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OU ’re the hero of the day, Grant!” cried Emma Reverdy, as he
pulled the bow of the boat up on the shore. “I would n't be in a hurry about going back for those scapegraces. It will do them good to wait.”
“ I shall keep my appointment with them, if they did n't keep theirs with you,” replied Grant; and, having helped Father Brighthopes to land, he returned, and brought over Burt and Jason.
“What a delightful place for a picnic !” said Father Brighthopes, entering the cool grove.
“ Goodie good !” exclaimed Laura Follet ; " we're in time for a dance before dinner !” — for, as they climbed the bank, the music, which had ceased for a while, struck up again, and they had glimpses of children dancing, half in sun and half in shade, on the smoothly swept ground among the trees.
There must have been nearly a hundred children in the grove, besides a number of grown people. The long dinner-tables, covered with white cloths, and loaded with good things, were set in the open air, and spotted with the sunshine that dropped its beautiful golden leaves down through the green leaves of the trees. The snowy pitchers, the dishes of yellow oranges, and the vases of flowers placed at intervals among the plates of bread, butter,
cakes, pies, and cold meats, made a charming picture. The new-comers ran with their baskets to the ladies who were arranging the banquet, and then looked around to see what sports they should join.
All the hundred children seemed to be delightfully employed; their laughing voices fell like silver rain upon the stream of music from the band. About thirty were dancing. Others were playing “ Copenhagen.” Some were in the swings, – the great swings suspended from the tall trunks, - enjoying a pleasure which was almost a terror, flying through the air so swiftly that it blew their hair back and took their breath away. There were two little girls in one swing, and they went so fast that the colors in their dresses almost made an inverted rainbow under the trees.
Father Brighthopes sat on a bench and watched these sports, and listened to the mingled music of the instruments and of the glad young voices.
“How beautiful it is ! how beautiful !” he repeated many times, his joy gushing up from a deep fountain of love and gratitude in his soul.“ I thank thee, I thank thee, O Heavenly Father, for the happiness of these dear children!”
He had sent all his young friends from him, saying, “ Play while you can ; play will give you an appetite, my darlings”; and all had joined the sports except Emma, who now came running to him with her arms loaded with shawls.
“ You are not to get tired, you know; and, for fear you should, I am going to make such a nice lounge for you of this bench, and let you rest till dinnertime."
" How thoughtful you are, my child !” said Father Brighthopes, stretching himself out upon the shawls, and closing his eyes. “Now go and play, for I shall not rest if I think you are giving up your pleasure for me."
Emma spread her handkerchief over his face, and remained near, to prevent any rude youngsters from coming too close and disturbing him. He was soon asleep; and it was an hour before he awoke.
Emma was at his side the moment she saw him take the handkerchief from his face.
“Don't you think,” she said, “ dinner was ready almost as soon as you fell asleep. I thought I would n't wake you, but we've saved some good things for you. You need n't stir ; we 'll bring them to you here on the bench.”
She ran away, and presently returned with a dozen of her young companions, each bringing to him some portion of the banquet, - cold chicken, cold lamb, bread and butter, crackers, milk, iced lemonade, a cup of tea, and all sorts of pies, – lemon-pie, Washington-pie, cream-pie, apple-pie, berrypie, and I don't know what else.
“ Have I waked in fairy-land ? or am I still dreaming ? Thank you, thank you a thousand times, my children !” And he ate and drank, while they stood around, urging him to partake of what they had brought, or ran back to the table for something they imagined might tempt him.
This pleasing scene attracted a group of spectators, old and young ; to
whom the old clergyman, sipping his tea, and breaking his bread, but eating little, talked a good deal. I am indebted to Emma Reverdy for the following account of a few of the things he said.
He began by telling them how vividly the scenes of that day reminded him of an incident in his own childhood, so many, many years ago.
“ It was the sight of Grant rowing away alone in the boat which first reminded me of it; and your sports have been like sweet winds, blowing my thoughts back to the days of that childish joy.
“My own boyhood was, I think, a very happy one ; but there is one day in particular which I remember as the most wonderfully bright of all.
“ It was a summer afternoon, - I might almost say evening, for I think the sun was already set, — when, as I stood un the shore of a little pond which made a looking-glass for the sky behind my father's house, I saw a most surprising object coming towards me across the water.
“It appeared to be a little man in a little boat. Had they been of any size, the sight would have been nothing extraordinary. But they were both so very small that I was filled with astonishment. The boat was not more than two feet long, and the man was not more than ten or twelve inches tall. He was rowing very fast, and the two little paddles rose and fell with perfect regularity; the water plashed, and the skiff left a little wake behind it.
“ • True as the world,' I exclaimed, in an ecstasy of wonder and delight, “it is a fairy in a fairy canoe !!"
“Ah, it is not a true story you are telling us !” said Margaret Grover, her sweet face smiling in its frame of golden curls. “ I hoped it was going to be a true story; but fairy stories are not true.”
“ But this is a true story, every word and syllable of it,” replied the old clergyman. “Everything happened to me just as I tell you."
This serious assertion filled all the children with the liveliest curiosity to know who and what the fairy and the fairy boat could be, and they gathered more closely around him.
He ate a piece of cold chicken, tasted the iced lemonade, and continued :
“ The rower was dressed in a blue sailor's jacket, and had a jaunty little hat on his head. With every stroke of the oars he threw his head and shoulders back, never looking around, and pulling as if he was very much in earnest. The boat, instead of coming straight across to me, as I hoped it would, turned, and went around in a wide circle between the shore and the centre of the pond. I would have rushed in after it, but the pond was deep, and I could never have got it by swimming. In the wildness of my excitement, I ran home, and told my mother that there was a real fairy rowing his canoe on our pond.
