THE STORY HOUR
A BOOK FOR THE HOME AND THE KINDERGARTEN
KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN
NORA A. SMITH
Therefore ear and heart open to the genuine story teller, as flowers open to the spring sun and the May rain. FRIEDRICH FROEBEL
INTRODUCTION. Kate Douglas Wiggin
PREFACE. Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora A. Smith
THE ORIOLE'S NEST. Kate Douglas Wiggin
DICKY SMILY'S BIRTHDAY. Kate Douglas Wiggin
AQUA; OR, THE WATER BABY. Kate Douglas Wiggin
MOUFFLOU. Adapted from Ouida by Nora A. Smith
BENJY IN BEASTLAND. Adapted from Mrs. Ewing by Kate Douglas Wiggin and Nora A. Smith
THE PORCELAIN STOVE. Adapted from Ouida by Kate Douglas Wiggin
THE BABES IN THE WOOD. E. S. Smith
THE STORY OF CHRISTMAS. Nora A. Smith
THE FIRST THANKSGIVING DAY. Nora A. Smith
LITTLE GEORGE WASHINGTON. Part I. Nora A. Smith
GREAT GEORGE WASHINGTON. Part II. Nora A. Smith
THE MAPLE-LEAF AND THE VIOLET. Nora A. Smith
MRS. CHINCHILLA. Kate Douglas Wiggin
A STORY OF THE FOREST. Nora A. Smith
PICCOLA. Nora A. Smith
THE CHILD AND THE WORLD. Kate Douglas Wiggin
WHEN I WAS A LITTLE GIRL. Kate Douglas Wiggin
FROEBEL'S BIRTHDAY. Nora A. Smith
Story-telling, like letter-writing, is going out of fashion. There are no modern Scheherezades, and the Sultans nowadays have to be amused in a different fashion. But, for that matter, a hundred poetic pastimes of leisure have fled before the relentless Hurry Demon who governs this prosaic nineteenth century. The Wandering Minstrel is gone, and the Troubadour, and the Court of Love, and the King's Fool, and the Round Table, and with them the Story-Teller.
"Come, tell us a story!" It is the familiar plea of childhood. Unhappy he who has not been assailed with it again and again. Thrice miserable she who can be consigned to worse than oblivion by the scathing criticism, "She doesn't know any stories!" and thrice blessed she who is recognized at a glance as a person likely to be full to the brim of them.
There are few preliminaries and no formalities when the Person with a Story is found. The motherly little sister stands by the side of her chair, two or three of the smaller fry perch on the arms, and the baby climbs up into her lap (such a person always has a capacious lap), and folds his fat hands placidly. Then there is a deep sigh of blissful expectation and an expressive silence, which means, "Now we are ready, please; and if you would be kind enough to begin it with 'Once upon a time,' we should be much obliged; though of course we understand that all the stories in the world can't commence that way, delightful as it would be."
The Person with a Story smiles obligingly (at least it is to be hoped that she does), and retires into a little corner of her brain, to rummage there for something just fitted to the occasion. That same little corner is densely populated, if she is a lover of children. In it are all sorts of heroic dogs, wonderful monkeys, intelligent cats, naughty kittens; virtues masquerading seductively as fairies, and vices hiding in imps; birds agreeing and disagreeing in their little nests, and inevitable small boys in the act of robbing them; busy bees laying up their winter stores, and idle butterflies disgracefully neglecting to do the same; and then a troop of lost children, disobedient children, and lazy, industrious, generous, or heedless ones, waiting to furnish the thrilling climaxes. The Story-Teller selects a hero or heroine out of this motley crowd,—all longing to be introduced to Bright-Eye, Fine-Ear, Kind-Heart, and Sweet-Lips,—and speedily the drama opens.
Did Rachel ever have such an audience? I trow not. Rachel never had tiny hands snuggling into hers in "the very best part of the story," nor was she near enough her hearers to mark the thousand shades of expression that chased each other across their faces,—supposing they had any expression, which is doubtful. Rachel never saw dimples lurking in the ambush of rosy cheeks, and popping in and out in such a distracting manner that she felt like punctuating her discourse with kisses! Her dull, conventional, grown-up hearers bent a little forward in their seats, perhaps, and compelled by her magic power laughed and cried in the right places; but their eyes never shone with that starry lustre that we see in the eyes of happy children,—a lustre that is dimmed, alas, in after years. Their eyes still see visions, but the "shadows of the prison house" have fallen about us, and the things which we have seen we "now can see no more!"
If you chance to be the Person with a Story, you sit like a queen on her throne surrounded by her loyal subjects; or like an unworthy sun with a group of flowers turning their faces towards you. Inspired by breathless attention, you try ardently to do your very best. It seems to you that you could never endure a total failure, and you hardly see how you could bear, with any sort of equanimity, even the vacant gaze or restless movement that would bespeak a vagrant interest. If you are a novice, perhaps the frightful idea crosses your mind, "What if one of these children should slip out of the room?" Or, still more tragic possibility, suppose they should look you in the eye and remark with the terrible candor of infancy, "We do not like this story!" But no; you are more fortunate. The tale is told, and you are greeted with sighs of satisfaction and with the instantaneous request, "Tell it again!" That is the encore of the Story-Teller,—"Tell it again! No, not another story; the same one over again, please!" for "what novelty is worth that sweet monotony where everything is known, and loved because it is known?" No royal accolade could be received with greater gratitude. You endeavor to let humility wait upon self-respect; but when you discover that the children can scarcely be dragged from your fascinating presence, crying like Romeo for death rather than banishment, and that the next time you appear they make a wild dash from the upper regions, and precipitate themselves upon you with the full impact of their several weights "multiplied into their velocity," you cannot help hugging yourself to think the good God has endowed you sufficiently to win the love and admiration of such keen observers and merciless little critics.
Now this charming little drama takes place in somebody's nursery corner at twilight, when you are waiting for "that cheerful tocsin of the soul, the dinner-bell," or around somebody's fireside just before the children's bedtime; but the same scene is enacted every few days in the presence of the fresh-hearted, childlike kindergartner, of all women the likeliest to find the secret of eternal youth. She chooses the story as one of the vessels in which she shall carry the truth to her circle of little listeners, and you will never hear her say, like the needy knife-grinder, "Story? God bless you, I have none to tell, sir!"
If the group chances to be one of bright, well-born, well-bred youngsters, the opportunity to inspire and instruct is one of the most effective and valuable that can come to any teacher. On the other hand, if the circle happens to be one of little ragamuffins, Arabs, scrips and scraps of vagrant humanity (sometimes scalawags and sometimes angels), born in basements and bred on curbstones, then believe me, my countrymen, there is a sight worth seeing, a scene fit for a painter. It might be a pleasant satire upon our national hospitality if the artist were to call such a picture "Young America," for comparatively few distinctively American faces would be found in his group of portraits.
Make a mental picture, dear reader, of the ring of listening children in a San Francisco free kindergarten, for it would be difficult to gather so cosmopolitan a company anywhere else: curly yellow hair and rosy cheeks ... sleek blonde braids and calm blue eyes ... swarthy faces and blue-black curls ... woolly little pows and thick lips ... long, arched noses and broad, flat ones. There you will see the fire and passion of the Southern races and the self-poise, serenity, and sturdiness of Northern nations. Pat is there, with a gleam of humor in his eye ... Topsy, all smiles and teeth ... Abraham, trading tops with little Isaac, next in line ... Hans and Gretchen, phlegmatic and dependable ... Francois, never still for an instant ... Christina, rosy, calm, and conscientious, and Duncan, canny and prudent as any of his clan.
What an opportunity for amalgamation of races and for laying the foundation of American citizenship! for the purely social atmosphere of the kindergarten makes it a school of life and experience. Imagine such a group hanging breathless upon your words, as you recount the landing of the Pilgrims, or try to paint the character of George Washington in colors that shall appeal to children whose ancestors have known Napoleon, Cromwell, and Bismarck, Peter the Great, Garibaldi, Bruce, and Robert Emmett.
To such an audience were the stories in his little book told; and the lines that will perhaps seem commonplace to you glow for us with a "light that never was on sea or land;" for "the secret of our emotions never lies in the bare object, but in its subtle relations to our own past."
As we turn the pages, radiant faces peep between the words; the echo of childish laughter rings in our ears and curves our lips with its happy memory; there isn't a single round O in all the chapters but serves as a tiny picture-frame for an eager child's face! The commas say, "Isn't there any more?" the interrogation points ask, "What did the boy do then?" the exclamation points cry in ecstasy, "What a beautiful story!" and the periods sigh, "This is all for to-day."
At this point—where the dog Moufflou returns to his little master—we remember that Carlotty Griggs clapped her ebony hands, and shrieked in transport, "I KNOWED HE'D come! I KNOWED he'd come!"
Here is the place where we remarked impressively, "A lie, children, is the very worst thing in the world!" whereupon Billy interrogated, with wide eyes and awed voice, "IS IT WORSE THAN A RAILROAD CROSSING?" And there is a sentence in the story of the "Bird's Nest" sacred to the memory of Tommy's tear!—Tommy of the callous conscience and the marble heart. Tommy's dull eye washed for one brief moment by the salutary tear! Truly the humble Story-Teller has not lived in vain. Sing, ye morning stars, together, for this is the spot where Tommy cried!
