and old, its story told, The year that was full and bright. Oh, we are half sorry it's leaving Good-by has a sound of grieving; But its work is done and its weaving; God speed its parting flight!
Tripping, slipping, skipping, Like a child in its wooing grace, With never a tear and never a fear, And a light in its laughing face; With hands held out to greet us, With gay little steps to meet us, With sweet eyes that entreat us, The new year comes to its place.
Coming, coming, coming! Promising lovely things— The gold and the gray of the summer day, The winter with fleecy-wings; Promising swift birds glancing, And the patter of raindrops dancing, And the sunbeam's arrowy lancing, Dear gifts the new year brings.
Coming, coming, coming! The world is a vision of white; From the powdered eaves to the sere-brown leaves That are hidden out of sight. In the steeple tongues are swinging, The bells are merrily ringing, And "Happy New-Year" we're singing, For the old year goes to-night.
JEANNETTE AND JO.
BY MARY MAPES DODGE.
Two girls I know—Jeannette and Jo, And one if always moping; The other lassie, come what may, Is ever bravely hoping.
Beauty of face and girlish grace Are theirs, for joy or sorrow; Jeannette takes brightly every day, And Jo dreads each to-morrow.
One early morn they watched the dawn— I saw them stand together; Their whole day's sport, 'twas very plain, Depended on the weather.
"'Twill storm! ' cried Jo. Jeannette spoke low, "Yes, but 'twill soon be over." And, as she spoke, the sudden shower Came, beating down the clover.
"I told you so!" cried angry Jo: "It always is a-raining!" Then hid her face in dire despair, Lamenting and complaining.
But sweet Jeannette, quite hopeful yet,— I tell it to her honor,— Looked up and waited till the sun Came streaming in upon her.
The broken clouds sailed off in crowds, Across a sea of glory. Jeannette and Jo ran, laughing, in— Which ends my simple story.
Joy is divine. Come storm, come shine, The hopeful are the gladdest; And doubt and dread, children, believe Of all things are the saddest.
In morning's light, let youth be bright; Take in the sunshine tender; Then, at the close, shall life's decline Be full of sunset splendor.
And ye who fret, try, like Jeannette, To shun all weak complaining; And not, like Jo, cry out too soon— "It always is a-raining!"
AN INDIAN LEGEND.
Many years ago there lived in the west a tribe of Indians who called themselves Illinois. They were not savage and warlike, as the tribes around them were, but they liked to live in peace, hunting the deer in the great woods, and taking the fish from the shallow streams.
On the bank of a pretty little river that flows into the great Mississippi a small band of these Indians had built their wigwams. All along the stream were tall oaks and spreading walnut trees, with here and there a grove of wild plums or a thicket of hazel bushes. But only half a mile away began the great prairie, where there was neither tree nor bush, but only tall grass; and it stretched like a green sea as far as the eye could reach.
What there was on the other side of the prairie the Indians did not know. But they had been told that a fierce race of men lived there who loved only war.
"We will live quietly in our own place," they said, "and then these strangers will not molest us."
And so for many years they lived, in a careless, happy way by the side of the pretty river; and few of their young men dared to wander far from the friendly shelter of the woods.
One day in summer, when the woods were full of the songs of birds, and the prairie of the sweet odors of flowers, the Illinois had a festival under the oaks that shaded their village. The young people played merry games on the greeIr, while their fathers and mothers sat in the doors of the wigwams and talked of the peaceful days that were past.
All at once a savage yell was heard in the hazel thicket by the river; then another from the edge of the prairie; and then a third from the lower end of the village. In a moment all was terror and confusion. Too well the Illinois knew the meaning of these cries. The savage strangers from beyond the prairie had come at last.
The attack had been so sudden and fierce that the Illinois could not defend themselves. They scattered and fled far into the woods on the other side of the little river. Then, one by one, they came together in a rocky glen where they could hide from danger. But even there they could hear the yells of their foes, and they could see the black smoke that rose from their burning wigwams.
What could they do, now that this ruin had at last come upon them? The bravest among them were in despair. They threw their bows upon the ground. The warriors were gloomy and silent. They said it was useless to fight with foes so strong and fierce. The women and children wept as though heartbroken.
