Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- Journeys Through Bookland V2 - 50/71 -
And that was the end of the great and jolly nation of the Doasyoulikes. And when Tom and Ellie came to the end of the book, they looked very sad and solemn; and they had good reason so to do, for they really fancied that the men were apes.
"But could you not have saved them from becoming apes?" said little Ellie, at last.
"At first, my dear, if only they would have behaved like men, and set to work to do what they did not like. But the longer they waited, and behaved like the dumb beasts, who only do what they like, the stupider and clumsier they grew; till at last they were past all cure, for they had thrown their own wits away. It is such things as this that help to make me so ugly, that I know not when I shall grow fair."
"And where are they all now?" asked Ellie.
"Exactly where they ought to be, my dear."
"Now," said Tom, "I am ready to be off, if it's to the world's end."
"Ah!" said the fairy, "that is a brave, good boy. But you must go farther than the world's end if you want to find Mr. Grimes; for he is at the Other-end-of-Nowhere. You must go to Shiny Wall, and through the white gate that never was opened; and then you will come to Peace-pool, and Mother Carey's Haven, where the good whales go when they die. And there Mother Carey will tell you the way to the Other-end-of-Nowhere, and there you will find Mr. Grimes."
"Oh, dear!" said Tom. "But I do not know my way to Shiny Wall, or where it is at all."
"Little boys must take the trouble to find out things for themselves, or they will never grow to be men; so that you must ask all the beasts in the sea and the birds in the air, and if you have been good to them, some of them will tell you the way to Shiny Wall."
"Well," said Tom, "it will be a long journey, so I had better start at once. Good-bye, Miss Ellie; you know I am getting a big boy, and I must go out and see the world."
"I know you must," said Ellie; "but you will not forget me, Tom. I shall wait here till you come."
And she shook hands with him, and bade him good-bye. Tom longed very much again to kiss her; but he thought it would not be respectful, considering she was a lady born. So he promised not to forget her; but his little whirl-about of a head was so full of the notion of going out to see the world, that it forgot her in five minutes; however, though his head forgot her, I am glad to say his heart did not.
[Illustration: Tom looking up at a bird wearing glasses on a boulder.]
So he asked all the beasts in the sea, and all the birds in the air, but none of them knew the way to Shiny Wall. For why? He was still too far down south. But for that there was a remedy. And so he swam northward, day after day, till at last he met the King of the Herrings, with a currycomb growing out of his nose, and a sprat in his mouth for a cigar, and asked him the way to Shiny Wall; so he bolted the sprat head foremost, and said:
"If I were you, young gentleman, I should go to the Allalonestone, and ask the last of the Gairfowl. [Footnote: Gairfoul, or garefowl, was another name for the great auk. This bird was about thirty inches long, and its wings were so small in proportion to its body that it could not fly. There have been no great auks since about the middle of the nineteenth century.] She is of a very ancient clan, very nearly as ancient as my own; and knows a good deal which these modern upstarts don't, as ladies of old houses are likely to do."
Tom asked his way to her, and the King of the Herrings told him very kindly, for he was a courteous old gentleman of the old school, though he was horribly ugly, and strangely bedizened too, like the old dandies who lounge in clubhouse windows.
But just as Tom had thanked him and set off, he called after him, "Hi! I say, can you fly?"
"I never tried," said Tom. "Why?"
"Because, if you can, I should advise you to say nothing to the old lady about it. There; take a hint. Good-bye."
And away Tom went for seven days and seven nights due northwest, till he came to a great cod-bank, the like of which he never saw before.
And there he saw the last of the Gairfowl, standing up on the Allalonestone, all alone. And a very grand old lady she was, full three feet high, and bolt upright, like some old Highland chieftainess. She had on a black velvet gown, and a white pinner and apron, and a very high bridge to her nose (which is a sure mark of high breeding), and a large pair of white spectacles on it, which made her look rather odd; [Footnote: The great auks were dark above and white beneath, and had huge white spots about their eyes.] but it was the ancient fashion of her house.
And instead of wings, she had two little feathery arms, with which she fanned herself, and complained of the dreadful heat.
Tom came up to her very humbly, and made his bow; and the first thing she said was:
"Have you wings? Can you fly?"