If you would be the Person with a Story, you must not only have one to tell, but you must be willing to learn how to tell it, if you wish to make it a "rememberable thing" to children. The Story-Teller, unlike the poet, is made as well as born, but he is not made of all stuffs nor in the twinkling of an eye. In this respect he is very like the Ichneumon in the nonsense rhyme:—
"There once was an idle Ichneumon Who thought he could learn to play Schumann; But he found, to his pains, It took talent and brains, And neither possessed this Ichneumon."
To be effective, the story in the kindergarten should always be told, never read; for little children need the magnetism of eye and smile as well as the gesture which illuminates the strange word and endows it with meaning. The story that is told is always a thousand times more attractive, real, and personal than anything read from a book.
Well-chosen, graphically told stories can be made of distinct educative value in the nursery or kindergarten. They give the child a love of reading, develop in him the germ, at least, of a taste for good literature, and teach him the art of speech. If they are told in simple, graceful, expressive English, they are a direct and valuable object lesson in this last direction.
The ear of the child becomes used to refined intonations, and slovenly language will grow more and more disagreeable to him. The kindergartner cannot be too careful in this matter. By the sweetness of her tone and the perfection of her enunciation she not only makes herself a worthy model for the children, but she constantly reveals the possibilities of language and its inner meaning.
"The very brooding of a voice on a word," says George Macdonald, "seems to hatch something of what is in it."
Stories help a child to form a standard by which he can live and grow, for they are his first introduction into the grand world of the ideal in character.
"We live by Admiration, Hope, and Love; And even as these are well and wisely fixed, In dignity of being we ascend."
The child understands his own life better, when he is enabled to compare it with other lives; he sees himself and his own possibilities reflected in them as in a mirror.
They also aid in the growth of the imaginative faculty, which is very early developed in the child, and requires its natural food. "Imagination," says Dr. Seguin, "is more than a decorative attribute of leisure; it is a power in the sense that from images perceived and stored it sublimes ideals." "If I were to choose between two great calamities for my children," he goes on to say, "I would rather have them unalphabetic than unimaginative."
There is a great difference of opinion concerning the value of fairy stories. The Gradgrinds will not accept them on any basis whatever, but they are invariably so fascinating to children that it is certain they must serve some good purpose and appeal to some inherent craving in child-nature. But here comes in the necessity of discrimination. The true meaning of the word "faerie" is spiritual, but many stories masquerade under that title which have no claim to it. Some universal spiritual truth underlies the really fine old fairy tale; but there can be no educative influence in the so-called fairy stories which are merely jumbles of impossible incidents, and which not unfrequently present dishonesty, deceit, and cruelty in attractive or amusing guise.
When the fairy tale carries us into an exquisite ideal world, where the fancy may roam at will, creating new images and seeing truth ever in new forms, then it has a pure and lovely influence over children, who are natural poets, and live more in the spirit and less in the body than we. The fairy tale offers us a broad canvas on which to paint our word-pictures. There are no restrictions of time or space; the world is ours, and we can roam in it at will; for spirit, there, is ever victorious over matter.
"Once upon a time," saith the Story-Teller, "there was a beautiful locust tree, that bent its delicate fans and waved its creamy blossoms in the sunshine, and laughed because its flowers were so lovely and fragrant and the world was so fresh and green in its summer dress."
"It's queer for a tree to laugh," said Bright-Eye.
"But queerer if it didn't laugh, with such lovely blossoms hanging all over it," replied Fine-Ear.
Everything is real to the happy child. Life is a sort of fairy garden, where he wanders as in a dream. "He can make abstraction of whatever does not fit into his fable; and he puts his eyes into his pocket just as we hold our noses in an unsavory lane."
Stories offer a valuable field for instruction, and for introducing in simple and attractive form much information concerning the laws of plant and flower and animal life.
A story of this kind, however, must be made as well as told by an artist; for in the hands of a bungler it is quite as likely to be a failure as a success. It must be compounded with the greatest care, and the scientific facts must be generously diluted and mixed in small proportions with other and more attractive elements, or it will be rejected by the mental stomach; or, if received in one ear, will be unceremoniously ushered from the other with an "Avaunt! cold fact! What have thou and I in common!"
Did you ever tell a story of this kind and watch its effect upon children? Did you ever note that fatal moment when it BEGAN to BEGIN to dawn upon the intelligence of the dullest member of your flock that your narrative was a "whited sepulchre," and that he was being instructed within an inch of his life?
"Treat me at least with honesty, my good woman!" he cries in his spirit. "Read me lessons if you will, but do not make a pretense of amusing me at the same moment!"
This obvious attitude of criticism is very disagreeable to you, but never mind, it will be a salutary lesson. Did you think, O clumsy visitor in childhood land, that simply because you called your stuffed dolls "Prince" and "Princess" you could conduct them straight through the mineral kingdom, and allow them to converse with all the metals with impunity? Nest time make your scientific fact an integral part of the story, and do not try to introduce too much knowledge in one dose. All children love Nature and sympathize with her (or if they do not, "then despair of them, O Philanthropy!"), and all stories that bring them nearer to the dear mother's heart bring them at the same time nearer to God; therefore lead them gently to a loving observation of
"The hills Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun; the vales Stretching in pensive quietness between; The venerable woods; rivers that move In majesty, and the complaining brooks That make the meadows green."
Stories bring the force of example to bear upon children in the very best possible way. Here we can speak to the newly awakened soul and touch it to nobler issues. This can be done with very little of that abstract moralizing which is generally so ineffective. A moral "lugged in" by the heels, so to speak, without any sense of perspective on the part of the Story-Teller, can no more incline a child to nobler living than cold victuals can serve as a fillip to the appetite. The facts themselves should suffice to exert the moral influence; the deeds should speak louder than the words, and in clearer, fuller tones. At the end of such a story, "Go thou and do likewise" sounds in the child's heart, and a new throb of tenderness and aspiration, of desire to do, to grow, and to be, stirs gently there and wakes the soul to higher ideals. In such a story the canting, vapid, or didactic little moral, tacked like a tag on the end, for fear we shall not read the lesson aright, is nothing short of an insult to the better feelings. It used to be very much in vogue, but we have learned better nowadays, and we recognize (to paraphrase Mrs. Whitney's bright speech) that we have often vaccinated children with morality for fear of their taking it the natural way.
It is a curious fact that children sympathize with the imaginary woes of birds and butterflies and plants much more readily than with the sufferings of human beings; and they are melted to tears much more quickly by simple incidents from the manifold life of nature, than by the tragedies of human experience which surround them on every side. Robert Louis Stevenson says in his essay on "Child's Play," "Once, when I was groaning aloud with physical pain, a young gentleman came into the room and nonchalantly inquired if I had seen his bow and arrow. He made no account of my groans, which he accepted, as he had to accept so much else, as a piece of the inexplicable conduct of his elders. Those elders, who care so little for rational enjoyment, and are even the enemies of rational enjoyment for others, he had accepted without understanding and without complaint, as the rest of us accept the scheme of the universe." Miss Anna Buckland quotes in this connection a story of a little boy to whom his mother showed a picture of Daniel in the lions' den. The child sighed and looked much distressed, whereupon his mother hastened to assure him that Daniel was such a good man that God did not let the lions hurt him. "Oh," replied the little fellow, "I was not thinking of that; but I was afraid that those big lions were going to eat all of him themselves, and that they would not give the poor little lion down in the corner any of him!"
It is well to remember the details with which you surrounded your story when first you told it, and hold to them strictly on all other occasions. The children allow you no latitude in this matter; they draw the line absolutely upon all change. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, if you speak of Jimmy when "his name was Johnny;" or if, when you are depicting the fearful results of disobedience, you lose Jane in a cranberry bog instead of the heart of a forest! Personally you do not care much for little Jane, and it is a matter of no moment to you where you lost her; but an error such as this undermines the very foundations of the universe in the children's minds. "Can Jane be lost in two places?" they exclaim mentally," or are there two Janes, and are they both lost? because if so, it must be a fatality to be named Jane."
Perez relates the following incident: "A certain child was fond of a story about a young bird, which, having left its nest, although its mother had forbidden it to do so, flew to the top of a chimney, fell down the flue into the fire, and died a victim to his disobedience. The person who told the story thought it necessary to embellish it from his own imagination. 'That's not right,' said the child at the first change which was made, 'the mother said this and did that.' His cousin, not remembering the story word for word, was obliged to have recourse to invention to fill up gaps. But the child could not stand it. He slid down from his cousin's knees, and with tears in his eyes, and indignant gestures, exclaimed, 'It's not true! The little bird said, coui, coui, coui, coui, before he fell into the fire, to make his mother hear; but the mother did not hear him, and he burnt his wings, his claws, and his beak, and he died, poor little bird.' And the child ran away, crying as if he had been beaten. He had been worse than beaten; he had been deceived, or at least he thought so; his story had been spoiled by being altered." So seriously do children for a long time take fiction for reality.
