ONE OF HIS ANIMAL STORIES
Now, Tudens, you sit on _this_ knee–and ‘scuse
It having no side-saddle on;–and, Jeems,
You sit on _this_–and don’t you wobble so
And chug my old shins with your coppertoes;–
And, all the rest of you, range round someway,–
Ride on the rockers and hang to the arms
Of our old-time splint-bottom carryall!–
Do anything but _squabble_ for a place,
Or push or shove or scrouge, or breathe _out loud_,
Or chew wet, or knead taffy in my beard!–
Do _any_thing almost–act _any_way,–
Only _keep still_, so I can hear myself
Trying to tell you “just one story more!”
One winter afternoon my father, with
A whistle to our dog, a shout to us–
His two boys–six and eight years old we were,–
Started off to the woods, a half a mile
From home, where he was chopping wood. We raced,
We slipped and slid; reaching, at last, the north
Side of Tharp’s corn-field.–There we struck what seemed
To be a coon-track–so we all agreed:
And father, who was not a hunter, to
Our glad surprise, proposed we follow it.
The snow was quite five inches deep; and we,
Keen on the trail, were soon far in the woods.
Our old dog, “Ring,” ran nosing the fresh track
With whimpering delight, far on ahead.
After following the trail more than a mile
To northward, through the thickest winter woods
We boys had ever seen,–all suddenly
He seemed to strike _another_ trail; and then
Our joyful attention was drawn to
Old “Ring”–leaping to this side, then to that,
Of a big, hollow, old oak-tree, which had
Been blown down by a storm some years before.
There–all at once–out leapt a lean old fox
From the black hollow of a big bent limb,–
Hey! how he scudded!–but with our old “Ring”
Sharp after him–and father after “Ring”–
We after father, near as we could hold!
And father noticed that the fox kept just
About four feet ahead of “Ring”–just _that_–
No farther, and no nearer! Then he said:–
“There are young foxes in that tree back there,
And the mother-fox is drawing ‘Ring’ and us
Away from their nest there!” “Oh, le’ ‘s go back!–
Do le’ ‘s go back!” we little vandals cried,–
“Le’ ‘s go back, quick, and find the little things–
_Please_, father!–Yes, and take ’em home for pets–
‘Cause ‘Ring’ he’ll kill the old fox anyway!”
So father turned at last, and back we went,
And father chopped a hole in the old tree
About ten feet below the limb from which
The old fox ran, and–Bless their little lives!–
There, in the hollow of the old tree-trunk–
There, on a bed of warm dry leaves and moss–
There, snug as any bug in any rug–
We found–one–two–three–four, and, yes-sir, _five_
Wee, weenty-teenty baby-foxes, with
Their eyes just barely opened–_Cute_?–my-oh!–
_The_ cutest–the most cunning little things
Two boys ever saw, in all their lives!
“Raw weather for the little fellows _now_!”
Said father, as though talking to himself,–
“Raw weather, and no home _now_!”–And off came
His warm old “waumus”; and in that he wrapped
The helpless little animals, and held
Them soft and warm against him as he could,–
And home we happy children followed him.–
_Old “Ring”_ did not reach home till nearly dusk:
The mother-fox had led him a long chase–
“Yes, and a fool’s chase, too!” he seemed to say,
And looked ashamed to hear us _praising_ him.
But, _mother_–well, we _could not_ understand
_Her_ acting as she did–and we so _pleased_!
I can see yet the look of pained surprise
And deep compassion of her troubled face
When father very gently laid his coat,
With the young foxes in it, on the hearth
Beside her, as she brightened up the fire.
She urged–for the old fox’s sake and theirs–
That they be taken back to the old tree;
But father–for _our_ wistful sakes, no doubt–
Said we would keep them, and would try our best
To raise them. And at once he set about
Building a snug home for the little things
Out of an old big bushel-basket, with
Its fractured handle and its stoven ribs:
So, lining and padding this all cosily,
He snuggled in its little tenants, and
Called in John Wesley Thomas, our hired man,
And gave him in full charge, with much advice
Regarding the just care and sustenance of
_Young_ foxes.–“John,” he said, “you feed ’em _milk_–
_Warm_ milk, John Wesley! Yes, and _keep ’em by_
_The stove_–and keep your stove _a-roarin’_, too,
Both night and day!–And keep ’em _covered_ up–
Not _smothered_, John, but snug and comfortable.–
And now, John Wesley Thomas, first and last,–
You feed ’em _milk_–_fresh_ milk–and always _warm_–
Say five or six or seven times a day–
Of course we’ll grade that by the way they _thrive_.”