"Oh, dear, no, ma'am; I should not think of such a thing," said cunning little Tom.
"Then I shall have great pleasure in talking to you, my dear. It is quite refreshing nowadays to see anything without wings. They must all have wings, forsooth, now, every new upstart sort of bird, and fly. What can they want with flying, and raising themselves above their proper station in life? In the days of my ancestors no birds ever thought of having wings, and did very well without; and now they all laugh at me because I keep to the good old fashion."
And so she was running on, while Tom tried to get in a word edgeways; and at last he did, when the old lady got out of breath, and began fanning herself again. And then he asked if she knew the way to Shiny Wall.
"Shiny Wall? Who should know better than I? We all came from Shiny Wall, thousands of years ago, when it was decently cold, and the climate was fit for gentlefolk; but now, we have quite gone down in the world, my dear, and have nothing left but our honour. And I am the last of my family. A friend of mine and I came and settled on this rock when we were young, to be out of the way of low people. Once we were a great nation, and spread over all the Northern Isles. But men shot us so, and knocked us on the head and took our eggs--why, if you will believe it, they say that on the coast of Labrador the sailors used to lay a plank from the rock on board the thing called their ship, and drive us along the plank by hundreds, till we tumbled down in the ship's waist in heaps, and then, I suppose, they ate us, the nasty fellows! Well--but-- what was I saying? At last, there were none of us left, except on the old Gairfowlskerry, just off the Iceland coast, up which no man could climb. Even there we had no peace; for one day, when I was quite a young girl, the land rocked, and the sea boiled, and the sky grew dark, and all the air was filled with smoke and dust, and down tumbled the old Gairfowlskerry into the sea. The dovekies and marrocks, [Footnote: The dovekies and the marrocks, or marrots, are smaller birds belonging to the auk family.] of course, all flew away; but we were too proud to do that. Some of us were dashed to pieces, and the rest drowned, and so here I am left alone. And soon I shall be gone, my little dear, and nobody will miss me; and then the poor stone will be left all alone."
"But, please, which is the way to Shiny Wall?" said Tom.
"Oh, you must go, my little dear--you must go. Let me see--I am sure-- that is--really, my poor old brains are getting quite puzzled. Do you know, my little dear, I am afraid, if you want to know, you must ask some of these vulgar birds about, for I have quite forgotten."
And the poor old Gairfowl began to cry tears of pure oil; and Tom was quite sorry for her, and for himself too, for he was at his wit's end whom to ask.
But there came by a flock of petrels, who are Mother Carey's own chickens; and Tom thought them much prettier than Lady Gairfowl, and so perhaps they were; for Mother Carey had had a great deal of fresh experience between the time that she invented the Gairfowl and the time that she invented them. They flitted along like a flock of black swallows, and hopped and skipped from wave to wave, lifting up their little feet behind them so daintily, and whistling to each other so tenderly, that Tom fell in love with them at once, and called to them to know the way to Shiny Wall.
"Shiny Wall? Do you want Shiny Wall? Then come with us, and we will show you. We are Mother Carey's own chickens, and she sends us out over all the seas, to show the good birds the way home."
Tom was delighted, and swam off to them, after he had made his bow to the Gairfowl. But she would not return his bow, but held herself bolt upright, and wept tears of oil.
Then the petrels asked this bird and that whether they would take Tom to Shiny Wall; but one set was going to Sutherland, and one to the Shetlands, and one to Norway, and one to Spitzbergen, and one to Iceland, and one to Greenland; but none would go to Shiny Wall. So the good-natured petrels said that they would show him part of the way themselves, but they were only going as far as Jan Mayen's Land; and after that he must shift for himself.
On the way, in a wrecked ship Tom found a little black and tan terrier dog, which began barking and snapping at him, and would not let him come near.
Tom knew the dog's teeth could not hurt him; but at least it could shove him away, and did; and he and the dog fought and struggled, and he did not want to throw the dog overboard; but as they were struggling, there came a tall green sea, and walked in over the weather side of the ship, and swept them both into the waves.
And the poor little dog?
Why, after he had kicked and coughed a little, he sneezed so hard, that
Previous Page Next Page
1 10 20 30 40 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 60 70 71
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything