The Junior Classics.
by Edited by William Patten.
VOLUME FIVE Stories That Never Grow Old
Consciously or unconsciously we are influenced by the characters we admire. A book that exerts a deep as well as a wide influence must produce changes in the reader's way of thinking, and excite him to activity; the world for him can never be quite the same that it was before. Such books have an important part in moulding the character of a people.
It is because the books represented in this volume have been doing just that for many years that they have become so prized. In the characters of Crusoe, Gulliver and Christian, to mention only three, English-speaking people recognize pictures of the independent, self-reliant men, often self-educated (at least in many important particulars), adventurous and daring by nature, dependent upon themselves and the use of their faculties for happiness, who made England great among nations, and wrote the Constitution of the United States.
With the passage of time the books have lost nothing of the charm and fascination which they have ever possessed for young and old.
"Was there ever yet anything written by mere man," said Dr. Samuel Johnson, "that was wished longer by its readers, excepting Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrim's Progress, and Don Quixote?"
At this time, when the subject of vocational training is receiving so much attention, and public school instruction is being criticized because, its critics say, it does not prepare boys and girls to meet the demands which life makes upon them, it is interesting to read what was said almost a hundred years ago by a man whose influence on education has been both deep and lasting in character.
They have just been celebrating in France the centenary of Jean Jacques Rousseau. In the early chapters of "Emile" we read: "Since we must have books, there is one which, to my mind, furnishes the finest treatise on Education according to nature. My Emile shall read this book before any other. It shall for a long time be his entire library. It shall be a test for all we meet during our progress toward a ripened judgment, and so long as our taste is unspoiled we shall enjoy reading it. What wonderful book is this?
Aristotle? Pliny? Buffon? No; it is Robinson Crusoe."
There is no more useful talent than the ability to think and speak (or write) clearly and simply, no matter what our vocation in life. None know better how difficult it is to find writers with a good narrative style than those editors whose training and experience have made them realize its value and importance. If we examine the experience of those who, in comparatively recent days, have stirred men with the force and directness of their simple speech, as Lincoln, for example, we find that as boys they were great readers of the Bible, and Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels, Shakespeare, Bunyan, and Scott. As examples of English these books stand preeminent.
Lord Brougham relates that one of his friends, a professor in a university, consulted one of the ablest historians of his time as to what would be the best discipline for acquiring a good narrative style, as a prelude to writing a book of travels through Asia. The advice given him was to read Robinson Crusoe carefully.
When the professor expressed astonishment, supposing it to be a jest, the historian said he was quite serious, but that if Robinson Crusoe would not help him, for any reason, he recommended Gulliver's Travels. The late Donald G. Mitchell once said: "If you should ever have any story of your own to tell, and want to tell it well, I advise you to take Robinson Crusoe for a model!"
Parents and teachers who do not read aloud to young children, or who do not practise telling stories to children, probably do not realize what simple but extraordinarily valuable opportunities for self-education they are ignoring, to say nothing of the help they can be to children. In order to be successful we have to try and put ourselves in the child's place.
The average reader does not concentrate sufficiently to get the thought clearly from the text, and does not imagine himself to be actually in the midst of the scene he is describing. The consequence is that his voice and actions are not, except perhaps in a slight degree, affected by the emotions he is supposed to be experiencing. Dramatic rendering of dramatic passages is worth striving for, and should be encouraged on the part of children.
The story-teller who roars with the lion and bleats with the lamb is sure to be rewarded with shouts of enthusiastic delight from the audience.
THE ARABIAN NIGHTS
_All nations have their fairy tales, but India seems to have been the country from which they all started, carried on their travels by the professional story-tellers who kept the tales alive throughout Asia. In Bagdad and Cairo to-day, that cafe never lacks customers where the blind storyteller relates to the spell-bound Arabs some chapter from the immortal Arabian Nights, the King of all Wonder Books.