If you find the attention of the children wandering, you can frequently win it gently back by showing some object illustrative of your story, by drawing a hasty sketch on a blackboard, or by questions to the children. You sometimes receive more answers than you bargained for; sometimes these answers will be confounded with the real facts; and sometimes they will fall very wide of the mark.
I was once telling the exciting tale of the Shepherd's Child lost in the mountains, and of the sagacious dog who finally found him. When I reached the thrilling episode of the search, I followed the dog as he started from the shepherd's hut with the bit of breakfast for his little master. The shepherd sees the faithful creature, and seized by a sudden inspiration follows in his path. Up, up the mountain sides they climb, the father full of hope, the mother trembling with fear. The dog rushes ahead, quite out of sight; the anxious villagers press forward in hot pursuit. The situation grows more and more intense; they round a little point of rocks, and there, under the shadow of a great gray crag, they find—
"What do you suppose they found?"
"FI' CENTS!!" shouted Benny in a transport of excitement. "BET YER THEY FOUND FI' CENTS!!"
You would imagine that such a preposterous idea could not find favor in any sane community; but so altogether seductive a guess did this appear to be, that a chorus of "Fi' cents!" "Fi' cents!" sounded on every side; and when the tumult was hushed, the discovery of an ordinary flesh and blood child fell like an anti-climax on a public thoroughly in love with its own incongruities. Let the psychologist explain Benny's mental processes; we prefer to leave them undisturbed and unclassified.
If you have no children of your own, dear Person with a Story, go into the highways and by-ways and gather together the little ones whose mothers' lips are dumb; sealed by dull poverty, hard work, and constant life in atmospheres where graceful fancies are blighted as soon as they are born. There is no fireside, and no chimney corner in those crowded tenements. There is no silver-haired grandsire full of years and wisdom, with memory that runs back to the good old times that are no more. There is no cheerful grandame with pocket full of goodies and a store of dear old reminiscences all beginning with that enchanting phrase, "When I was a little girl."
Brighten these sordid lives a little with your pretty thoughts, your lovely imaginations, your tender pictures. Speak to them simply, for their minds grope feebly in the dim twilight of their restricted lives. The old, old stories will do; stories of love and heroism and sacrifice; of faith and courage and fidelity. Kindle in tired hearts a gentler thought of life; open the eyes that see not and the ears that hear not; interpret to them something of the beauty that has been revealed to you. You do not need talent, only sympathy, "the one poor word that includes all our best insight and our best love."
KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN.
The fourteen little stories in this book are not offered as a collection ample enough to satisfy all needs of the kindergartner.
Such a collection should embrace representative stories of all classes—narrative, realistic, imaginative, scientific, and historical, as well as brief and simple tales for the babies.
An experience of twelve years among kindergartners, however, has shown us that there is room for a number of books like this modest example; containing stories which need no adaptation or arrangement; which are ready for the occasion, and which have been thoroughly tried before audience after audience of children.
The three adaptations, "Benjy in Beast-Land," "Moufflou," and the "Porcelain Stove," have been made as sympathetically as possible. Their introduction needs no apology, for they are exquisite stories, and in their original form much too advanced for children of the kindergarten age.
KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN. NORA A. SMITH.
THE ORIOLE'S NEST.
"See how each boy, excited by the actual event, is all ear."—Froebel.
There it hangs, on a corner of the picture frame, very much as it hung in the old willow-tree out in the garden.
It was spring time, and I used to move my rocking-chair up to the window, where I could lean out and touch the green branches, and watch there for the wonderful beautiful things to tell my little children in the kindergarten. There I saw the busy little ants hard at work on the ground below; the patient, dull, brown toads snapping flies in the sunshine; the striped caterpillars lazily crawling up the trunk of the tree; and dozens of merry birds getting ready for housekeeping.
Did you know the birdies "kept house"? Oh, yes; they never "board" like men and women; indeed, I don't think they even like to RENT a house without fixing it over to suit themselves, but they 'd much rather go to work and build one,
"So snug and so warm, so cosy and neat, To start at their housekeeping all complete."
Now there hung just inside my window a box of strings, and for two or three days, no matter how many I put into it, when I went to look the next time none could be found. I had talked to the little girls and scolded the little boys in the house, but no one knew anything about the matter, when one afternoon, as I was sitting there, a beautiful bird with a yellow breast fluttered down from the willow-tree, perched on the window-sill, cocked his saucy head, winked his bright eye, and without saying "If you please," clipped his naughty little beak into the string box and flew off with a piece of pink twine.
I sat as still as a mouse to see if the little scamp would dare to come back; he didn't, but he sent his wife, who gave a hop, skip, and a jump, looked me squarely in the eye, and took her string without being a bit afraid.
Now do you call that stealing? "No," you answer. Neither do I; to be sure they took what belonged to me, but the window was wide open, and I think they must have known I loved the birds and would like to give them something for their new house. Perhaps they knew, too, that bits of old twine could not be worth much.
Then how busily they began their work! They had already chosen the place for their nest, springing up and down in the boughs till they found a branch far out of sight of snakes and hawks and cruel tabby cats, high out of reach of naughty small boys with their sling-shots, and now everything was ready for these small carpenters to begin their building. No hammer and nails were needed, claw and bill were all the tools they used, and yet what beautiful carpenter work was theirs!
Do you see how strongly the nest is tied on to those three slender twigs, and how carefully and closely it is woven, so that you can scarcely pull it apart? Those wiry black hairs holding all the rest together were dropped from Prince Charming's tail (Prince Charming is the pretty saddle-horse who crops his grass, under the willow-tree). Those sleek brown hairs belonged to Dame Margery, the gentle mooly cow, who lives with her little calf Pet in the stable with Prince Charming; and there is a shining yellow spot on one side. Ah, you roguish birds, you must have been outside the kitchen window when baby Johnny's curls were cut! We could only spare two from his precious head, and we hunted everywhere for this one to send to grandmamma!
Now just look at this door in the side of the nest, and tell me how a bird could make such a perfect one; and yet I've heard you say, "It's only a bird; he doesn't know anything." To be sure he cannot do as many things as you, but after all you are not wise enough to do many of the things that he does. What would one of my little boys do, I wonder, if he were carried miles away from home and dropped in a place he had never seen? Why, he would be too frightened to do anything but cry; and yet there are many birds, who, when taken away a long distance, will perch on top of the weather-vane, perhaps, make up their little bits of minds which way to go, and then with a whir-r-r-r fly off over house-tops and church-steeples, towns and cities, rivers and meadows, until they reach the place from which they started.
Look at the nest for the last time now, and see the soft, lovely lining of ducks' feathers and lambs' wool.
Why do you suppose it was made so velvet soft and fleecy? Why, for the little birds that were coming, of course; and sure enough, one morning after the tiny house was all finished, I leaned far out of the window and saw five little eggs cuddled close together; but I did not get much chance to look at those precious eggs, I can tell you; for the mamma bird could scarcely spare a minute to go and get a drink of water, so afraid was she that they would miss the warmth of her downy wings.
There she sat in the long May days and warm, still nights: who but a mamma would be so sweet and kind and patient?—but SHE didn't mind the trouble—not a bit. Bless her dear little bird-heart, they were not eggs to her: she could see them even now as they were going to be, her five cunning, downy, feathery birdlings, chirping and fluttering under her wings; so she never minded the ache in her back or the cramp in her legs, but sat quite still at home, though there were splendid picnics in the strawberry patches and concerts on the fence rails, and all the father birds, and all the mother birds that were not hatching eggs, were having a great deal of fun this beautiful weather. At last all was over, and I was waked up one morning by such a chirping and singing—such a fluttering and flying—I knew in a minute that where the night before there had been two birds and five eggs, now there were seven birds and nothing but egg-shells in the green willow-tree!
The papa oriole would hardly wait for me to dress, but flew on and off the window-sill, seeming to say, "Why don't you get up? why don't you get up? I have five little birds; they came out of the shells this very morning, so hungry that I can't get enough for them to eat! Why don't you get up, I say? I have five little birds, and I am taking care of them while my wife is off taking a rest!"
They were five scrawny, skinny little things, I must say; for you know birds don't begin by being pretty like kittens and chickens, but look very bare and naked, and don't seem to have anything to show but a big, big mouth which is always opening and crying "Yip, yip, yip!"
Now I think you are wondering why I happen to have this nest, and how I could have taken away the beautiful house from the birds. Ah, that is the sad part of the story, and I wish I need not tell it to you.
When the baby birds were two days old, I went out on a long ride into the country, leaving everything safe and happy in the old green willow-tree; but when I came back, what do you think I found on the ground under the branches?——A wonderful hang-bird's nest cut from the tree, and five poor still birdies lying by its side. Five slender necks all limp and lifeless,—five pairs of bright eyes shut forever! and overhead the poor mamma and papa twittering and crying in the way little birds have when they are frightened and sorry—flying here and there, first down to the ground and then up in the tree, to see if it was really true.
While I was gone two naughty boys had come into the garden to dig for angle-worms, and all at once they spied the oriole's nest.
"O Tommy, here's a hang-bird's nest, such a funny one! there's nobody here, let's get it," cried Jack.
