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Robin Of The Loving Heart

from Boys And Girls Bookshelf - MODERN FAIRY TALES





BY EMMA ENDICOTT MAREAN


"Please, Mother, tell us a story. Have him a wood-chopper boy this
time. Please, Mother, quick, for Elizabeth is sleepy already. Oh,
Mother, hurry!"

So here is the story.

* * *

Once upon a time there was a little boy who lived all alone with his
parents in the heart of a deep wood. His father was a wood-chopper who
worked hard in the forest all day, while the mother kept everything tidy
at home and took care of Robin. Robin was an obliging, sunny-hearted
little fellow who chopped the kindling as sturdily as his father chopped
the dead trees and broken branches, and then he brought the water and
turned the spit for his mother.

As there were no other children in the great forest, he made friends
with the animals and learned to understand their talk. In the spring the
mother robin, for whom he thought he was named, called him to see the
blue eggs in her nest, and in the autumn the squirrels chattered with
him and brought him nuts. But his four dearest friends were the Owl, who
came to his window evenings and gave him wise counsel; the Hare, who
played hide-and-seek with him around the bushes; the Eagle, who brought
him strange pebbles and shells from the distant seashore; and the Lion,
who, for friendship's sake, had quite reformed his habits and his
appetite, so that he lapped milk from Robin's bowl and simply adored
breakfast foods.

Suddenly all the happiness in the little cottage was turned to mourning,
when the good wood-chopper was taken ill, and the mother was at her
wits' end to take care of him and to provide bread and milk. Robin's
heart burned within him to do something to help, but he could not swing
an ax with his little hands.

"Ah," he said that night to his friend the Owl, "if I were a great
knight, perhaps I could ride to the city and win the Prize for Good
Luck."

"And what is the Prize for Good Luck?" asked the Owl, who knew
everything in the world except that.



Then Robin explained that the lovely princess, whose hair was like spun
gold and whose eyes were like the blue forget-me-nots by the brook, had
lost her precious amulet, given to her by her godmother, which kept her,
as long as it lay on her neck, healthy and beautiful and happy. One day,
when she was playing in the flower-garden, the little gold chain snapped
and the amulet rolled away. Everybody in the palace had searched, the
soldiers had been called out to help, and all the small boys had been
organized into an amulet brigade, for what they cannot see is usually
not worth seeing at all. But no one could find it, and in the meantime
the princess grew pale, and, truth to tell, rather cross. Her hair
dulled a little, and her eyes looked like forget-me-nots drowned in the
brook. When the court philosopher reasoned the matter out and discovered
that the amulet had been carried far away, perhaps outside the kingdom,
the king offered the Prize for Good Luck for its return.

"Now, if I could win the Prize for Good Luck," said Robin, "we should
have bread and milk all the time, and Mother need not work so hard."

Then the Owl in her wisdom called a council of Robin's best friends, and
asked them what they were going to do about it. They waited respectfully
for her advice; and this was her wonderful plan:

"Robin could win the Prize for Good Luck," declared the Owl, "if only he
were wise and swift and clear-sighted and strong enough. Now I will lend
him my wisdom, the Hare shall lend his swiftness, the Eagle shall lend
his eyesight, and the Lion shall lend his strength." And thus it was
agreed.

Then the Owl went back to little Robin's window and explained the plan.

"You must remember," she said warningly, "time is precious. It is almost
morning now. I cannot long spare my wisdom, for who would guide the
feathered folk? If the Hare cannot run, how can he escape the fox? If
the Eagle cannot see, he will dash himself into the cliff if he flies,
and he will starve to death if he sits still. If the Lion's strength is
gone, the wolves will be the first to know it. Return, then, without
delay. At the stroke of nine o'clock to-morrow night, we shall await you
here. Now go quickly, for rather would I die than live like the
feather-brained blue jay."