But at the very moment when all seemed lost, a young girl stood up among them. She had been well known in the little village. Her thoughtful, quiet ways had endeared her to old and young alike. Her name was Watseka.
There were no tears in Watseka's eyes as she turned her face toward the gloomy warriors. All her quietness of manner was gone. There was no fear in her voice as she spoke.
"Are you men," she said, "and do you thus give up all hope? Turn your faces toward the village. Do you see the smoke of our burning homes? Our enemies are counting the scalps they have taken. They are eating the deer that you killed yesterday on your own hunting grounds. And do you stand here and do nothing?"
Some of the warriors turned their faces toward the burning village, but no one spoke.
"Very well," said Watseka. "If you dare not, then I will show you what can be done. Follow me, women of the Illinois! The strangers shall not laugh because they have driven us so easily from our homes. They shall not feed upon the corn that we have raised. We will show them what the Illinois can do. Follow me!"
As Watseka spoke, her eyes sparkled with a light which filled every heart with new courage. With one accord the women and girls gathered around her.
"Lead us, Watseka!" they cried. "We will follow you. We are not afraid."
They armed themselves with the bows and the hatchets which the warriors had thrown upon the ground. Those who could find nothing else, picked up stones and sticks. The boys joined them, their eyes flashing with eagerness. All felt that Watseka would lead them to victory.
Then it was that courage came into the hearts of the warriors.
"Are we men, and do we let the women and boys thus outdo us?" they cried. "No, we alone will drive our foes from our home. We alone will avenge our kinsmen whom they have slain. We will fear nothing. We will never rest until we have won back all that we have lost!"
And so Watseka and the women and boys did not go into battle. But the warriors of the Illinois in the darkness of the night crept silently back through the shadows of the wood. While their foes lay sleepng by the fires of the burning wigwams, they swept down upon them like a thunderbolt from the clear sky. Their revenge was swift and terrible.
And so the Illinois were again at peace, for the fierce warriors who dwelt on the other side of the prairie dared never molest them again. And they rebuilt their wigwams by the side of the pleasant river, and there they lived in comfort for many long years. Nor did they ever forget how the maiden, Watseka, had saved them in their hour of greatest need. The story of her bravery was told and retold a thousand times; the warriors talked of her beauty; the women praised her goodness; other tribes heard of her and talked about the hero maiden of the Illinois; and so long as there were Indians in that western land, the name of Watseka was remembered and honored.
DEFINITIONS:—Molest, harm. Prairie, a treeless plain. Wigwam, an Indian house.
HARRY AND HIS DOG.
BY MARY RUSSELL MITFORD.
"Beg, Frisk, beg," said little Harry, as he sat on an inverted basket, at his grandmother's door, eating, with great satisfaction, a porringer of bread and milk. His little sister Annie sat on the ground opposite to him, now twisting her flowers into garlands, and now throwing them away.
"Beg, Frisk, beg!" repeated Harry, holding a bit of bread just out of the dog s reach; and the obedient Frisk squatted himself on his hind legs, and held up his fore paws, waiting for master Harry to give him the tempting morsel.
The little boy and the little dog were great friends. Frisk loved him dearly, much better than he did any one else, perhaps, because he remembered that Harry was his earliest and firmest friend during a time of great trouble.
Poor Frisk had come as a stray dog to Milton, the place where Harry lived. If he could have told his own story, it would probably have been a very pitiful one, of kicks and cuffs, of hunger and foul weather.
Certain it is, he made his appearance at the very door where Harry was now sitting, in miserable plight, wet, dirty, and half starved; and there he met Harry, who took a fancy to him, and Harry's grandmother, who drove him off with a broom.
Harry, at length, obtained permission for the little dog to remain as a sort of outdoor pensioner, and fed him with stray bones and cold potatoes, and such things as he could get for him. He also provided him with a little basket to sleep in, the very same which, turned up, afterward served Harry for a seat.
After a while, having proved his good qualities by barking away a set of pilferers, who were making an attack on the great pear tree, he was admitted into the house, and became one of its most vigilant and valued inmates. He could fetch or carry either by land or water; would pick up a thimble or a ball of cotton, if little Annie should happen to drop them; or take Harry's dinner to school for him with perfect honesty.