Up against the tree they put the step-ladder; and although it was almost out of reach, a sharp jack-knife cut the twigs that held it up, and down it fell from the high tree with a heavy thud on the hard earth, and the five little orioles never breathed again! Of course the boys didn't know there were any birdies in the nest, or they wouldn't have done it for the world; but that didn't make it any easier for the papa and mamma bird.
Now, dear children, never let me hear you say, "It's no matter, they're only birds, they don't care."
Think about this nest: how the mother and father worked at it, weaving hair and string and wool together, day by day! Think how the patient mamma sat on the eggs, dreaming of the time when she should have five little singing, flying birds to care for, to feed and to teach! and then to have them live only two short days! Was it not dreadful to lose her beautiful house and dear little children both at once?
Never forget that just as your own father and mother love their dear little girls and boys, so God has made the birds love their little feathery children that are born in the wonderful nests he teaches them to build.
DICKY SMILEY'S BIRTHDAY.
"In order to be especially beneficial and effective, story-telling should be connected with the events and occurrences of life."— Froebel.
Dicky Smiley was eight years old when all these things happened that I am going to tell you; eight years old, and as bright as a steel button. It was very funny that his name should be Smiley, for his face was just like a sunbeam, and if he ever cried at all it was only for a minute, and then the smiles would creep out and chase the tear-drops away from the blue sky of his eyes.
Dicky's mother tried to call him Richard, because it was his papa's name, but it never would say itself somehow, and even when she did remember, and called him "Richard," his baby sister Dot would cry, "Mamma, don't scold Dicky."
He had once a good, loving papa like yours, when he was a tiny baby in long white clothes; but the dear papa marched away with the blue- coated soldiers one day, and never came back any more to his little children; for he died far, far away from home, on a green battlefield, with many other soldiers. You can think how sad and lonely Dicky's mamma was, and how she hugged her three babies close in her arms, and said:—
"Darlings, you haven't any father now, but the dear God will help your mother to take care of you!"
And now she was working hard, so very hard, from morning till night every day to get money to buy bread and milk and clothes for Bess and Dot and Dicky.
But Dicky was a good little fellow and helped his mamma ever so much, pulling out bastings from her needlework, bringing in the kindling and shavings from the shed, and going to the store for her butter and potatoes and eggs. So one morning she said:—
"Dicky, you have been such a help to me this summer, I'd like to give you something to make you very happy. Let us count the money in your bank—you earned it all yourself—and see what we could buy with it. To be sure, Bess wants a waterproof and Dot needs rubbers, but we do want our little boy to have a birthday present."
"Oh, mamma," cried he, clapping his hands, "what a happy day it will be! I shall buy that tool-box at the store round the corner! It's such a beauty, with a little saw, a claw-hammer, a chisel, a screw-driver, and everything a carpenter needs. It costs just a dollar, exactly!"
Then they unscrewed the bank and found ninety-five cents, so that it would take only five cents more to make the dollar. Dicky earned that before he went to bed, by piling up wood for a neighbor; and his mamma changed all the little five and ten cent pieces into two bright half- dollars that chinked together joyfully in his trousers pocket.
The next morning he was up almost at the same time the robins and chimney-swallows flew out of their nests; jumped down the stairs, two at a time, and could scarcely eat his breakfast, such a hurry as he was in to buy the precious tool-box. He opened the front door, danced down the wooden steps, and there on the curb in front of the house stood a little girl, with a torn gingham apron, no shoes, no hat, and her nut-brown curls flying in the wind; worse than all, she was crying as if her heart would break.
"Why, little girl, what's the matter?" asked Dicky, for he was a kind- hearted boy, and didn't like to see people cry.
She took down her apron and sobbed:—
"Oh, I've lost my darling little brown dog, and I can never get him back!"
"Why, has somebody poisoned him—is he dead?" said Dicky.
She shook her head.
"No, oh no! The pound-man took him away in his cart—my sweet little bit of a dog; he has such a cunning little curly tail, and long, silky ears; he does all kinds of tricks, and they'll never let me in at home without Bruno."
And then she began to cry harder than ever, so that Dicky hardly knew what to say to her.
Now the pound, children, is a very large place somewhere near the city, with a high fence all around it, and inside are kept colts and horses, the little calves and mother cows, and the sheep and goats that run away from home, or are picked up by the roadside. The pound- man rides along the street in a big cart, which has a framework of slats built over it, so that it looks something like a chicken-coop on wheels, and in it—some of you have seen him do it—he puts the poor dogs that haven't collars on, and whose masters haven't paid for them. Then he rides away and locks them up in the great place inside the high fence, and they have to stay awhile. The dogs are killed if nobody comes for them.
"Well," said Dicky, "let us go and see the pound-man. Do you know where he lives?"
"Yes, indeed," answered the little girl, whose name was Lola. "I ran behind the cart all the way to the pound. I cried after Bruno, and Bruno whined for me, and poked his nose between the bars and tried to jump out, but he couldn't. It's a pretty long way there, and the man is as cross as two sticks."
But they started off, and on and on they walked together, Dicky having tight hold of Lola's hand, while she told him about the wonderful things Bruno could do; how he could go up and down a ladder, play the fife and beat the drum, make believe go to sleep, and dance a jig. It was by these tricks of his that Lola earned money for her uncle, with whom she lived; for her father and mother were both dead, and there was no one in the whole world who loved the little girl. The dear mother had died in a beautiful mountain country far across the ocean, and Lola and Bruno had been sent in a ship over to America. Now this dear, pretty mamma of Lola's used to sing to her when she rocked her to sleep, and as she grew from a baby to a tiny girl she learned the little songs to sing to Bruno when he was a little puppy. Would you like to hear one of them? She used to sing it on the street corners, and at the end of the last verse that knowing, cunning, darling Bruno would yawn as if he could not keep awake another minute, tuck his silky head between his two fore paws, shut his bright eyes, give a tired little sigh, and stay fast asleep until Lola waked him. This is the song:-
Wake, lit-tle Bru-no! Wake, lit-tle Bru-no,
Wake, lit-tle Bru-no quick-ly!
When the two children came to the pound and saw the little house at the gate where the pound-man lived, Dicky was rather frightened and hardly dared walk up the steps; but after a moment he thought to himself, "I won't be a coward; I haven't done anything wrong." So he gave the door a rousing knock, for an eight-year-old boy, and brought the man out at once.
"What do you want?" said he, in a gruff voice, for he did seem rather cross.
"Please, sir, I want Lola's little brown dog. He's all the dog she has, and she earns money with him. He does funny tricks for ten cents."
"How do you think I know whether I've got a brown dog in there or not?" growled he. "You'd better run home to your mothers, both of you."
At this Lola began to cry again, and Dicky said quickly:—
"Oh, you 'd know him soon as anything,—he has such a cunning curly tail and long silky ears. His name is Bruno."
"Well," snapped the man, "where's your money? Hurry up! I want my breakfast."
"Money!" cried Dicky, looking at Lola.
"Money!" whispered little Lola, looking back at Dicky.
"Yes," said he, "of course! Give me a dollar and I will give you the dog."
"But," answered Lola, "I haven't a bit of money; I never have any."
"Neither have"—began Dicky; and then his fingers crept into his trousers pocket and felt the two silver half-dollars that were to buy his tool-box. He had forgotten all about that tool-box for an hour, but how could he—how could he ever give away that precious money which he had been so long in getting together, five cents at a time? He remembered the sharp little saw, the stout hammer, the cunning plane, bright chisel, and shining screw-driver, and his fingers closed round the money tightly; but just then he looked at pretty little Lola, with her sad face, her swollen eyes and the brave red lips she was trying to keep from quivering with tears. That was enough; he quickly drew out the silver dollar, and said to the pound-man:—
"Here's your dollar—give us the dog!"
The man looked much surprised. Not many little eight-year-old boys have a dollar in their trousers pocket.
"Where did you get it?" he asked.
"I earned every cent of it," answered poor Dicky with a lump in his throat and a choking voice. "I brought in coal and cut kindlings for most six months before I got enough, and there ain't another tool-box in the world so good as that one for a dollar—but I want Bruno!"
Then the pound-man showed them a little flight of steps that led up to a square hole in the wall of the pound, and told them to go up and look through it and see if the dog was there. They climbed up and put their two rosy eager faces at the rough little window. "Bruno! Bruno!" called little Lola, and no Bruno came; but every frightened homesick little doggy in that prison poked up his nose, wagged his tail, and started for the voice. It didn't matter whether they were Fidos, or Carlos, or Rovers, or Pontos; they knew that they were lonesome little dogs, and perhaps somebody had remembered them. Lola's tender heart ached at the sight of so many fatherless and motherless dogs, and she cried,—
"No, no, you poor darlings! I haven't come for you; I want my own Bruno."
"Sing for him, and may be he will come," said Dicky; and Lola leaned her elbow on the window sill and sang:—
Lit-tle shoes are sold at the gate-way of Heaven,
And to all the tattered lit-tle an-gels are giv-en;
Slum-ber my dar-ling, Slum-ber my dar-ling,
Slum-ber my dar-ling sweet-ly.
