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He was very
HAL was a brisk boy of just six years age. fond of animals. In fact, he had all but made up his mind that, as soon as he had a long-tailed coat, he would own a menagerie.* Pigs, geese, hens, ducks, cows, oxen—nothing came amiss to him.
One day as he sat on the door-step, the old cock, followed by his hens, marched in a procession past the door. There was the speckled hen, black and white, with red eyes, looking like a widow in half mourning; there was the white one, that would have been pretty, hadn't she such a turn for fighting, by which she lost her best feathers; there was the black one, that contested her claims with the white hen to a kernel of corn, and a place in the procession next the cock. Hal watched them all; and then it struck him, all of a sudden, that he had never seen a hen swim. He had seen ducks do it, and swans, and geese, but he never remembered to have seen a hen swim. What was the reason ? Didn't they know how ? or wouldn't they do it ?
Hal was resolved to get at the bottom of that difficulty without delay; so he jumped up, and chased one round, till he fell down and tore his trousers, and the hen flew up
into a tree.
At last he secured the brown one; and, hiding her under his jacket, he started for the river, about a quarter of a mile off. He told the hen, going along, that if she didn't know how to swim, it was high time she did; and that he was going to try her, anyhow. The hen cocked up her eye, , but said nothing, though she had her thoughts.
The fact was, she never had been in the habit of going out of the barnyard without asking leave of the cock, who was a regular old “Blue Beard;” and she knew very well that he wouldn't scratch her up another worm for a good twelvemonth, for being absent without leave. So she dug her claws into Hal's side every now and then, and tried to peck him with her bill; but Hal told her it was of no use, for go
* Menagerie, a collection of animals.
into the river she should. Well, he got to the river at last, and stood proudly on a little bank just over it. He took a good grip of his hen, and then lifted up his arm to give her a nice toss into the water.
He told her that now she was to consider herself a duck instead of a hen ; and, giving a toss, over he went himself splash into the water. The question now was whether he could swim. He floundered round and round, and screeched like a little turkey-cock.
At last his brother came along and fished him out.
Hal prefers now to try his experiments on his father's door-step. As to the hen, she didn't dare to show her wet feathers to her lordly old husband; so she smuggled herself into neighbour Jones' barnyard, and, for the future, laid her eggs there for the sake of her board. Little Ferns.
THE MARCH WIND.
Was there ever anything half so naughty as the March wind? It comes upon you all at once; whistles in your ears; blows off your
hat; turns your umbrella inside out; and is off round the corner before you can make out what is the matter.
One day a March wind came all in a hurry; blowing, blustering, squalling, by fits and starts, as though it were mad. Where it came from none could tell. Though no one saw it, a great many heard it and felt it, and a pretty commotion it made, I can tell you
It entered at one end of the street where the market was held, and, oh me! what a hubbub there was before it went
out at the other. Like a brave man, it carried all before it. Hats, bonnets, and shawls flew in different directions. Bang went the doors ; crash went the casements that were open; old women squalled; down fell the stalls; the glass jingled; the apples and onions, gimcracks and gingerbread nuts, chestnuts, and children were all mixed together on the pavement.
Lower down the confusion was still greater; the sheep pens were scattered; the sheep ran about the streets; the turkeys gobbled; the geese chattered; the fowls flapped their wings and tried to get loose; the farmers stormed ; the butchers bellowed; the pigs squealed; the dogs barked; and away went the March wind !
Megg Muggins had a basket of eggs on her head. She was determined to have a shilling a score for them; but the March wind whisked her round, and puffed the basket off her head. Megg, where are your eggs now? Past all picking up ! A sailor passed by at the time.
“ Cheer up, my hearty !” cried he, “worse misfortunes happen at sea." Megg, in an ill humor, picked up her empty basket; and
away went the March wind ! The thatch of John Tomlin's cottage looked rueful, for part of it was carried into the garden. The tabby cat had been watching for a mouse by the water-butt for half an hour: the mouse crept out, and the cat, with her head on her fore paws, was just going to make a spring, when the March wind puffed off a tile from the roof of the brewhouse. Down it came clattering upon the water-butt; the cat scampered off, the mouse crept under the tub again, and away went the March wind !
The clothes-lines in the garden of Squire Gough were hung with linen ; the wind came blustering like a tempest, the lines broke, and the clothes flew into the air. A pocket-handkerchief mounted over the trees into the
turnpike road, and was picked up by a poor traveller who wanted one. " It's an ill wind,” said the poor man,
that blows nobody good;" so he put the handkerchief into his pocket, continued his journey, and away went the March wind !
At the village school the boys had just said their last lesson, and the young rogues came tumbling out through the school-room door, some with their hoops, some with their kites, and some tossing their hats into the air. The wind came upon them with a shrill whistle. The kites broke loose, their tails were tangled, the string twined round boys' legs; the hats flew about, one into a pigsty, another into a pond; the hoops trundled along of themselves; the boys set up a shout, and away went the March wind !
WHAT in the world is that?-A
almost bent double, drawing a little wooden horse upon
the pavement, and laughing and talking to it as if he were seven years old instead of seventy! How white his hair is; and see ! his hat is without a crown, and one of the flaps of his coat is torn off.
Now one of the boys has pelted him with a stone, that has brought the blood to his wrinkled cheek; while all the rest surround him shouting, “Old crazy Uncle Tim !”“Old crazy Uncle Tim !” Come here, boys, won't you? and let poor Uncle Tim go home, while I tell you his story.
Uncle Tim used to be the village shoemaker, hammering away at his lap-stone in that little shop with the red eaves, as contentedly as if he owned a kingdom. He always had a pleasant smile and a merry story for his customers, and it was worth twice the money one paid him to see his sunshiny face and hear his hearty laugh.
But the light of Uncle Tim's eyes was his little daughter Kitty. Kitty was not a beauty. No; her little nose was a snub; her hair was neither soft nor curly; and her little neck and arms were almost as brown as the leather in her father's shop. Still every body loved Kitty, because she had such a warm, good heart, and because she was so kind to her honest old father.
Uncle Tim had no wife. She had been dead many years. I shouldn't wonder if Uncle Tim didn't grieve much, for she was a very cross, quarrelsome, disagreeable person, and made him very unhappy.
Little Kitty was his housekeeper now, although she was only seven years old. She and her father lived in a room at the back of the shop, and Uncle Tim did the cooking, while Kitty washed the dishes, made the bed, and tidied up the small room with her own little nimble fingers.
When she had quite done she would run into the shop, steal behind her father, throw her chubby brown arms about his neck, and give him a kiss that would make him sing like a lark for many an hour after.
While his fingers were busy at his lap-stone, he was thinking—not of the coarse boots and shoes he was making but—of Little Kitty :-how he meant to send her to school; how she should learn to read and write, and know a great deal more than ever he did when he was young ; and how he meant to save up his money in the old yarn stocking, till he got enough to put in the bank for Kitty. When he died she needn't have to go drifting about the world, trying to earn her bread and butter among cold, stony-hearted strangers. That she shouldn't.
Uncle Tim found some time for sport, too. At sunset, he and Kitty and the old yellow dog, Jowler, would start off on a stroll.
It was very funny to see little Kitty, like some old housekeeper, fasten down the windows with an old nail