Immediately Robin felt himself so strong and so brave that he hesitated
not a minute. Swift as a hare he hastened to the palace, and at daybreak
he blew the mighty horn that announced the coming of one who would seek
for the amulet. The king groaned when he saw him, sure that it would be
a vain quest for such a little fellow. The truth was that the court
philosopher feared the amulet had been stolen by the Ogre of Ogre
Castle, but no one dared to mention the fact, much less to ask the Ogre
to return it. The princess, however, immediately sat up and took notice,
charmed by the brave light in Robin's eyes and his merry smile.

Robin asked to be taken up into the highest tower of the palace, and
there, looking leagues and leagues away to Ogre Castle, he saw with his
Eagle sight the amulet, glowing like sunlight imprisoned in a ruby.

The Ogre was turning it over and over in his hand, muttering to himself,
in the stupid way ogres always have: "It must be a nut, for I can see
something good inside." Robin could not hear him, but he was sure, by
the help of the Owl's wisdom, that it was the amulet.



In a thrice--that means while you count three--Robin was speeding away
with the Hare's swiftness toward Ogre Castle, and in a few minutes he
was demanding the amulet from the Ogre.

Now usually the Ogre was not at all a disagreeable fellow, and the Owl's
wisdom would have easily sufficed to enable Robin to secure the amulet
without trouble, but he had just tried to crack the amulet with his
teeth. It broke off the very best tooth he had in his head, and his poor
jaws ached so that he was in a very bad temper. He turned fiercely, and
for a few minutes Robin needed all the strength the Lion had given him.



After all, the Ogre was one of the pneumatic-tire, hot-water-bag kind of
giants, who flat out if you stick a pin into them and lie perfectly limp
until they are bandaged up and set going once more. That is really a
secret, but Robin knew it by the help of the Owl's wisdom, and he was
not the least little bit afraid.

So Robin managed to get the amulet away without too much difficulty, and
the Hare's swiftness quickly took him back to the palace. When the
princess, who was watching from the tower window, saw the rosy light of
the amulet in the distance, pinkness came back to her cheeks, and her
eyes shone like stars, and she waved her lily hand to Robin in perfect
happiness.

Ah, such a merrymaking as they planned for that evening! Robin was to
receive the Prize for Good Luck, so much gold coin that it would take
three carts and six mules to carry it back to the cottage. The king
counted out money all the afternoon, and the queen put up tarts and jars
of honey for Robin to take to his mother, and the princess gave him her
photograph.

Now comes the sad part. It had taken so much time to reach the palace,
to explain to the king, to ascend the tower and find the amulet, to
conquer the Ogre of Ogre Castle, and to return to the palace, that it
was almost night before Robin realized it. When the money had been
counted out and the tarts wrapped in paraffin paper and the pots of
honey packed in excelsior, it was seven o'clock.

Now the party was to begin at nine, for the princess had to have her
white satin frock sent home from the dressmaker, and her hair had to be
curled. The Punch and Judy was to come at ten, and the ice-cream was to
be served at eleven, for in palaces people keep terribly late hours, not
at all good for them. Just as Robin had dressed himself in a beautiful
blue velvet suit, thinking how fine it was that he should open the dance
with the princess and how lucky it was that he had the strength of a
lion, so that he could dance at all after his busy day, he suddenly
remembered his promise to the Owl.

It was such a shock that, in spite of the Lion's strength, he nearly
fainted. Then he went quickly to the king and told him that he must go
away at once. The king was very angry and bade him have done with such
nonsense.

"Faith, you must stay," he said crossly. "There would be no living with
the princess if her party is spoiled. Besides, you will lose the Prize
for Good Luck, for the people have been promised that they shall see it
presented to somebody to-night and we must not disappoint them."