Now Bruno was so tired with running from the pound-man, so hungry, so frightened, and so hoarse with barking that he had gone to sleep; but when he heard Lola's voice singing the song he knew so well, he started up, and out he bounded half awake—the dearest, loveliest little brown dog in the world, with a cunning curly tail sticking up in a round bob behind, two long silky ears that almost touched the ground, and four soft white feet.
Then they were two such glad children, and such a glad little brown dog was Bruno! Why, he kissed Lola's bare feet and hands and face, and nearly chewed her apron into rags, he was so delighted to see his mistress again. Even the cross pound-man smiled and said he was the prettiest puppy, and the smartest, he had ever had in the pound, and that when he had shut him up the night before he had gone through all his funny tricks in hopes that he would be let out.
Then Dicky and Lola walked back home over the dusty road, Bruno running along beside them, barking at the birds, sniffing at the squirrels, and chasing all the chickens and kittens he met on the way, till at last they reached the street corner, where Lola turned to go to her home, after kissing her new friend and thanking him for being so good and kind to her.
But what about Master Dicky himself, who had lost his tool-box? He didn't feel much like a smiling boy just then. He crept in at the back door, and when he saw his dear mother's face in the kitchen he couldn't stand it a minute longer, but burst out crying, and told her all about it.
"Well, my little son," said she, "I'm very, very sorry. I wish I could give you another dollar, but I haven't any money to spare. You did just right to help Lola find Bruno, and buy him back for her, and I'm very proud of my boy; but you can't give away the dollar and have the tool-box too. So wipe your eyes, and try to be happy. You didn't eat any breakfast, dear, take a piece of nice bread and sugar."
So Dicky dried his tears and began to eat.
After a while he wanted to wipe his sticky, sugary little mouth, and as he took his clean handkerchief out of his pocket, two shining, chinking, clinking round things tumbled out on the floor and rolled under the kitchen table! What could they have been! Why, his two silver half-dollars, to be sure. And where in the world did they come from, do you suppose? Why, it was the nicest, funniest thing! The pound-man was not so cross after all, for he thought Lola and Dicky were two such kind children, and Bruno such a cunning dog, that he could not bear to take Dicky's dollar away from him; so while the little boy was looking the other way the pound-man just slipped the money back into Dick's bit of a pocket without saying a word. Wasn't that a beautiful surprise?
So Dicky ran to the corner store as fast as his feet could carry him, and bought the tool-box.
Every Saturday afternoon he has such a pleasant time playing with it! And who do you suppose sits on the white kitchen floor with Dot and Bess, watching him make dolls' tables and chairs with his carpenter's tools? Why, Lola, to be sure, and a little brown dog too, with a cunning curly tail turned up in a round bob behind, and two long silky ears touching the floor. For Dick's mamma had such a big heart that I do believe it would have held all the children in the world, and as Lola's uncle didn't care for her the least little bit, he gave her to this mamma of Dicky's, who grew to love this little girl almost as well as she loved her own Dicky and Dot and Bess.
AQUA; OR, THE WATER BABAY. [Footnote: The plan of this story was suggested to me many years ago; so many, indeed, that I cannot now remember whether it was my friend's own, or whether he had read something like it in German.—K. D. W.]
"This standing above life, and yet grasping life, and being stirred by life, is what makes the genuine educator."—Froebel
It was a clear, sunshiny day, and out on the great, wide, open sea there sparkled thousands and thousands of water-drops. One of these was a merry little fellow who danced on the silver backs of the fishes as they plunged up and down in the waves, and, no matter how high he sprung, always came down again plump into his mother's lap.
His mother, you know, was the Ocean, and very beautiful she looked that summer day in her dark blue dress and white ruffles.
By and by the happy water-drop tired of his play, and looking up to the clear sky above him thought he would like to have a sail on one of the white floating clouds; so, giving a jump from the Ocean's arms, he begged the Sun to catch him up and let him go on a journey to see the earth.
The Sun said "Yes," and took ever so many other drops, too, so that Aqua might not be lonesome on the way. He did not know this, however, for they all had been changed into fine mist or vapor. Do you know what vapor is? If you breathe into the air, when it is cold enough, you will see it coming out of your mouth like steam, and you may also see very hot steam coming from the nose of a kettle of boiling water. When it is quite near to the earth, where we can see it, we call it "fog." The water-drops had been changed into vapor because in their own shape they were too heavy for sunbeams to carry.
Higher and higher they sailed, so fast that they grew quite dizzy; why, in an hour they had gone over a hundred miles! and how grand it was, to be looking down on the world below, and sailing faster than fish can swim or birds can fly!
But after a while it grew nearly time for the Sun to go to bed; he became very red in the face, and began to sink lower and lower, until suddenly he went clear out of sight!
Poor little Aqua could not help being frightened, for every minute it grew darker and colder. At last he thought he would try to get back to the earth again, so he slipped away, and as he fell lower and lower he grew heavier, until he was a little round, bright drop again, and alighted on a rosebush. A lovely velvet bud opened its leaves, and in he slipped among the crimson cushions, to sleep until morning. Then the leaves opened, and rolling over in his bed he called out, "Please, dear Sun, take me with you again." So the sunbeams caught him up a second time, and they flew through the air till the noon-time, when it grew warmer and warmer, and there was no red rose to hide him, not even a blade of grass to shade his tired head; but just as he was crying out, "Please, King Sun, let me go back to the dear mother Ocean," the wind took pity on him, and came with its cool breath and fanned him, with all his brothers, into a heavy gray cloud, after which he blew them apart and told them to join hands and hurry away to the earth. Helter-skelter down they went, rolling over each other pell-mell, till with a patter and clatter and spatter they touched the ground, and all the people cried, "It rains."
Some of the drops fell on a mountain side, Aqua among them, and down the rocky cliff he ran, leading the way for his brothers. Soon, together they plunged into a mountain brook, which came foaming and dashing along, leaping over rocks and rushing down the hillside, till in the valley below they heard the strangest clattering noise.
On the bank stood a flour-mill, and at the door a man whose hat and clothes were gray with dust.
Inside the mill were two great stones, which kept whizzing round and round, faster than a boy's top could spin, worked by the big wheel outside; and these stones ground the wheat into flour and the corn into golden meal.
But what giant do you suppose it was who could turn and swing that tremendous wheel, together with those heavy stones? No giant at all. No one but our tiny little water-drops themselves, who sprang on it by hundreds and thousands, and whirled it over and over.
The brook emptied into a quiet pond where ducks and geese were swimming. Such a still, beautiful place it was, with the fuzzy, brown cat-tails lifting their heads above the water, and the yellow cow lilies, with their leaves like green platters, floating on the top. On the edge lived the fat green bullfrogs, and in the water were spotted trout, silver shiners, cunning minnows, and other fish.
Aqua liked this place so much that he stayed a good while, sailing up and down, taking the ducks' backs for ships and the frogs for horses; but after a time he tired of the dull life, and he and his brothers floated out over a waterfall and under a bridge for a long, long distance, until they saw another brook tumbling down a hillside.
"Come, let's join hands!" cried Aqua; and so they all dashed on together till they came to a broad river which opened its arms to them.
By the help of Aqua and his brothers the beautiful river was able to float heavy ships, though not so long ago it was only a little rill, through which a child could wade or over which he could step. Here a vessel loaded with lumber was carried just as easily as if it had been a paper boat; there a steamer, piled with boxes and barrels, and crowded with people, passed by, its great wheel crashing through the water and leaving a long trail, as of foamy soapsuds, behind it. On and ever on the river went, seeking the ocean, and whether it hurried round a corner or glided smoothly on its way to the sea, there was always something new and strange to be seen—busy cities, quiet little towns, buzzing sawmills, stone bridges, and harbors full of all sorts of vessels, large and small, with flags of all colors floating from the masts and sailors of all countries working on the decks. But Aqua did not stay long in any place, for as the river grew wider and wider, and nearer and nearer its end, he could almost see the mother Ocean into whose arms he was joyfully running. She reached out to gather all her children, the water-drops, into her heart, and closer than all the others nestled our little Aqua.
His travels were over, his pleasures and dangers past; and he was folded again to the dear mother heart, the safest, sweetest place in all the whole wide world. In warm, still summer evenings, if you will take a walk on the sea-beach, you will hear the gentle rippling swash of the waves; and some very wise people think it must be the gurgling voices of Aqua and his brother water-drops telling each other about their wonderful journey round the world.
Adapted from Ouida.
"We tell too few stories to children, and those we tell are stories whose heroes are automata and stuffed dolls,"—Froebel.
Lolo and Moufflou lived far away from here, in a sunny country called Italy.
Lolo was not as strong as you are, and could never run about and play, for he was lame, poor fellow, and always had to hop along on a little crutch. He was never well enough to go to school, but as his fingers were active and quick he could plait straw matting and make baskets at home. He had four or five rosy, bright little brothers and sisters, but they were all so strong and could play all day so easily that Lolo was not with them much; so Moufflou was his very best friend, and they were together all day long.
Moufflou was a snow-white poodle, with such soft, curly wool that he looked just like a lamb; and the man who gave him to the children, when he was a little puppy, had called him "Moufflon," which meant sheep in his country.