No one knows where the tales were written, except that they came out of the Far East, India, Arabia and Persia. Haroun Al Raschid, who was called The Just, was a real Eastern monarch who lived in Bagdad over eleven hundred years ago, about the same time that Charlemagne was King of France. We can believe that the tales are very old, but the most we know is that they were translated from Arabic into French in 1704-17 by a Frenchman named Galland, and that the manuscript of his translation is preserved in the French National Library. American boys first had the chance to read the notes in English about the time President Monroe was elected._
ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES
There once lived in a town of Persia two brothers, one named Cassim, and the other Ali Baba. Their father divided a small inheritance equally between them. Cassim married a very rich wife, and became a wealthy merchant. Ali Baba married a woman as poor as himself, and lived by cutting wood, and bringing it upon three asses into the town to sell.
One day, when Ali Baba was in the forest, and had just cut wood enough to load his asses, he saw at a distance a great cloud of dust, which seemed to approach him. He observed it with attention, and distinguished soon after a body of horsemen, whom he suspected might be robbers. He determined to leave his asses to save himself. He climbed up a large tree, planted on a high rock, whose branches were thick enough to conceal him, and yet enabled him to see all that passed without being discovered.
The troop, who were to the number of forty, all well mounted and armed, came to the foot of the rock on which the tree stood, and there dismounted. Every man unbridled his horse, tied him to some shrub, and hung about his neck a bag of corn which they brought behind them. Then each of them took off his saddle-bag, which seemed to Ali Baba to be full of gold and silver from its weight.
One, whom he took to be their captain, came under the tree in which Ali Baba was concealed; and, making his way through some shrubs, pronounced these words--"Open, Sesame!" As soon as the captain of the robbers had thus spoken, a door opened in the rock; and after he had made all his troop enter before him, he followed them, when the door shut again of itself.
The robbers stayed some time within the rock, during which Ali Baba, fearful of being caught, remained in the tree.
At last the door opened again, and as the captain went in last, so he came out first, and stood to see them all pass by him; when Ali Baba heard him make the door close by pronouncing these words, "Shut, Sesame!" Every man at once went and bridled his horse, fastened his wallet, and mounted again. When the captain saw them all ready, he put himself at their head, and they returned the way they had come.
Ali Baba followed them with his eyes as far as he could see them, and afterward stayed a considerable time before he descended.
Remembering the words the captain of the robbers used to cause the door to open and shut, he had the curiosity to try if his pronouncing them would have the same effect. Accordingly, he went among the shrubs, and perceiving the door concealed behind them, stood before it and said, "Open, Sesame!" The door instantly flew wide open.
Ali Baba, who expected a dark, dismal cavern, was surprised to see a well-lighted and spacious chamber, which received the light from an opening at the top of the rock, and in which were all sorts of provisions, rich bales of silk, stuff, brocade, and valuable carpeting, piled upon one another, gold and silver ingots in great heaps, and money in bags. The sight of all these riches made him suppose that this cave must have been occupied for ages by robbers, who had succeeded one another.
Ali Baba went boldly into the cave, and collected as much of the gold coin, which was in bags, as he thought his three asses could carry. When he had loaded them with the bags, he laid wood over them in such a manner that they could not be seen. When he had passed in and out as often as he wished, he stood before the door, and pronouncing the words, "Shut, Sesame!" the door closed of itself. He then made the best of his way to town.
When Ali Baba got home, he drove his asses into a little yard, shut the gates very carefully, threw off the wood that covered the panniers, carried the bags into the house, and ranged them in order before his wife. He then emptied the bags, which raised such a great heap of gold as dazzled his wife's eyes, and then he told her the whole adventure from beginning to end, and, above all, recommended her to keep it secret.
The wife rejoiced greatly at their good-fortune, and would count all the gold piece by piece. "Wife," replied Ali Baba, "you do not know what you undertake, when you pretend to count the money; you will never have done. I will dig a hole and bury it. There is no time to be lost." "You are in the right, husband," replied she; "but let us know, as nigh as possible, how much we have. I will borrow a small measure, and measure it while you dig the hole."
Away the wife ran to her brother-in-law Cassim, who lived just by, and, addressing herself to his wife, desired her to lend her a measure for a little while. Her sister-in-law asked her whether she would have a great or a small one. The other asked for a small one. She bade her stay a little, and she would readily fetch one.
The sister-in-law did so, but as she knew Ali Baba's poverty, she was curious to know what sort of grain his wife wanted to measure, and, artfully putting some suet at the bottom of the measure, brought it to her, with the excuse that she was sorry that she had made her stay so long, but that she could not find it sooner.
Ali Baba's wife went home, set the measure upon the heap of gold, filled it, and emptied it often upon the sofa, till she had done, when she was very well satisfied to find the number of measures amounted to so many as they did, and went to tell her husband, who had almost finished digging the hole. While Ali Baba was burying the gold, his wife, to show her exactness and diligence to her sister-in-law, carried the measure back again, but without taking notice that a piece of gold had stuck to the bottom. "Sister,"
said she, giving it to her again, "you see that I have not kept your measure long. I am obliged to you for it, and return it with thanks."
As soon as Ali Baba's wife was gone, Cassim's wife looked at the bottom of the measure, and was in inexpressible surprise to find a piece of gold sticking to it. Envy immediately possessed her breast. "What!" said she, "has Ali Baba gold so plentiful as to measure it? Whence has he all this wealth?"
Cassim, her husband, was at his counting-house. When he came home his wife said to him, "Cassim, I know you think yourself rich, but Ali Baba is infinitely richer than you. He does not count his money, but measures it." Cassim desired her to explain the riddle, which she did by telling him the stratagem she had used to make the discovery, and showed him the piece of money, which was so old that they could not tell in what prince's reign it was coined.
Cassim, after he had married the rich widow, had never treated Ali Baba as a brother, but neglected him; and now, instead of being pleased, he conceived a base envy at his brother's prosperity. He could not sleep all that night, and went to him in the morning before sunrise. "Ali Baba," said he, "I am surprised at you! you pretend to be miserably poor, and yet you measure gold. My wife found this at the bottom of the measure you borrowed yesterday."
By this discourse, Ali Baba perceived that Cassim and his wife, through his own wife's folly, knew what they had so much reason to conceal; but what was done could not be undone. Therefore, without showing the least surprise or trouble, he confessed all, and offered his brother part of his treasure to keep the secret.
"I expect as much," replied Cassim haughtily; "but I must know exactly where this treasure is, and how I may visit it myself when I choose; otherwise, I will go and inform against you, and then you will not only get no more, but will lose all you have, and I shall have a share for my information."
Ali Baba told him all he desired, even to the very words he was to use to gain admission into the cave.
Cassim rose the next morning long before the sun, and set out for the forest with ten mules bearing great chests, which he designed to fill, and followed the road which Ali Baba had pointed out to him. It was not long before he reached the rock, and found out the place, by the tree and other marks which his brother had given him. When he reached the entrance of the cavern, he pronounced the words, "Open, Sesame!" The door immediately opened, and when he was in, closed upon him. On examining the cave, he was in great admiration to find much more riches than he had expected from Ali Baba's relation. He quickly laid as many bags of gold as he could carry at the door of the cavern; but his thoughts were so full of the great riches he should possess, that he could not think of the necessary word to make it open, and instead of "Sesame" said, "Open, Barley!" and was much amazed to find that the door remained fast shut. He named several sorts of grain, but still the door would not open.
Cassim had never expected such an incident, and was so alarmed at the danger he was in, that the more he endeavored to remember the word "Sesame," the more his memory was confounded, and he had as much forgotten it as if he had never heard it mentioned, He threw down the bags he had loaded himself with, and walked distractedly up and down the cave, without having the least regard to the riches that were round him.
About noon the robbers visited their cave. At some distance they saw Cassim's mules straggling about the rock, with great chests on their backs. Alarmed at this, they galloped full speed to the cave. They drove away the mules, who strayed through the forest so far that they were soon out of sight, and went directly, with their naked sabres in their hands, to the door, which, on their captain pronouncing the proper words, immediately opened.
Cassim, who heard the noise of the horses' feet, at once guessed the arrival of the robbers, and resolved to make one effort for his life. He rushed to the door, and no sooner saw the door open, than he ran out and threw the leader down, but could not escape the other robbers, who with their cimeters soon deprived him of life.
The first care of the robbers after this was to examine the cave.
They found all the bags which Cassim had brought to the door, to be ready to load his mules, and carried them again to their places, but they did not miss what Ali Baba had taken away before.