Page images
PDF
EPUB

had done every day of their life there. They expected to see the white houses with their dark roofs and the higher roofs of the temples shining in the bright moonlight; but at the sight they saw they could only stand and gasp. There was no village there! The valley in which it had stood was filled to the brim—almost to their very gate, in fact —with a lake; and the moon was shining across the lake, making a silver road.

"Our neighbors!" gasped Baucis and Philemon together. "Are they drowned?"

"All turned into fishes," replied Jupiter, "and that's better than they deserved, heartless wretches that they were. Now look behind you, Baucis and Philemon, and see whether you like that sight better."

The two old people were beginning to feel that they could not bear many more surprises, but they turned slowly and looked at their house. And right before their eyes they saw the poor little cottage changing to a great palace of white marble, with wide marble steps.

"Come," said Mercury, "let me lead you into your new home."

And the old people followed him up the steps and through the doors and about the beautiful rooms with their marble floors.

"Here shall you live, good Baucis and Philemon," said Jupiter. "And if there is any one thing that you want very much, just ask me, and I will give it to you."

Baucis and Philemon looked at each other. There was no need for them to talk it over, for they had often amused themselves by trying to think what they would say if they ever had a chance to ask for anything they wanted, and they had always decided on the same thing.

"O kind and wonderful Jupiter," answered Philemon, "all we ask is that we may die at the same time. Don't let one of us live after the other is dead."

"It shall be," replied Jupiter. And then, followed by Mercury, he left them, not taking the road around the lake, but walking right across the water on the silver road which the moon made.

For years Baucis and Philemon lived in their beautiful house, and very happy they were because they always had enough food to set before hungry people, and plenty of beds where the tired might rest. And you can imagine that they never grew weary of telling their visitors of the wonderful things the king of the gods had done for them, for they never became forgetful or ungrateful.

One day they were standing at their door, one on each side, talking about the goodness of the gods. They thought that all the wonderful things were over, but as they looked at each other, they saw that another very strange thing was coming to pass. They were turning into trees! Their hair turned to leaves, their arms to great branches, and the bark grew about their bodies.

"Dear Baucis," said Philemon, and "Dear Philemon," said Baucis; and then together they said, "Farewell!"

Just as they said it the bark closed over their mouths, so that they never spoke again. But they grew before the house for many years, and were still good to travelers; for they threw a broad, cool shade which was very pleasant to rest in on hot days. And those who knew the story of the two beautiful trees used to fancy that the trees enjoyed giving pleasure, and used to imagine that they heard the leaves saying, just as the two kind old people had always said: "Welcome, stranger! Come in! Come in! Rest and refresh yourself."

THE WIND

By Robert Louis Stevenson

I SAW you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies' skirts across the grass—
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!

I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid.
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all—
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!

O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field and tree,
Or just a stronger child than me?
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!

LITTLE BROWN HANDS

By Mary Hannah Kraut

THEY drive home the cows from the pasture
Up thro' the long, shady lane,
Where the quail whistles loud in the wheat field
That is yellow with ripening grain.

They toss the hay in the meadow,
They gather the elder-bloom white;

They find where the dusky grapes purple
In the soft-tinted October light.

They wave from the tall, rocking tree-tops,
Where the oriole's hammock-nest swings;

And at night-time are folded in slumber
By a song that a fond mother sings.

Those who toil bravely are strongest;

The humble and poor become great; And from those brown-handed children

Shall grow mighty rulers of state.

The pen of the author and statesman,

The noble and wise of our land— The sword and the chisel and palette

Shall be held in the little brown hand.

WHITTINGTON AND HIS CAT

[graphic]

N the reign of Richard the Third, king of England, there lived a ragged little boy whose name was Dick Whittington. His father and mother died when he was an infant, and as he had no other relatives, he lived from hand to mouth on the charity of the poor people in the parish of Taunton Dean, in Somersetshire. In spite of his rough life he grew up into a fine, sturdy youth, but rather indifferent to work. When he was strong enough to earn his own living, the people in the parish grew tired of feeding him, and threatened to whip him unless he set out to work for himself.

Dick was a sharp young fellow and had learned a great deal from listening to the talk of his elders; and had been in so many homes that he had picked up a great variety of information. More than by anything else his fancy had been caught by tales of London, which in the minds of the ignorant people of the parish was a marvelous city, the streets of which were paved with gold, and which was inhabited only by gentlemen and beautiful, finely dressed ladies. Dick felt that in such a place as this he could earn his living much more easily than among the country folk he knew.

The day he was threatened so severely a great carriage drawn by six horses came through the village on its way to London, and Dick resolved to

« PreviousContinue »