Lolo's father had died four years before; but he had a mother, who had to work very hard to keep the children clean and get them enough to eat. He had, too, a big brother Tasso, who worked for a gardener, and every Saturday night brought his wages home to help feed and clothe the little children. Tasso was almost a man now, and in that country as soon as you grow to be a man you have to go away and be a soldier; so Lolo's mother was troubled all the time for fear that her Tasso would be taken away. If you have money enough, you can always pay some one to go in your place; but Tasso had no money, and neither had the poor mother, so every day she was anxious lest her boy might have to go to the wars.
But Lolo and Moufflon knew nothing of all this, and every day, when Lolo was well enough, they were happy together. They would walk up the streets, or sit on the church, steps, or, if the day was fair, would perhaps go into the country and bring home great bundles of yellow and blue and crimson flowers.
The tumble-down old house in which the family lived was near a tall, gray church. It was a beautiful old church, and all the children loved it, but Lolo most of all. He loved it in the morning, when the people brought in great bunches of white lilies to trim it; and at noon, when it was cool and shady; and at sunset, when the long rays shone through the painted windows and made blue and golden and violet lights on the floor.
One morning Lolo and Moufflou were sitting on the church steps and watching the people, when a gentleman who was passing by stopped to look at the dog.
"That's a very fine poodle," he said.
"Indeed he is," cried Lolo. "But you should see him on Sundays when he is just washed; then he is as white as snow."
"Can he do any tricks?" asked the gentleman.
"I should say so," said Lolo, for he had taught the dog all he knew. "He can stand on his hind legs, he can dance, he can speak, he can make a wheelbarrow of himself, and when I put a biscuit on his nose and count one, two, three, he will snap and catch the biscuit."
The gentleman said he should like to see some of the tricks, and Moufflou was very glad to do them, for no one had ever whipped him or hurt him, and he loved to do what his little master wished. Then the gentleman told Lolo that he had a little boy at home, so weak and so sick that he could not get up from the sofa, and that he would like to have Lolo bring the poodle to show him the next day, so he gave Lolo some money, and told him the name of the hotel where he was staying.
Lolo went hopping home as fast as his little crutch could carry him, and went quickly upstairs to his mother.
"Oh, mamma!" he said. "See the money a gentleman gave me, and all because dear Moufflou did his pretty tricks so nicely. Now you can have your coffee every morning, and Tasso can have his new suit for Sunday." Then he told his mother about the gentleman, and that he had promised to take Moufflou to see him the next day.
So when the morning came, Moufflou was washed as white as snow, and his pretty curls were tied up with blue ribbon, and they both trotted off. Moufflou was so proud of his curls and his ribbon that he hardly liked to put his feet on the ground at all. They were shown to the little boy's room, where he lay on the sofa very pale and unhappy. A bright little look came into his eyes when he saw the dog, and he laughed when Moufflou did his tricks. How he clapped his hands when he saw him make a wheelbarrow, and he tossed them both handfuls of cakes and candies! Neither the boy nor the dog ever had quite enough to eat, so they nibbled the little cakes with their sharp, white teeth, and were very glad.
When Lolo got up to go, the little boy began to cry, and said, "Oh, I want the dog. Let me have the dog!"
"Oh, indeed I can't," said Lolo, "he is my own Moufflou, and I cannot let you have him."
The little boy was so unhappy and cried so bitterly that Lolo was very sorry to see him, and he went quickly down the stairs with Moufflou. The gentleman gave him more money this time, and he was so excited and so glad that he went very fast all the way home, swinging himself over the stones on his little crutch. But when he opened the door, there was his mother crying as if her heart would break, and all the children were crying in a corner, and even Tasso was home from his work, looking very unhappy.
"Oh! what is the matter?" cried Lolo. But no one answered him, and Moufflon, seeing them all so sad, sat down and threw up his nose in the air and howled a long, sad howl. By and by one of the children told Lolo that at last Tasso had been chosen to be a soldier, and that he must soon go away to the war. The poor mother said, crying, that she did not know what would become of her little children through the long, cold winter.
Lolo showed her his money, but she was too unhappy even to care for that, and so by and by he went to his bed with Moufflou. The dog had always slept at Lolo's feet, but this night he crept close up by the side of his little master, and licked his hand now and then to show that he was sorry.
The next morning Lolo and Moufflon went with Tasso to the gardens where he worked, and all the way along the bright river and among the green trees they talked together of what they should do when Tasso had gone. Tasso said that if they could only get some money he would not have to go away to the wars, but he shook his head sadly and knew that no one would lend it to them. At noon Lolo went home with Moufflon to his dinner. When they had finished (it was only bean soup and soon eaten), the mother told Lolo that his aunt wanted him to go and see her that afternoon, and take care of the children while she went out. So Lolo put on his hat, called Moufflou, and was limping toward the door, when his mother said:—
"No, don't take the dog to-day, your aunt doesn't like him; leave him here with me."
"Leave Moufflou?" said Lolo, "why, I never leave him; he wouldn't know what to do without me all the afternoon."
"Yes, leave him," said his mother. "I don't want you to take him with you. Don't let me tell you again." So Lolo turned around and went down the stairs, feeling very sad at leaving his dear Moufflou even for a short time. But the hours went by, and when night-time came he hurried back to the little old home. He stood at the bottom of the long, dark stairway and called "Moufflou! Moufflou!" but no doggie came; then he climbed half-way up to the landing and called again, "Moufflou!" but no little white feet came pattering down. Up to the top of the stairs went poor tired Lolo and opened the door.
"Why, where is my Moufflou?" he said.
The mother had been crying, and she looked very sad and did not answer him for a moment.
"Where is my Moufflou?" asked Lolo again, "what have you done with my dear Moufflou?"
"He is sold," the mother said at last, "sold to the gentleman who has the little lame boy. He came here to-day, and he likes the dog so much and his little boy was so pleased at the pretty tricks he does, that he told me he would give a great deal of money if I would sell him the dog. Just think, Lolo, he gave me so much money that we can pay somebody now to go to the war for Tasso."
But before she had finished talking, Lolo began to grow white and cold and to waver to and fro, so that his little crutch could hardly support him. When she had done he called out, "My Moufflou—my Moufflou sold!" and he threw his hands up over his head and fell all in a heap on the floor, his poor little crutch clattering down beside him. His mother took him up and laid him on his bed, but all night long he tossed to and fro, calling for his dog. When the morning came, his little hands and his head were very, very hot, and by and by the doctor came and said he had a fever. He asked the mother what it was the little boy was calling for, and she told him that it was his dog, and that he had been sold. The doctor shook his head, and then went away.
Day after day poor Lolo lay on his bed. His hair had been cut short, he did not know his brothers and sisters, nor his mother, and his little aching head went to and fro, to and fro, on the pillow from morning till night. Once Tasso went to the hotel to find the gentleman. He was going to tell him to take the money and give him back the dog; but the gentleman had gone many miles away on the cars and taken Moufflou with him. So every day Lolo grew weaker, until the doctor said that he must die very soon.
One afternoon they were all in the room with him. The windows were wide open. His mother sat by his bed and the children on the floor beside her; even Tasso was at home helping to take care of his little brother. All was so still that you could hear poor Lolo's faint breath, when—suddenly—there was a scampering and a pattering of little feet on the stairs, and a white poodle dashed into the room and jumped on the bed. It was Moufflou! but you would never have known him, for he was so thin that you could count all his bones. His curls were dirty and matted, and full of sticks and straws and burrs; his feet were dusty and bleeding, and you could tell in a moment that he had traveled a great many miles. When he jumped on the bed, Lolo opened his eyes a little. He saw it was Moufflou, and laid one little thin hand on the dog's head; then he turned on his pillow, closed his eyes, and went quietly to sleep. Moufflou would not get off the bed, and would eat nothing unless they brought it to him there. He only lay close by his little master, with his brown eyes wide open, looking straight into his face. By and by the doctor came, and said that Lolo was really a little better, and that perhaps he might get well now. The mother and Tasso were very glad indeed, but they knew that the gentleman would come back for his dog, and they scarcely knew what to do, nor what to say to him. Lolo grew a little stronger every day, and at the end of a week a man came upstairs asking if Moufflou was there. They had taken him a long way off, but he had run away from them one day, and they had never been able to find him. Tasso asked the messenger to let Moufflou stay until he had seen the gentleman, and he took the money and put on his hat and went with him to the hotel. The sick boy was in the room with his father, and Tasso went straight to them and told them all about it: that Lolo nearly died without his dear Moufflon, that day after day he lay in his bed calling for the dog, and that at last one afternoon Moufflon came back to them, thin and hungry and dirty, but so glad to see his little master again. Nobody knew, said Tasso, how he could have found his way so many miles alone, but there he was, and now he begged the gentleman to be so kind as to take back the money. He would go and be a soldier, if he must; but Lolo and his dog must never be parted again.