Poor Robin's heart was heavy. How could he lose all that he had gained
and go away as poor as when he came? That wasn't all nor half of all. To
lose the money would be bad, but he had much more to lose than that. For
one day he had enjoyed the fun of being stronger and wiser and swifter
and keener-sighted than anybody else. Isn't that better than money and
all the prizes for good luck? Yes, indeed, his heart answered over and
over again. How could he go back and give up the wisdom and the
swiftness and the clear sight and the strength, even if he could give up
the money?

"I know now," he thought bitterly, "how the Owl felt when she said she
would not be a feather-brain like the blue jay. And it is much more
important for a boy to be strong than for a common old lion, who is
pretty old anyway. And there are lots of hares in the forest and eagles
on the mountain."

Then Robin slowly climbed the stairs to the tower, for he thought he
would see what the Owl and the Hare and the Eagle and the Lion were
doing in the forest. He looked over to the cottage, leagues and leagues
away. There, under a big oak, lay the Owl, her feathers all a-flutter.
She had had no more sense than to go out in the brilliant sunshine, and
something had gone wrong inside her head. The saucy blue jay stood back
and mocked her. Robin's heart gave one little throb of pity, but he was
wise enough to see the value of wisdom, and he hardened himself. "I
don't believe she has sense enough to know that anything is wrong," he
said to himself.

Then he looked for the Hare. "Oh, he's all right," said Robin, gladly.
But just then he saw a dark shape, only about a mile away, following the
Hare's track.

Robin's heart gave two throbs of pity. "Poor old Hare!" he said. "I have
had lots of fun with him."

Then he looked for the Eagle, and his heart beat hard and fast when he
saw him sitting alone on the dead branch of a tree, one wing hanging
bruised, perhaps broken, and his sightless eyes turned toward the tower,
waiting, waiting. Blind!



Robin looked quickly for the Lion. For a time he could not find him, for
tears came in his eyes as he thought of the Eagle. Then he saw the poor
creature, panting from thirst, trying to drag himself to the river. He
was almost there when his last bit of strength seemed to fail, and he
lay still, with the water only a few yards away.

Then Robin's heart leaped and bounded with pity, and with pure
gladness, too, that he was not yet too late to save his friends from the
consequences of their own generosity. The last rays of sunset struck the
tower as Robin, forgetting all about his blue velvet clothes and the
princess and the Prize for Good Luck, ran and raced, uphill and down,
through brambles and briers, over bogs and hummocks, leaving bits of
lace caught on the bushes, swifter than ever he hastened to the Ogre of
Ogre Castle or to the lovely princess with the amulet.




He was there--oh, yes, he was there long before nine o'clock. The Owl
received back her wisdom, and I can tell you that she soon sent the
saucy blue jay packing. The Hare had his swiftness, and the fox was left
so far behind that he was soon glad to limp back home and eat the plain
supper that Mrs. Fox had prepared for him. The poor blind Eagle opened
his eyes, and saw the moon and the stars, and, better than moon and
stars, the loving face of his comrade, Robin. The Lion drank his fill,
and said that now he would like some breakfast food, please. So the
story ended happily after all.

Oh, yes, I forgot about the Prize for Good Luck, didn't I? When the king
told the princess that Robin was foolish enough to give back the wisdom
and the swiftness and the clear sight and the strength that had won the
prize for him, and that without them he was only a very common little
boy, not good enough for a princess to dance with, she stamped her foot
and called for the godmother who gave her the amulet in the first place.

Then the princess's godmother said that the princess for once was quite,
quite right--that Robin must have the three cartloads of gold coin drawn
by six mules, and the tarts and honey for his mother, and whenever the
princess gave another party she must ask him to open the dance with her,
blue velvet suit or no blue velvet suit--"because," said the godmother,
"there is one thing better than wisdom or swiftness or clear sight or
strength, and that is a loving heart."

* * *

But Elizabeth had gone to sleep.




IN SPRING

Rippling and gurgling and giggling along,
The brooklets are singing their little spring song;
Laughing and lively and gay as can be,
They are skipping right merrily down to the sea.





Next: A Famous Case

Previous: The Flying Ship



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