"Beg, Frisk, beg!" said Harry, and gave him, after long waiting, the expected morsel. Frisk was satisfied, but Harry was not. The little boy, though a good-humored fellow in the main, had turns of naughtiness, which were apt to last him all day, and this promised to prove one of his worst. It was a holidays, and in the afternoon his cousins, Jane and William, were to come and see him and Annie; and the pears were to be gathered, and the children were to have a treat.
Harry, in his impatience, thought the morning would never be over. He played such pranks—buffeting Frisk, cutting the curls off of Annie's doll, and finally breaking his grandmother's spectacles—that before his visitors arrived, indeed, almost immediately after dinner, he contrived to be sent to bed in disgrace.
Poor Harry! there he lay, rolling and kicking, while Jane, and William, and Annie were busy gathering the fine, mellow pears. William was up in the tree, gathering and shaking. Annie and Jane were catching them in their aprons, or picking them up from the ground, now piling them in baskets, and now eating the nicest and ripest, while Frisk was barking gayly among them, as if he were catching pears too!
Poor Harry! He could hear all this glee and merriment through the open window, as he lay in bed. The storm of passion having subsided, there he lay weeping and disconsolate, a grievous sob bursting forth every now and then, as he heard the loud peals of childish laughter, and as he thought how he should have laughed, and how happy he should have been, had he not forfeited all his pleasure by his own bad conduct.
He wondered if Annie would not be so good-natured as to bring him a pear. All on a sudden, he heard a little foot on the stair, pitapat, and he thought she was coming. Pitapat came the foot, nearer and nearer, and at last a small head peeped, half afraid, through the half-open door.
But it was not Annie's head; it was Frisk's—poor Frisk, whom Harry had been teasing all the norning, and who came into the room wagging his tail, with a great pear in his mouth; and, jumping upon the bed, he laid it in the little boy's hand.
Is not Frisk a fine, grateful fellow? and does he not deserve a share of Harry's breakfast, whether he begs for it or not? And little Harry will remember from the events of this day that kindness, even though shown to a dog, will always be rewarded; and that ill nature and bad temper are connected with nothing but pain and disgrace.
DEFINITIONS:—Inverted, turned upside down. Porringer, a small metallic dish. Remembered, had not forgotten. Plight, condition. Pensioner, one who is supported by others. Pilferers, those who steal little things. Vigilant, watchful. Inmates, those living in the same house. Holiday, a day of amusement. Buffeting, striking with the hand. Subsided, become quiet. Forfeited, lost. Connected, united, have a close relation.
EXERCISE.—What two lessons may be learned from this story? Is it a good rule to return kindness for unkindness? Do you think that Harry's dog brought him the pear because he was really grateful?
LITTLE BOY BLUE.*
BY EUGENE FIELD.
The little toy dog is covered with dust, But sturdy and stanch he stands; And the little toy soldier is red with rust, And his musket it molds in his hands. Time was when the little toy dog was new, And the soldier was passing fair, And there was a time when our Little Boy Blue Kissed them and put them there.
"Now, don't you go till I come," he said, "And don't you make any noise!" So, toddling off to his trundle bed, He dreamed of the pretty toys: And, as he was dreaming, an angel song Awakened our Little Boy Blue— Oh, the years are many, the years are long; But the little toy friends are true.
Ah, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand, Each in the same old place, Awaiting the touch of a little hand, The smile of a little face; And they wonder, as waiting these long years thro' In the dust of that little chair, What has become of our Little Boy Blue, Since he kissed them and put them there.
* From " A Little Book of Western Verse." Copyright, 1889, by Eugene Field. By permission of Charles Scribner's Sons, publishers.
IF I WERE A BOY.
If I were a boy again, and knew what I know now, I would not be quite so positive in my opinions as I used to be. Boys generally think that they are very certain about many things. A boy of fifteen is generally a great deal more sure of what he thinks he knows than a man of fifty.