The gentleman told Tasso that he seemed to be a kind brother, and that he might keep the money and the dog too, if only he would find them another poodle and teach him to be as wise and faithful as Moufflou was. Tasso was so glad that he thanked them again and again, and hurried home to tell Lolo and his mother the good news. He soon found a poodle almost as pretty as Moufflou, and every day Lolo, who has grown strong now, helps Tasso to teach him all of Moufflon's tricks.
Sometimes Lolo turns and puts his arms around Moufflon's neck and says,—
"Tell me, my Moufflou, how you ever came back to me, over all the rivers, and all the bridges, and all the miles of road?"
Moufflou can never answer him, but I think he must have found his way home because he loved his master so much; and the grown people always say, "Love will find out the way."
BENJY IN BEASTLAND.
ADAPTED FROM MRS. EWING.
"With the genuine story-teller the inner life of the genuine listener is roused; he is carried out of himself, and he thereby measures himself."—FROEBEL.
Benjy was a very naughty, disagreeable boy! It is sad to say it, but it is truth. He always had a cloudy, smudgy, slovenly look, like a slate half-washed, that made one feel how nice it would be if he could be scrubbed inside and out with hot water and soap.
Benjy was the only boy in the family, but he had two little sisters who were younger than he. They were dear, merry little things, and many boys would have found them pleasant little playmates; but Benjy had shown how much he disliked to play with them, and it made them feel very badly. One of them said one day, "Benjy does not care for us because we are only girls, so we have taken Nox for our brother." Nox was a big curly dog, something like a Newfoundland.
Now Benjy was not at all handsome, and he hated tubs and brushes and soap and water. He liked to lie abed late in the mornings, and when he got up he had only time enough to half wash himself. But Nox rose early, liked cold water, had snow-white teeth and glossy hair, and when you spoke to him he looked straight up at you with his clear honest brown eyes. Benjy's jacket and shirt-front were always spotted with dirt, while the covering of Nox's chest was glossy and well kept. Benjy came into the parlor with muddy boots and dirty hands; but Nox, if he had been out in the mud, would lie down when he came home, and lick his brown paws till they were quite clean. Benjy liked to kill all kinds of animals, but Nox saved lives, though he often came near losing his own.
Near their home was a deep river, where many a dog and cat was drowned. There was one place on the bank of this river where there was an old willow-tree, which spread its branches wide and stretched its long arms till they touched the water. Here Nox used to bring everything that he found in the river.
I must tell you that Benjy did not like Nox, and with very good reason. Benjy had had something to do with the death of several animals belonging to the people in the neighborhood, and he had tied stones or tin cans around their necks and dropped them into the river. But Nox used to wander round quite early in the morning, and very often found in the river and brought out what Benjy had thrown in, and this is why he did not like the brave dog.
There was another dog in the family, named Mr. Rough. His eyes had been almost scratched out by cats, his little body bore marks of many beatings, and he had a hoarse bark which sounded as if he had a bad cold.
If Benjy cared for any animal, it was for Mr. Rough, although he treated him worse than he did Nox, because he was small.
One day Benjy felt very mischievous; he even played a cruel trick on Nox while he was asleep. As he sat near to him he kept lightly pricking the dog's lips with a fine needle. The dog would half wake up, shake his head, rub his lips with his paws, and then drop off to sleep again.
At last this cruel boy stuck the needle in too far and hurt poor Nox, who jumped up with a start, and as he did so the needle broke off, part of it staying in the flesh, where, after a great deal of work which hurt the poor dog dreadfully, the little sisters found it. How they cried for their pet! The braver one held Nox's lips and pulled out the needle, while the other wiped the tears from her sister's eyes, that she might see what she was doing. Nox sat still and moaned and wagged his tail very feebly, but when it was over he fairly knocked the little sisters down in his eagerness to show his gratitude. But Benjy went out and found Mr. Rough, and as he did not feel like being kind to any one, he kicked him, and Mr. Rough for the first time ran away. Benjy could not find him, but he found a boy as naughty as himself, who was chasing another little dog and pelting it with stones. This would have been very good fun, but one of the stones struck the dog and killed him. So the boys tied something around his neck and threw him into the river.
Benjy went to bed early that night, but he could not sleep, because he was thinking of that little white dog, and wishing he had not thrown him into the river; so at last he got up and went to the willow-tree. He looked up through the branches and saw the moon shining down at him, and it seemed so large and so close that he thought if he were only on the highest part of the tree he could touch it with his hand. While he was looking he thought of a book his mother had, which told him that all animals went up into the moon after they left the earth.
"I wonder," said Benjy, "if that dog we killed last night is really up there."
The Man in the Moon looked down on him just then, and, to his surprise, said:—
"This is Beastland. Won't you come up and see if the dog is here? Can you climb?"
"I guess I can," said Benjy, and he climbed up first on one branch, then up higher on to another, till he stood on the very top, and all he could see about him was a shining white light.
"Walk right in," said the Man in the Moon. "Put out your feet,—don't be afraid!" So Benjy stepped into the moon and found himself in Beastland.
Oh! it was such a funny place, and yet it was very beautiful. There were many more beasts there than in a menagerie, and they were so polite to each other, too, and so merry and kind to Benjy, that it made him feel quite at home.
A nice old spider was anxious to teach him how to make a web. So he said to Benjy:—
"When you are ready, look around and find a spot where you can tie your first line; then you have a ball of thread inside of you, of course."
"I can't say that I have," said Benjy, "but I have a good deal of string in my pocket."
"Oh, well!" said the spider, "that is all right; whether it's in your pocket or your stomach it is all the same."
Just as the spider was giving Benjy his lesson, one animal whispered to another, and that one to another, who and what Benjy was. Dear me! in a minute the beasts all changed their way of treating him. They called him BOY! and up there that meant something not at all nice. Then they took him to the Lion, the king of all the beasts, and asked him what should be done with the Boy.
The Lion said: "If you want me to have anything to do with this trouble, you must mind me. First, however, we will hear what Benjy has to say for himself."
They all placed themselves in a circle, the Lion on a high chair, (because, you know, he was going to be judge, and all judges sit in big chairs,) and Benjy sat in the middle of the circle.
"Now, what has the Boy done?" asked the Lion.
"He stones and drowns dogs, and he hurts and kills cats," shouted the beasts all together.
"Mr. Rough kills the cats," said Benjy, because he was frightened.
"Very well," said the Lion, "we will send some one down for Mr. Rough."
So they all waited, and in a little while they heard the jingling of Mr. Rough's collar, and he walked into the circle with his little short tail standing right up.
"Mr. Rough," said the Lion, "Benjy says it is you, and not he, who tease and kill the cats."
"Well," said Mr. Rough, jumping about in an angry way, "am I to blame? BOUF, BOUF, who taught me to do it? BOUF, BOUF, it was that Boy over there. BOUF-BOUF!"
Then Mr. Rough told them that Benjy had made him tease and worry the cats and dogs so often that he had quite learned to like it. All the beasts were very angry at this, and said that Benjy must be punished.
The Lion said that he did not know just then what was best to be done with Benjy, so he asked the beasts if they would wait till he had walked around and thought about it. They said yes, so he walked around the circle seven times, lashing his tail in the grandest way; then he took his seat again and said:—
"Gentle beasts, birds and fishes, you have all heard what this Boy has done, and you would like him to be treated as he has treated you. We will not abuse Benjy, but I do not think he is good enough to stay with us. We will tie a tin-kettle to him and chase him from Beastland, and Mr. Rough shall be our leader."
This was no sooner said than done. The Lion gave one dreadful roar as a signal for the animals to begin the chase.
With the tin-kettle fastened to him and hurting him at every step, and with Mr. Rough at his very heels, Benjy was run out of Beastland. When he got to the edge of the moon he jumped off, Mr. Rough after him.
Down, down, they went, oh! so fast and so far! Benjy screaming all the way and Mr. Rough's collar jingling. They came to the river, and making all the noise they could, in they fell. As Benjy sank he thought of all the unkind things he had done. He came to the top, but sank again, and sinking, thought of his papa and mamma and his little sisters, and of his nice little bed, and of the prayers his dear mamma used to hear him say. He rose for the last time, and saw Nox standing on the bank, and thought, "Now he has come to do something to me because I have so often hurt him." Down, down he went, as a lark flew up in the summer sky. The bird was almost out of sight when a soft black nose and great brown eyes came close to his face, and a kind, gentle mouth took hold of him, and paddling and swimming as hard as he could, Nox carried Benjy to the shore and laid him under the willow- tree. There Benjy's papa found him, and took him home, where he was sick for a long, long time. When he got a little better he used to tell people of his visit to Beastland, but they always said it was only a dream he had during the fever.
In the long weeks of his sickness he grew much kinder and sweeter. But something happened when he was getting well which softened his little heart once and forever.
While he was sick, Mr. Rough was given to one of the servants to be cared for and fed well, but he did not treat him kindly, and besides, the dog wanted his little master; he wanted to see him, but no one would let him; so poor faithful Mr. Rough got thinner and weaker every day, till at last he would not eat anything nor even go out for a little walk.
One day the barn door was open and Mr. Rough thought of Benjy and crept into the house. When he got into the front hall he smelled Benjy and ran into the parlor; and when he got into the parlor he saw Benjy, who had heard the jingle of his collar and who stood up and held out his arms for him. Mr. Rough jumped into them, and then fell dead at his master's feet.
