Page images
PDF
EPUB

added, until the story took the form in which we have it.

As the drought of summer is often brought to a close by a storm which is accompanied by thunder and lightning, and which hides the light of the sun, so in the story Phaethon's ruinous drive is brought to an end by the thunderbolt of Jupiter; while the horses, trotting back home before their time, leave the world in comparative darkness.

It must not be supposed that some one just sat down one day and said, “I will tell a story which shall explain drought and the ending of drought.” This story, like all the others, grew up gradually. Perhaps, one day, in time of drought, some one said to his neighbor, “The chariot of Apollo is coming too close to the earth,” and perhaps his neighbor replied, “Some one who knows not how to guide the white horses is driving it.” Such language might in time easily become the common language for describing times of drought; and so, at length, would grow up, out of what was at first merely a description, in figurative language, of a natural happening, a story, in dramatic form.

THE ENGLISH ROBIN

By Harrison Weir
CEE yon robin on the spray;

Look ye how his tiny form
Swells, as when his merry lay

Gushes forth amid the storm.

Though the snow is falling fast,

Specking o'er his coat with white,
Though loud roars the chilly blast,

And the evening's lost in night,

Yet from out the darkness dreary

Cometh still that cheerful note;
Praiseful aye, and never weary,

Is that little warbling throat.

Thank him for his lesson's sake,

Thank God's gentle minstrel there,
Who, when storms make others quake,

Sings of days that brighter were.

The English robin is not the bird we call robin redbreast in the United States. Our robin is a big, lordly chap about ten inches long, but the English robin is not more than five and a half inches long; that is, it is smaller than an English sparrow. The robin of the poem has an olive-green back and a breast of yellowish red, and in habits it is like our warblers. It is a sweet singer, and a confiding, friendly little thing, so that English children are very fond of it, and English writers are continually referring to it.

TOM, THE WATER BABY

- By Charles KingsLEY

INTRODUCTORY NOTE MHARLES KINGSLEY, who was born in U 1819, and became Canon of the Church of England at Chester, wrote, in addition to his interesting and brilliant novels, The Water Babies, which is a charming fairy story for young people. It is, however, one of those stories that can be read more than once, and read by all classes of people.

Besides telling the delightful story of Tom, the water baby, and his wonderful adventures on land and in water, Canon Kingsley gives in a very amusing style accounts of many of the animals that live in and near the water. But he brings them all into the story in such a way that they seem to be real, living characters, and you are almost as much interested in the stately salmon and his wife, or even in the funny old lobster, as you would be if they were actual human beings.

As the story was written originally, there was a great deal in it for children of much larger growth than those who will read it here. In some respects the story resembles Gulliver's Travels, for Kingsley took occasion to be satirical about many of the things which men and women say, do and believe. Some of this satire children will enjoy thoroughly, but some of it could not be understood well except by persons who have lived in this world for many years. Accordingly, in this book, we have thought it best to leave out some things, giving you only the story of Tom, and hoping that when you young readers grow to manhood or womanhood you will find The Water Babies, complete, a good story to read. You will enjoy recalling the delight you have in it now, and will find out that even a children's story may be so told as to keep a man thinking.

Moreover, the story was written by an Englishman for an English boy, and there are a great many allusions to things that only English boys appreciate or understand, and it has seemed wise to omit most of these. On the other hand, nothing has been omitted to weaken the story of Tom, and nothing has been added to destroy the charm of Canon Kingsley's writing.

CHAPTER I

[ocr errors]

NCE upon a time there was a little chimney-sweep, and his name was Tom. That is a short name, and you have heard it before, so you will not have much trouble in remembering it. He lived in a great town in the North

country, where there were plenty of chimneys to sweep, and plenty of money for Tom to earn and his master to spend. He could not read nor write, and did not care to do either; and he never washed himself, for there was no water up the court where he lived. He had never been taught to say his prayers. He never had heard of God, or

1. A boy would have a hard time crawling through some of our chimneys nowadays; but years ago, when houses had open fireplaces instead of steam plants, there was a network of huge chimneys through which a small boy could easily work his way, brushing off the soot as he went.

no

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

THERE WAS A LITTLE CHIMNEY SWEEP, AND HIS NAME WAS TOM

of Christ, except in words which you never have heard, and which it would have been well if he had never heard.

He cried half his time, and laughed the other half. He cried when he had to climb the dark flues, rubbing his poor knees and elbows raw; and when the soot got into his eyes, which it did every day in the week; and when his master beat him, which he did every day in the week; and when he had not enough to eat, which happened every day in the week likewise. And he laughed the other half of the day, when he was tossing halfpennies with the other boys, or playing leapfrog over the posts, or bowling stones at the horses' legs as they trotted by, which last was excellent fun, when there was a wall at hand behind which to hide.

As for chimneysweeping, and being hungry, and being beaten, he took all that for the way of the world, like the rain and snow and thunder, and stood manfully with his back to it till it was over, as his old donkey did to a hailstorm; and then shook his ears and was as jolly as ever; and thought of the fine times coming, when he would be a man, and a

« PreviousContinue »