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Were you ever sick, not so sick that you couldn't be happy at all, but just sick enough so that you must stay in bed? And did you have all your toys about you just as Mr. Stevenson had his about him when he was a little boy?
Did you lie there and look at your lovely leaden soldiers and think the wrinkles and folds in the bedquilt were hills and valleys, and that your troops were marching up and down getting ready for some big battle?
Then, perhaps, where the sheet was folded over the bedspread you saw the beautiful sea with its great whitecaps, and among them all your ships, and many more like them, riding nobly over the waves on their long voyages. When you were tired of the ships and the sea, perhaps you set your houses around the shore and made villages and cities. You peopled these with little children singing and playing, and with grown-up men and women watching the children, or working to earn clothes and food for their families.
When you thought of what you had done, how great and powerful you seemed—a real giant that could pick up a whole regiment of soldiers in one hand, that could take the ships out of the water or move houses as though they were pebbles! How fine it all was, and how lovely seemed your own wonderful bedspread, the pleasant land of Counterpane. This is another of the little poems which show us how well Mr. Stevenson understood children, and what a quaint, charming child he must have been.
THE COCK AND THE HORSES
ACOCK once got into a stable and went about . rustling and scratching in the straw among the horses, who every now and then would stamp and fling out their heels. So the Cock gravely set to work to admonish them.
"Pray, my good friends, let us have a care," he said, "that we don't tread on one another."
What a jolly, foolish, little thing the cock seems! Just as though the horses were in any danger from him! Do you remember the gnat that lit on the horn of the bull? The gnat and the cock both appear very foolish to us, but I suppose the gnat would seem as trifling to the cock as the cock did to the horses. After all, some of us may seem insignificant to others, but at least we do not need to appear important and so be laughed at for our pains. THE BROWN THRUSH
By Lucy Larcom
THERE'S a merry brown thrush sitting up in a
And the brown thrush keeps singing, "A nest do
So the merry brown thrush sings away in the tree,
To you and to me, to you and to me;
THE HARDY TIN SOLDIER
By Haxs Christian Axdersen
THERE were once five-and-twenty tin soldiers; they were all brothers, for they had all been born of one old tin spoon. They shouldered their muskets, and looked straight before them; their uniform was red and blue, and very splendid. The first thing they had heard in the world, when the lid was taken off their box, had been the words, "Tin soldiers!" These words were uttered by a little boy, clapping his hands: the soldiers had been given to him, for it was his birthday; and now he put them upon the table. Each soldier was exactly like the rest; but one of them had been cast last of all, and there had not been enough tin to finish him; however, he stood as firmly upon his lone leg as the others on their two; and it was just this soldier who became remarkable.
On the table on which they had been placed stood many other playthings, but the toy that attracted most attention was a neat castle of cardboard. Through the little windows one could see straight into the hall. Before the castle some little trees were placed round a little looking-glass, which was to represent a clear lake. Waxen swans floated on this lake, and were mirrored in it. This was all very pretty; but the prettiest of all was a little Lady, who stood at the open door of the castle; she also was cut out of paper, but she had a dress of the clearest gauze, and a little narrow blue ribbon over her shoulders, that looked like a scarf; and in the middle of this ribbon was a shining tinsel rose as big as her whole face. The little Lady stretched out both her arms, for she was a dancer; and then she lifted one leg so high that the Tin Soldier could not see it at all, and thought that, like himself, she had but one leg.
"That would be the wife for me," thought he, "though she is very grand. She lives in a castle, and I have only a box, and there are five-and-twenty of us in that. It is no place for her. But I must try to make her acquaintance."
And then he lay down at full length behind a snuffbox which was on the table; there he could easily watch the little dainty Lady, who continued to stand upon one leg without losing her balance.
When evening came, all the other tin soldiers were put into their box, and the people in the house went to bed. Now the toys began to play at "visiting." and at "war," and "giving balls." The tin soldiers rattled in their box, for they wanted to join, but could not lift the lid. The nutcracker turned somersaults, and the pencil amused itself on the table: there was so much noise that the canary woke up, and began to speak, too, and even in verse. The