So he flung out another apple; that fell among a party of ducks, and they began to make such a quacking and a waddling, that it frightened the horse into a quick trot.
So the only way Solomon John could make his horse go was by flinging his apples, now on one side, now on the other. One time he frightened a cow, that ran along by the side of the road, while the horse raced with her. Another time he started up a brood of turkeys, that gobbled and strutted enough to startle twenty horses. In another place he came near hitting a boy, who gave such a scream that it sent the horse off at a furious rate.
And Solomon John got quite excited himself, and he did not stop till he had thrown away all his apples, and had reached the corner of the cider-mill.
"Very well," said he, "if the horse is so lazy, he won't mind my stopping to pick up the apples on the way home. And I am not sure but I shall prefer walking a little to riding the beast."
The man came out to meet him from the cider-mill, and reached him the jug. He was just going to take it, when he turned his horse's head round, and, delighted at the idea of going home, the horse set off at a full run without waiting for the jug. Solomon John clung to the reins, and his knees held fast to the horse. He called out "Whoa!
whoa!" but the horse would not stop.
He went galloping on past the boy, who stopped, and flung an apple at him; past the turkeys, that came and gobbled at him; by the cow, that turned and ran back in a race with them until her breath gave out; by the ducks, that came and quacked at him; by an old donkey, that brayed over the wall at him; by some hens, that ran into the road under the horse's feet, and clucked at him; by a great rooster, that stood up on a fence, and crowed at him; by Farmer Jones, who looked out to see what had become of him; down the village street, and he never stopped till he had reached the door of the house.
Out came Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin, Agamemnon, Elizabeth Eliza, and the little boys.
Solomon John got off his horse all out of breath.
"Where is the jug of cider?" asked Mrs. Peterkin.
"It is at the cider-mill," said Solomon John.
"At the mill!" exclaimed Mrs. Peterkin.
"Yes," said Solomon John; "the little boys had better walk out for it; they will enjoy it; and they had better take a basket; for on the way they will find plenty of apples, scattered all along on either side of the lane, and hens, and ducks, and turkeys, and a donkey."
The little boys looked at each other, and went; but they stopped first, and put on their india-rubber boots.
By Sophie May
In the green valley of the Yarrow, near the castle-keep of Norham, dwelt an honest sonsy little family, whose only grief was an unhappy son, named Robin.
Janet, with jimp form, bonnie eyes, and cherry cheeks, was the best of daughters: the boys, Sandie and Davie, were swift-footed, brave, kind, and obedient; but Robin, the youngest, had a stormy temper, and, when his will was crossed, he became as reckless as a reeling hurricane.
Once, in a passion, he drove two of his father's "kye," or cattle, down a steep hill to their death. He seemed not to care for home or kindred, and often pierced the tender heart of his mother with sharp words. When she came at night, and "happed" the bed-clothes carefully about his form, and then stooped to kiss his nut-brown cheeks, he turned away with a frown, muttering, "Mither, let me be."
It was a sad case with Wild Robin, who seemed to have neither love nor conscience.
"My heart is sair," sighed his mother, "wi' greeting over sich a son."
"He hates our auld cottage and our muckle wark," said the poor father.
"Ah, weel! I could a'maist wish the fairies had him for a season, to teach him better manners."
This the gudeman said heedlessly, little knowing there was any danger of Robin's being carried away to Elfland. Whether the fairies were at that instant listening under the eaves, will never be known; but it chanced, one day, that Wild Robin was sent across the moors to fetch the kye.
"I'll rin away," thought the boy: "'tis hard indeed if ilka day a great lad like me must mind the kye. I'll gae aff; and they'll think me dead."
So he gaed, and he gaed, over round swelling hills, over old battle-fields, past the roofless ruins of houses whose walls were crowned with tall climbing grasses, till he came to a crystal sheet of water, called St. Mary's Loch. Here he paused to take breath. The sky was dull and lowering; but at his feet were yellow flowers, which shone, on that gray day, like freaks of sunshine.