But, for all sanguine hope, and care, as well,
The little fellows _did not_ thrive at all.–
Indeed, with _all_ our care and vigilance,
By the third day of their captivity
The last survivor of the fated five
Squeaked, like some battered little rubber toy
Just clean worn out.–And that’s just what it was!
And–nights,–the cry of the mother-fox for her young
Was heard, with awe, for long weeks afterward.
And we boys, every night, would go to the door
And, peering out in the darkness, listening,
Could hear the poor fox in the black bleak woods
Still calling for her little ones in vain.
As, all mutely, we returned to the warm fireside,
Mother would say: “How would you like for _me_
To be out there, this dark night, in the cold woods,
Calling for _my_ children?”
UNCLE BRIGHTENS UP–
Uncle he says ‘at ‘way down in the sea
Ever’thing’s ist like it _used_ to be:–
He says they’s mermaids, an’ mermens, too,
An’ little merchildern, like me an’ you–
Little merboys, with tops an’ balls,
An’ little mergirls, with little merdolls.
Uncle Sidney’s vurry proud
Of little Leslie-Janey,
‘Cause she’s so smart, an’ goes to school
Clean ‘way in Pennsylvany!
She print’ an’ sent a postul-card
To Uncle Sidney, telling
How glad he’ll be to hear that she
“Toock the onners in Speling.”
Uncle he learns us to rhyme an’ write
An’ all be poets an’ all recite:
His little-est poet’s his little-est niece,
An’ this is her little-est poetry-piece.
SINGS A “WINKY-TOODEN” SONG–
O here’s a little rhyme for the Spring- or Summer-time–
Just a little bit o’ tune you can twitter, May or June,
It’s a song that soars and sings,
As the birds that twang their wings
Or the katydids and things
Thus and so, don’t you know,
It’s a song just broken loose, with no reason or excuse–
You can sing along with it–or it matters not a bit–
It’s a lovely little thing
That ‘most any one could sing
With a ringle-dingle-ding,
Soft and low, don’t you know,
AND MAKES NURSERY RHYMES
THE DINERS IN THE KITCHEN
Our dog Fred
Et the bread.
Our dog Dash
Et the hash.
Our dog Pete
Et the meat.
Our dog Davy
Et the gravy.
Our dog Toffy
Et the coffee.
Our dog Jake
Et the cake.
Our dog Trip
Et the dip.
From the first,–
Our dog Fido
Et the pie-dough.
THE IMPERIOUS ANGLER
Miss Medairy Dory-Ann
Cast her line and caught a man,
But when he looked so pleased, alack!
She unhooked and plunked him back.–
“I never like to catch what I can,”
Said Miss Medairy Dory-Ann.
THE GATHERING OF THE CLANS
[_Voice from behind high board-fence_.]
“Where’s the crowd that dares to go
Where I dare to lead?–you know!”
“Well, here’s _one_!”
Shouts Ezry Dunn.
“Count me _two_!”
Yells Cootsy Drew.
“Here’s yer _three_!”
Sings Babe Magee.
“Score me _four_!”
Roars Leech-hole Moore.
Howls Jamesy Clive.
“I make _six_!”
Chirps Herbert Dix.
Pipes Runt Replevin.
“Mark me _eight_!”
Grunts Mealbag Nate.
“I’m yet _nine_!”
Growls “Lud’rick” Stein.
“Hi! here’s _ten_!”
Whoops Catfish Ben.
“And now we march, in daring line,
For the banks of Brandywine!”
A wee little worm in a hickory-nut
Sang, happy as he could be,–
“O I live in the heart of the whole round world,
And it all belongs to me!”
THE DARING PRINCE
A daring prince, of the realm Rangg Dhune,
Once went up in a big balloon
That caught and stuck on the horns of the moon,
And he hung up there till next day noon–
When all at once he exclaimed, “Hoot-toot!”
And then came down in his parachute.
(James Whitcomb Riley)
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Based on Keywords: whoops, pets, padding, someway, jake, runt, wobble, corn-field, parachute, squabble, squeaked