You ask the boy a question and he will probably answer you right off, with great assurance; he knows all about it. Ask a man of large experience and ripe wisdom the same question, and he will say, "Well, there is much to be said about it. I am inclined on the whole to think so and so, but other intelligent men think otherwise."
When I was a small boy, I traveled from central Massachusetts to western New York, crossing the river at Albany, and going the rest of the way by canal. On the canal boat a kindly gentleman was talking to me one day, and I mentioned the fact that I had crossed the Connecticut River at Albany. How I got it in my head that it was the Connecticut River, I do not know, for I knew my geography very well then; but in some unaccountable way I had it fixed in my mind that the river at Albany was the Connecticut, and I called it so.
"Why," said the gentleman, "that is the Hudson River."
"Oh, no, sir!" I replied, politely but firmly. "You're mistaken. That is the Connecticut River."
The gentleman smiled and said no more. I was not much in the habit, I think, of contradicting my elders; but in this matter I was perfectly sure that I was right, and so I thought it my duty to correct the gentleman's geography. I felt rather sorry for him that he should be so ignorant. One day, after I reached home, I was looking over my route on the map, and lo! there was Albany standing on the Hudson River, a hundred miles from the Connecticut.
Then I did not feel half so sorry for the gentleman's ignorance as I did for my own. I never told anybody that story until I wrote it down on these pages the other day; but I have thought of it a thousand times, and always with a blush for my boldness.
Nor was it the only time that I was perfectly sure of things that really were not so. It is hard for a boy to learn that he may be mistaken; but, unless he is a fool, he learns it after a while. The sooner he finds it out, the better for him.
If I were a boy, I would not think that I and the boys of my time were an exception to the general rule—a new kind of boys, unlike all who have lived before, having different feelings and different ways. To be honest, I must own that I used to think so myself. I was quite inclined to reject the counsel of my elders by saying to myself, "That may have been well enough for boys thirty or fifty years ago, but it isn't the thing for me and my set of boys." But that was nonsense. The boys of one generation are not different from the boys of another generation.
If we say that boyhood lasts fifteen or sixteen years, I have known three generations of boys, some of them city boys and some of them country boys, and they are all very much alike—so nearly alike that the old rules of industry and patience and perseverance and self-control are as applicable to one generation as to another. The fact is, that what your fathers and teachers have found by experience to be good for boys, will be good for you; and what their experience has taught them will be bad for boys, will be bad for you. You are just boys, nothing more nor less.
DEFINITIONS:— Assurance, certainty. Route, road. Generation, people living at the same time. Applicable, can be applied.
EXERCISE—Find on the map, Albany, the Hudson River, and the Connecticut River.
BY JAMES T. FIELDS.
We were crowded in the cabin; Not a soul would dare to sleep It was midnight on the waters, And a storm was on the deep.
'Tis a fearful thing in winter To be shattered by the blast, And to hear the rattling trumpet Thunder, "Cut away the mast!"
So we shuddered there in silence, For the stoutest held his breath, While the hungry sea was roaring, And the breakers threatened death.
And as thus we sat in darkness, Each one busy in his prayers, "We are lost!" the captain shouted, As he staggered down the stairs.
But his little daughter whispered, As she took his icy hand, "Isn't God upon the ocean, Just the same as on the land?"
Then we kissed the little maiden, And we spoke in better cheer; And we anchored safe in harbor When the morn was shining clear.
DEFINITIONS:—Deep, the ocean. Blast, tempest. Breakers, waves of the sea broken by rocks. Cheer, state of mind.
THE RIGHT WAY.
BY FRANK R. STOCKTON.
"Oh, Andy!" said little Jenny Murdock, "I'm so glad you came along this way. I can't get over."
"Can't get over?" said Andrew. "Why what's the matter?"
"The bridge is gone," said Jenny. "When I came across after breakfast it was there, and now it's over on the other side, and how can I get back home?"
"Why, so it is," said Andrew. "It was all right when I came over a little while ago, but old Donald pulls it on the other side every morning after he has driven his cows across, and I don't think he has any right to do it. I suppose he thinks the bridge was made for him and his cows."
"Now I must go down to the big bridge, Andy, and I want you to go with me. I'm afraid to go through all those dark woods by myself," said Jenny.