Yes, dear children, Mr. Rough died of joy at seeing Benjy again. Benjy felt very sorry for him, and it kept him from growing well for a long time, but it did him good in other ways, for as the tears rolled down his cheeks on to Mr. Bough's poor little scratched face, he felt as if he never could hurt or be unkind to any animal again.
THE PORCELAIN STOVE.
Adapted From Ouida.
"The story-teller must take life into himself in its wholeness, must let it live and work whole and free within him. He must give it out free and unabbreviated, and yet STAND ABOVE THE LIFE which actually is."—Froebel.
In a little brown house, far, far away in Germany, there lived a father and his children. There were ever so many of them,—let me see,—Hilda, the dear eldest sister, and Hans, the big, strong brother; then Karl and August, and the baby Marta. Just enough for the fingers of one hand. How many is that? But it is Karl that I am going to tell you about. He was nine years old, a rosy little fellow, with big bright eyes and a curly head as brown as a ripe nut. The dear mother was dead, and the father was very poor, so that Karl and his brothers and sisters sometimes knew what it was to be hungry; but they were happy, for they loved each other very dearly, and ate their brown bread and milk without wishing it were something nicer. One afternoon Karl had been sent on a long journey. It was winter time, and he had to run fast over the frozen fields of white snow. The night was coming on, and he was hurrying home with a great jug of milk, feeling cold and tired. The mountains looked high and white and still in the cold moonlight, and the stars seemed to say, when they twinkled, "Hurry, Karl! the children are hungry." At last he saw a little brown cottage, with a snow-laden roof and a shining window, through which he could see the bright firelight dancing merrily,—for Hilda never closed the shutters till all the boys were safely inside the house. When he saw the dear home-light he ran as fast as his feet could carry him, burst in at the low front door, kissed Hilda, and shouted:—
"Oh! dear, dear Hirschvogel! I am so glad to get back to you again; you are every bit as good as the summer time."
Now, Hirschvogel was not one of the family, as you might think, nor even a splendid dog, nor a pony, but it was a large, beautiful porcelain stove, so tall that it quite touched the ceiling. It stood at the end of the room, shining with all the hues of a peacock's tail, bright and warm and beautiful; its great golden feet were shaped like the claws of a lion, and there was a golden crown on the very top of all. You never have seen a stove like it, for it was white where our stoves are black, and it had flowers and birds and beautiful ladies and grand gentlemen painted all over it, and everywhere it was brilliant with gold and bright colors. It was a very old stove, for sixty years before, Karl's grandfather had dug it up out of some broken-down buildings where he was working, and, finding it strong and whole, had taken it home; and ever since then it had stood in the big room, warming the children, who tumbled like little flowers around its shining feet. The grandfather did not know it, but it was a wonderful stove, for it had been made by a great potter named Hirschvogel.
A potter, you know, children, is a man who makes all sorts of things, dishes and tiles and vases, out of china and porcelain and clay. So the family had always called the stove Hirschvogel, after the potter, just as if it were alive.
To the children the stove was very dear indeed. In summer they laid a mat of fresh moss all around it, and dressed it up with green boughs and beautiful wild flowers. In winter, scampering home from school over the ice and snow, they were always happy, knowing that they would soon be cracking nuts or roasting chestnuts in the heat and light of the dear old stove. All the children loved it, but Karl even more than the rest, and he used to say to himself, "When I grow up I will make just such things too, and then I will set Hirschvogel up in a beautiful room that I will build myself. That's what I will do when I'm a man."
After Karl had eaten his supper, this cold night, he lay down on the floor by the stove, the children all around him, on the big wolf-skin rug. With some sticks of charcoal he was drawing pictures for them of what he had seen all day. When the children had looked enough at one picture, he would sweep it out with his elbow and make another—faces, and dogs' heads, and men on sleds, and old women in their furs, and pine-trees, and all sorts of animals. When they had been playing in this way for some time, Hilda, the eldest sister, said:—
"It is time for you all to go to bed, children. Father is very late to-night; you must not sit up for him."
"Oh, just five minutes more, dear Hilda," they begged. "Hirschvogel is so warm; the beds are never so warm as he is."
In the midst of their chatter and laughter the door opened, and in blew the cold wind and snow from outside. Their father had come home. He seemed very tired, and came slowly to his chair. At last he said, "Take the children to bed, daughter."
Karl stayed, curled up before the stove. When Hilda came back, the father said sadly:
"Hilda, I have sold Hirschvogel! I have sold it to a traveling peddler, for I need money very much; the winter is so cold and the children are so hungry. The man will take it away to-morrow."
Hilda gave a cry. "Oh, father! the children, in the middle of winter!" and she turned as white as the snow outside.
Karl lay half blind with sleep, staring at his father." It can't be true, it can't be true!" he cried. "You are making fun, father." It seemed to him that the skies must fall if Hirschvogel were taken away.
"Yes," said the father, "you will find it true enough. The peddler has paid half the money to-night, and will pay me the other half to-morrow when he packs up the stove and takes it away."
"Oh, father! dear father!" cried poor little Karl, "you cannot mean what you say. Send our stove away? We shall all die in the dark and cold. Listen! I will go and try to get work to-morrow. I will ask them to let me cut ice or make the paths through the snow. There must be something I can do, and I will beg the people we owe money to, to wait. They are all neighbors; they will be patient. But sell Hirschvogel! Oh, never, never, never! Give the money back to the man."
The father was so sorry for his little boy that he could not speak. He looked sadly at him; then took the lamp that stood on the table, and left the room.
Hilda knelt down and tried to comfort Karl, but he was too unhappy to listen. "I shall stay here," was all he said, and he lay there all the night long. The lamp went out; the rats came and ran across the room; the room grew colder and colder. Karl did not move, but lay with his face down on the floor by the lovely rainbow-colored stove. When it grew light, his sister came down with a lamp in her hand to begin her morning work. She crept up to him, and laid her cheek on his softly, and said:—
"Dear Karl, you must be frozen. Karl! do look up; do speak."
"Ah!" said poor Karl, "it will never be warm again."
Soon after some one knocked at the door. A strange voice called through the keyhole,—
"Let me in! quick! there is no time to lose. More snow like this and the roads will all be blocked. Let me in! Do you hear? I am come to take the great stove."
Hilda unfastened the door. The man came in at once, and began to wrap the stove in a great many wrappings, and carried it out into the snow, where an ox-cart stood in waiting. In another moment it was gone; gone forever!
Karl leaned against the wall, his tears falling like rain down his pale cheeks.
An old neighbor came by just then, and, seeing the boy, said to him: "Child, is it true your father is selling that big painted stove?"
Karl nodded his head, and began to sob again. "I love it! I love it!" he said.
"Well, if I were you I would do better than cry. I would go after it when I grew bigger," said the neighbor, trying to cheer him up a little. "Don't cry so loud; you will see your stove again some day," and the old man went away, leaving a new idea in Karl's head.
"Go after it," the old man had said. Karl thought, "Why not go with it?" He loved it better than anything else in the world, even better than Hilda. He ran off quickly after the cart which was carrying the dear Hirschvogel to the station. How he managed it he never knew very well himself, but it was certain that when the freight train moved away from the station Karl was hidden behind the stove. It was very dark, but he wasn't frightened. He was close beside Hirschvogel, but he wanted to be closer still; he meant to get inside the stove. He set to work like a little mouse to make a hole in the straw and hay. He gnawed and nibbled, and pushed and pulled, making a hole where he guessed that the door might be. At last he found it; he slipped through it, as he had so often done at home for fun, and curled himself up. He drew the hay and straw together carefully, and fixed the ropes, so that no one could have dreamed that a little mouse had been at them. Safe inside his dear Hirschvogel, he went as fast asleep as if he were in his own little bed at home. The train rumbled on in its heavy, slow way, and Karl slept soundly for a long time. When he awoke the darkness frightened him, but he felt the cold sides of Hirschvogel, and said softly, "Take care of me, dear Hirschvogel, oh, please take care of me!"
Every time the train stopped, and he heard the banging, stamping, and shouting, his heart seemed to jump up into his mouth. When the people came to lift the stove out, would they find him? and if they did find him, would they kill him? The thought, too, of Hilda, kept tugging at his heart now and then, but he said to himself, "If I can take Hirschvogel back to her, how pleased she will be, and how she will clap her hands!" He was not at all selfish in his love for Hirschvogel; he wanted it for them at home quite as much as for himself. That was what he kept thinking of all the way in the darkness and stillness which lasted so long. At last the train stopped, and awoke him from a half sleep. Karl felt the stove lifted by some men, who carried it to a cart, and then they started again on the journey, up hill and down, for what seemed miles and miles. Where they were going Karl had no idea. Finally the cart stopped; then it seemed as though they were carrying the stove up some stairs. The men rested sometimes, and then moved on again, and their feet went so softly he thought they must be walking on thick carpets. By and by the stove was set down again, happily for Karl, for he felt as though he should scream, or do something to make known that he was there. Then the wrappings were taken off, and he heard a voice say, "What a beautiful, beautiful stove!"