“O no,' she said, “I don't think it is a real fairy, my son ; there are no fairies nowadays, at least around here.'
“But she went with me to the pond-side, to see what the strange thing was; when, to my utter disappointment, it had disappeared, and the water was as still as if no ripple had been upon its surface. I dreaded lest my mother should think I had been deceiving her; and I ran around the
shores, thinking to find the fairy pulling his skiff somewhere up into the bushes ; but I found nobody except my uncle, walking behind the alders, who laughed at me, and said he had not seen any fairy, and never expected to see one.
“ . But, if there was one, go back to the spot where you saw him first, and wait, and you 'll very likely see him again,' he said.
“So I went back and sat down on the bank, and watched, and watched, until by and by — 0, wonderful ! there he was again ; I had not been mistaken, I had not been dreaming, as I was a moment before half convinced I had been.
“ The same little man in the same little boat rowing towards me! He came on by the alders behind which I had seen my uncle, and this time rowed straight across the pond. Nearer, nearer, nearer he came. 0, I shall have you this time sure !' I said. He did not look over his shoulder, and I kept perfectly still, determined that, if he did not see me, he certainly should not hear me. Dip, dip, dip went the little oars, no larger than tablespoons ; and in a few minutes he ran his canoe ashore on the very bank where I was sitting.
“ I crept softly towards it, and saw that the oars kept going, and that the oarsman never looked around, not appearing to know that anything was the matter. So I stepped down to the edge of the water, and seized fast hold of the canoe, before he could get away. I was so much excited that I hardly knew what I did, but I held fast.”
“ What was it ? " the children cried. “Was it really a canoe? Was it really a fairy ?"
“ It was really a canoe, hollowed out of a block of wood. But the industrious little oarsman, ah, my children, he was wood too!- a little image my uncle had made, and painted and dressed up to look like a sailor.”
“How could a wooden man row ?” asked Jason Jones.
“He thinks it's hard enough for bones and muscles to row sometimes !” whispered Grant Eastman, alluding to Jason's adventure in the morning.
“ I drew the toy ashore, -for it was nothing but a toy, contrived for my gratification by my uncle, — and found that the whole thing was moved by a sort of clock-work. There was a little machine that turned a crank which worked the oars, and set the little sailor's body in motion at the same time. My uncle came around to me with a key, and wound it up after it had run down. Then we put it in the water again ; and, ah, my children, I doubt if ever there was a happier boy than I, as I watched the wonderful little sailor in his skiff, and was told by my good, kind uncle that the toy was a present
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“ I dreamed of it that night, and was up early the next morning, you may be sure, to wind it up and put it again in the water. Those were golden days, – just such days, my children, as many of you are enjoying now. But soon I had other things besides my fairy boat to think of. I was sent tr school; and, as I grew strong, I had work to do, for my parents wereyp At length I gave the toy to another boy, younger than I.
“So it is with us all, my children. Our youthful sports cannot last always. The time comes when they must be put away, and the business of life begun. Some of you have already begun that serious business, and all of you are, I hope, preparing for it.
“ My children, to be happy, you must have two things, — first, love ; next, occupation. No person was ever blessed whose heart was barren of affection. It is even less important to you that your parents, brothers and sisters, and friends, should love you, than that you should love them. A man who cares for nobody's welfare but his own, who thinks only of himself, can no more have happiness than you can raise beautiful flowers like these ”Father Brighthopes held up a bouquet one of the girls had brought him —
on a bare rock. Love, my children, is the soil in which alone that blessed flower, happiness, can grow. Though you should gain all knowledge, and have wealth and honor and station, without love you will find life but a dreary desert.
“But with love you must have occupation. Our fairy canoes will not always satisfy us. I hope you will never become so engaged in the business of the world that the woods and fields, and sunshiny leisure, and honest fun, will have lost their charms for you. But your enjoyment of these things, to be pure and refreshing, must be sustained by the sense of duties done. Recreation shines like a rainbow before the eyes of him who has done earnest work, and his heart leaps up to meet it; but pleasure becomes a weariness to the idle man.
“My children, amid all your sports you must prepare for the serious things of life. First of all, acquire knowledge ; cultivate your minds, so that your future choice of occupations and the exercise of your faculties may be varied and enlarged. He who knows only one thing can do only one thing, whether he is fitted for it or not. But to the person of knowledge and culture all avenues seem open.
“Some of you, I am aware, have but poor opportunities for learning. But make the most of such opportunities as you have, and you will find that a little knowledge acquired under difficulties is often of more value than all that careless students get in the schools. It is the development of the faculties by action, and not mere book-learning, which is the true education.
“And there is a learning of more practical value to all of us than anything in the books. I mean a skill in the ordinary duties of life. Every boy should know all about the farm, the garden, or the shop. And as for you, my dear little girls, let me persuade you, whatever is to be your position in life, to learn, by practice under your mother's care, all the arts of housekeeping.
“ I prize the accomplishments of the parlor, but I think I prize those of the kitchen still more. I do not relish quite so well the good music with which a lady favors me at her piano, if at her table she gives me poor bread. She may blame the cook for this, but the blame reflects back upon her. If she is a thorough cook and housekeeper herself, she will find it easy to make her servants what they should be.
Besides, my dear children, very likely many of you who expect now to be