"But I can't go, Jenny," said Andrew, "it's nearly school time now."
Andrew was a Scotch boy, and a fine fellow. He was next to the head of his school, and he was as good at play as he was at his book.
Jenny Murdock, his most particular friend, was a little girl who lived very near Andrew's home. She had no brothers or sisters, but Andrew had always been as good as a brother to her; and, therefore, when she stood by the water's edge that morning, just ready to burst into tears, she thought all her troubles over when she saw Andrew coming along the road.
He had always helped her out of her troubles before, and she saw no reason why he should not do so now. She had crossed the creek in search of wild flowers, and when she wished to return had found the bridge removed, as Andrew supposed, by old Donald McKenzie, who pastured his cows on this side of the creek.
This stream was not very wide, nor very deep at its edges, but in the center it was four or five feet deep; and in the spring the water ran very swiftly, so that wading across it, either by cattle or men, was quite a difficult undertaking. As for Jenny, she could not get across at all without a bridge, and there was none nearer than the wagon bridge, a mile and a half below.
"You will go with me, Andy, won't you?" said the little girl.
"And be late to school?" said he. "I have not been late yet, you know, Jenny."
"Perhaps Dominie Black will think you have been sick or had to mind the cows," said Jenny.
"He won't think so unless I tell him," said Andrew, "and you know I won't do that."
"If we were to run all the way, would you be too late?" said Jenny.
"If we were to run all the way? I should not get to school till after copy time. I expect every minute to hear the school bell ring," said Andrew.
"But what can I do, then?" said poor little Jenny. "I can't wait here till school's out, and I don't want to go up to the schoolhouse, for all the boys to laugh at me."
"No," said Andrew, reflecting very seriously, "I must take you home some way or other. It won't do to leave you here, and, no matter where you might stay, your mother would be very much troubled about you."
"Yes," said Jenny, "she would think I was drowned."
Time pressed, and Jenny's countenance became more and more overcast, but Andrew could think of no way in which he could take the little girl home without being late and losing his standing in the school.
It was impossible to get her across the stream at any place nearer than the "big bridge"; he would not take her that way, and make up a false story to account for his lateness at school, and he could not leave her alone or take her with him.
What was to be done? While several absurd and impracticable plans were passing through his brain, the school bell began to ring, and he must start immediately to reach the schoolhouse in time.
And now his anxiety and perplexity became more intense than ever; and Jenny, looking up into his troubled countenance, began to cry.
Andrew, who had never before failed to be at the school door before the first tap of the bell, began to despair. Was there nothing to be done?
Yes! a happy thought passed through his mind. How strange that he should not have thought of it before! He would ask Dominie Black to let him take Jennie home. What could be more sensible and straightforward than such a plan?
Of course, the good old schoolmaster gave Andrew the desired permission, and everything ended happily. But the best thing about the whole affair was the lesson that the young Scotch boy learned that day.
The lesson was this: when we are puzzling our brains with plans to help ourselves out of trouble, let us always stop a moment in our planning, and try to think if there is not some simple way out of the difficulty, which shall be in every respect perfectly right. If we do this, we shall probably find a way more easy and satisfactory than any which we can devise.
DEFINITIONS:—Particular, not ordinary, worthy of special attention, chief. Dominie, the Scotch name for schoolmaster. Reflecting, thinking earnestly. Overcast, covered with gloom. Account, to state the reasons. Impracticable, not possible. Anxiety, care, trouble of mind. Devise, plan, contrive.
EXERCISES. Why could not Jenny cross the stream? Would it have been right for Andrew to have told an untruth even to help Jenny out of trouble? What did he finally do? What does this lesson teach us to do in case of trouble?
AN ADVENTURE WITH WOLVES.
Some forty years ago I passed the winter in the wilderness of northern Maine. I was passionately fond of skating, and the numerous lakes and rivers, frozen by the intense cold, offered an ample field to the lover of this pastime.
Sometimes my skating excursions were made by moonlight; and it was on such an occasion that I met with an adventure which even now I cannot recall without a thrill of horror.
I had left our cabin one evening just before dusk, with the intention of skating a short distance up the Kennebec, which glided directly before the door. The night was beautifully clear with the light of the full moon and millions of stars. Light also came glinting from ice and snow-wreath and incrusted branches, as the eye followed for miles the broad gleam of the river, that like a jeweled zone swept between the mighty forests that bordered its banks.
And yet all was still. The cold seemed to have frozen tree, air, water, and every living thing. Even the ringing of my skates echoed back from the hill with a startling clearness; and the crackle of the ice, as I passed over it in my course, seemed to follow the tide of the river with lightning speed.
I had gone up the river nearly two miles, when, coming to a little stream which flows into the larger, I turned into it to explore its course. Fir and hemlock of a century's growth met overhead, and formed an archway radiant with frost-work. All was dark within; but I was young and fearless, and I laughed and shouted with excitement and joy.
My wild hurrah rang through the silent woods, and I stood listening to the echoes until all was hushed. Suddenly a sound arose,—it seemed to come from beneath the ice. It was low and tremulous at first, but it ended in one long wild howl.
I was appalled. Never before had such a sound met my ears. Presently I heard the brushwood on shore crash as though from the tread of some animal. The blood rushed to my forehead; my energies returned, and I looked around me for some means of escape.
The moon shone through the opening at the mouth of the creek by which I had entered the forest; and, considering this the best way of escape, I darted toward it like an arrow. It was hardly a hundred yards distant, and the swallow could scarcely have excelled me in flight; yet, as I turned my eyes to the shore, I could see several dark objects dashing through the brushwood at a pace nearly double in speed to my own. By their great speed, and the short yells which they occasionally gave, I knew at once that these were the much-dreaded gray wolves.
The bushes that skirted the shore now seemed to rush past with the velocity of lightning, as I dashed on in my flight to pass the narrow opening. The outlet was nearly gained; a few seconds more, and I would be comparatively safe. But in a moment my pursuers appeared on the bank above me, which here rose to the height of ten or twelve feet. There was no time for thought; I bent my head, and dashed wildly forward. The wolves sprang, but, miscalculating my speed, they fell behind, as I glided out upon the river!
I turned toward home. The light flakes of snow spun from the iron of my skates, and I was some distance from my pursuers, when their fierce howl told me they were still in hot pursuit. I did not look back; I did not feel afraid, or sorry, or glad; one thought of home, of the bright faces awaiting my return, and of their tears if they never should see me,—and then all the energies of body and mind were exerted for escape.
I was perfectly at home on the ice. Many were the days that I had spent on my good skates, never thinking that they would one day prove my only means of safety.
Every half-minute a furious yelp from my fierce attendants made me but too certain that they were in close pursuit. Nearer and nearer they came. At last I heard their feet pattering on the ice; I even felt their very breath, and heard their snuffing scent! Every nerve and muscle in my frame was strained to the utmost.
The trees along the shore seemed to dance in an uncertain light, my brain turned with my own breathless speed, my pursuers hissed forth their breath with a sound truly horrible, when all at once an involuntary motion on my part turned me out of my course.
The wolves close behind, unable to stop, and as unable to turn on smooth ice, slipped and fell, still going on far ahead. Their tongues were lolling out, their white tusks were gleaming from their bloody mouths, their dark shaggy breasts were flecked with foam; and as they passed me their eyes glared, and they howled with fury.
The thought flashed on my mind that by turning aside whenever they came too near I might avoid them; for, owing to the formation of their feet, they are unable to run on ice except in a straight line. I immediately acted upon this plan, but the wolves having regained their feet sprang directly toward me.
The race was renewed for twenty yards up the stream; they were almost close at my back, when I glided round and dashed directly past them. A fierce yell greeted this movement, and the wolves, slipping on their haunches, again slid onward, presenting a perfect picture of helplessness and disappointed rage. Thus I gained nearly a hundred yards at each turning. This was repeated two or three times, the baffled animals becoming every moment more and more excited.
At one time, by delaying my turning too long, my bloodthirsty antagonists came so near that they threw their white foam over my coat as they sprang to seize me, and their teeth clashed together like the spring of a fox-trap. Had my skates failed for one instant, had I tripped on a stick, or had my foot been caught in a fissure, the story I am now telling would never have been told.