He threw himself wearily upon the grass, not heeding that he had chosen his couch within a little mossy circle known as a "fairy's ring." Wild Robin knew that the country people would say the fays had pressed that green circle with their light feet. He had heard all the Scottish lore of brownies, elves, will-o'-the-wisps, and the strange water-kelpies, who shriek with eldritch laughter. He had been told that the queen of the fairies had coveted him from his birth, and would have stolen him away, only that, just as she was about to seize him from the cradle, he had _sneezed_; and from that instant the fairy-spell was over, and she had no more control of him.
Yet, in spite of all these stories, the boy was not afraid; and if he had been informed that any of the uncanny people were, even now, haunting his footsteps, he would not have believed it.
"I see," said Wild Robin, "the sun is drawing his night-cap over his eyes, and dropping asleep. I believe I'll e'en take a nap mysel', and see what comes o' it."
In two minutes he had forgotten St. Mary's Loch, the hills, the moors, the yellow flowers. He heard, or fancied he heard, his sister Janet calling him home.
"And what have ye for supper?" he muttered between his teeth.
"Parritch and milk," answered the lassie gently.
"Parritch and milk! Whist! say nae mair! Lang, lang! may ye wait for Wild Robin: he'll not gae back for oatmeal parritch!"
Next a sad voice fell on his ear.
"Mither's; and she mourns me dead!" thought he; but it was only the far-off village-bell, which sounded like the echo of music he had heard lang syne, but might never hear again.
"D'ye think I'm not alive?" tolled the bell. "I sit all day in my little wooden temple, brooding over the sins of the parish."
"A brazen lie!" cried Robin.
"Nay, the truth, as I'm a living soul! Wae worth ye, Robin Telfer: ye think yersel' hardly used. Say, have your brithers softer beds than yours? Is your ain father served with larger potatoes or creamier buttermilk? Whose mither sae kind as yours, ungrateful chiel? Gae to Elfland, Wild Robin; and dool and wae follow ye! dool and wae follow ye!"
The round yellow sun had dropped behind the hills; the evening breezes began to blow; and now could be heard the faint trampling of small hoofs, and the tinkling of tiny bridle-bells: the fairies were trooping over the ground. First of all rode the queen.
"Her skirt was of the grass-green silk, Her mantle of the velvet fine; At ilka tress of her horse's mane Hung fifty silver bells and nine."
But Wild Robin's closed eyes saw nothing; his sleep-sealed ears heard nothing. The queen of the fairies dismounted, stole up to him, and laid her soft fingers on his cheeks.
"Here is a little man after my ain heart," said she: "I like his knitted brow, and the downward curve of his lips. Knights, lift him gently, set him on a red-roan steed, and waft him away to Fairy-land."
Wild Robin was lifted as gently as a brown leaf borne by the wind; he rode as softly as if the red-roan steed had been saddled with satin, and shod with velvet. It even may be that the faint tinkling of the bridle-bells lulled him into a deeper slumber; for when he awoke it was morning in Fairy-land.
Robin sprang from his mossy couch, and stared about him. Where was he?
He rubbed his eyes, and looked again. Dreaming, no doubt; but what meant all these nimble little beings bustling hither and thither in hot haste? What meant these pearl-bedecked caves, scarcely larger than swallows' nests? these green canopies, overgrown with moss? He pinched himself, and gazed again. Countless flowers nodded to him, and seemed, like himself, on tiptoe with curiosity, he thought. He beckoned one of the busy, dwarfish little brownies toward him.
"I ken I'm talking in my sleep," said the lad; "but can ye tell me what dell is this, and how I chanced to be in it?"
The brownie might or might not have heard; but, at any rate, he deigned no reply, and went on with his task, which was pounding seeds in a stone mortar.
"Am I Robin Telfer, of the Valley of Yarrow, and yet canna shake aff my silly dreams?"
"Weel, my lad," quoth the queen of the fairies, giving him a smart tap with her wand, "stir yersel', and be at work; for naebody idles in Elf-land."
Bewildered Robin ventured a look at the little queen. By daylight she seemed somewhat sleepy and tired; and was withal so tiny, that he might almost have taken her between his thumb and finger, and twirled her above his head; yet she poised herself before him on a mullein-stalk and looked every inch a queen.