I thought over all the chances. I knew where they would first seize me if I fell. I thought how long it would be before I died, and then of the search for my body: for oh, how fast man's mind traces out all the dread colors of death's picture only those who have been near the grim original can tell!
At last I came opposite the cabin, and my hounds—I knew their deep voices—roused by the noise, bayed furiously from their kennels. I heard their chains rattle—how I wished they would break them!—then I should have had protectors to match the fiercest dwellers of the forest. The wolves, taking the hint conveyed by the dogs, stopped in their mad career, and after a few moments turned and fled.
I watched them until their forms disappeared over a neighboring hill; then, taking off my skates, I wended my way to the cabin with feelings which may be better imagined than described. But even yet I never see a broad sheet of ice by moonlight without thinking of that snuffing breath, and those ferocious beasts that followed me so closely down that frozen river.
DEFINITIONS:—Glinting, glancing, glittering. Zone, belt. Velocity, swiftness. Fissure, crack.
EXERCISE.—Where is the Kennebec River? In what part of our country is Maine?
THE OLD OAKEN BUCKET.
BY SAMUEL WOODWORTH.
How dear to this heart are the scenes of my childhood, When fond recollection presents them to view! The orchard, the meadow, the deep tangled wildwood, And every loved spot which my infancy knew; The wide-spreading pond, and the mill that stood by it: The bridge and the rock where the cataract fell: The cot of my father, the dairy house nigh it, And e'en the rude bucket which hung in the well: The old oaken bucket, the ironbound bucket, The moss-covered bucket which hung in the well.
That moss-covered vessel I hail as a treasure; For often, at noon, when returned from the field, I found it the source of an exquisite pleasure, The purest and sweetest that nature can yield. How ardent I seized it, with hands that were glowing, And quick to the white-pebbled bottom it fell; Then soon, with the emblem of truth overflowing, And dripping with coolness it rose from the well: The old oaken bucket, the ironbound bucket, The moss-covered bucket arose from the well.
How sweet from the green mossy brim to receive it, As poised on the curb, it inclined to my lips! Not a full blushing goblet could tempt me to leave it, Though filled with the nectar which Jupiter sips; And now, far removed from thy loved situation, The tear of regret will intrusively swell, As fancy reverts to my father's plantation, And sighs for the bucket which hangs in the well: The old oaken bucket, the ironbound bucket, The moss-covered bucket, which hangs in the well.
DEFINITIONS:—Cataract, a great fall of water. Overflowing, running over. Exquisite, exceeding, extreme. Poised, balanced. Goblet, a kind of cup or drinking vessel. Nectar, the drink of the gods. Intrusively, without right or welcome. Reverts, returns.
EXERCISE.—Who was the author of "The Old Oaken Bucket"? What does the poem describe? and what feeling does it express?
THE FARMER AND THE FOX.
By JAMES ANTHONY FROUDE.
A farmer, whose poultry-yard had suffered severely from the foxes, succeeded at last in catching one in a trap. "Ah, you rascal!" said he, as he saw him struggling, "I'll teach you to steal my fat geese!—you shall hang on the tree yonder, and your brothers shall see what comes of thieving."
The farmer was twisting a halter to do what he threatened, when the fox, whose tongue had helped him in hard pinches before, thought there could be no harm in trying whether it might not do him one more good turn.
"You will hang me," he said, "to frighten my brother foxes. On the word of a fox, they won't care; they'll come and look at me, but they will dine at your expense before they go home again."
"Then I shall hang you for yourself, as a rogue and a rascal," said the farmer.
"I am only what nature chose to make me," the fox answered. "I didn't make myself."
"You stole my geese," said the man.
"Why did nature make me like geese, then?" said the fox. "Live and let live; give me my share, and I won't touch yours."
"I don't understand your fine talk," answered the farmer; "but I know that you are a thief, and that you deserve to be hanged."
"His head is too thick to let me catch him so," thought the fox; "I wonder if his heart is any softer! You are taking away the life of a fellow-creature," he said; "that's a responsibility—life is a curious thing, and who knows what comes after it?