An Evening Under The Stars
( Originally Published 1891 )
"'DEAR Mother, how pretty
"If I were up there
"'I would call to the stars
" 'And there would I stay
" How happy you are this evening, little brook," called out Bunny, as he sported about in the bright moonlight, cropping sweet clover. " What a pretty song you were just singing !
" And why should I not be happy ? —
"I am the blue sky's looking-glass,
-MRS. M. F. BUTTS.
"Cheerily sung ! " cried Dick and Chip. " We heard your merry voice, and crept out of our nests to listen. May we come down and sit by the wild-flower while you are singing ? "
"Br-r-r, br-r-r, better be in bed, br-r-r, br-r-r ! " rattled a deep voice among the tall reeds.
" Ha, ha ! " bubbled the brook. " That is only one of my old green frogs in the marshes. Perhaps I woke him with my singing, and he is angry with me. But, come along, my frisky friends ! If it were only summer now, I would send my tiny fire-flies to light your way out of the woods. Do you remember, Bunny, how my bright messengers used to lead Chip and Dick through the forest ? "
" Yes, I often think of one night when I saw them. The two little squirrels came tripping over the dry leaves ; four shining bead-eyes went peeping into every dark corner, while scores of fairy fire-flies waved and swung their faint flash-lights on every side to frighten the shadows back into the dense woods ; and all the while the brook kept' singing :
"When softly mother earth is dreaming — sleeping,
" But here are our friends waiting for your story, kind brooklet."
" If Redbreast were only here, we should have our whole party," chirped the thoughtful chipmonk. " Wait a moment, and I will call her."
Away scampered the lively creature, and soon we heard him calling, " Chip, chip, che-chip !" under the apple-tree.
"Chirp, chirp ! came the shrill answer from among the branches, and down flew the robin.
" Why, 'Chip ! you are out very late," piped the ever-cheerful little bird.
The brooklet is to tell us a story about the stars, and I thought you would like to hear it. So I ran over to call you."
You are very kind, and I hope I may be able to repay you in some way."
"You have already done so, Redbreast," said Chip. "Have you not sung for me from morning till evening, all summer ? And once, when the gray cat came creeping up behind the stone-wall, did you not chirp so loud that I looked over and saw him just in time to dodge his sharp claws ?
" But here we are by the brookside. I never heard the little stream ripple so sweetly before. Let us sit near by where the pretty waves frisk and frolic among the smooth pebbles, and listen to its story, for it is just beginning."
" When you went home to-day, the long shadows were beginning to creep into our valley. Soon the Prince of Light sank behind the low hills. He must have been weary with his long journey, for we saw him lie down on a bank of bright flowers and fall asleep, while o'er his couch the evening star kept watch.
" ' O'er me, like a regal tent,
" One by one, the pretty stars brought out their flickering torches, and began their silent march across the sky.
"Now the night is filled with glory, and we must not spend it in dreaming. Let us be up, looking at its bright moving pictures, and reading its wonderful stories."
" What ! is the sky a story-book ? " asked Chip, his eager eyes glowing like fire-flies.
" Yes, and a picture-book as well," sang a moon-lit wave. " Come a little nearer, and I will show you the beautiful forms, and tell you one or two of its charming stories.
" Every little squirrel can find the Great Dipper which is a part of the Great Bear."
"There it is, low in the northwest," said Dick ; " and I know another star, also. The two bright twinkling dots in this Dipper, farthest from its handle, are called ' pointers,' because a line drawn through them points nearly towards the pole or north star. It is in the end of the Little Dipper handle, or the tip of the Little Bear's tail."
" How came two bears to be among the stars ? " asked timid Bunny, dropping his head as if to run and hide in his burrow.
" It is an old, old story," began the brooklet. " It was told to little girls and boys who lived many years ago, in a land far away towards the rising sun.
" There, on a high mountain — so the story runs — dwelt a powerful king named Jupiter, and his beautiful queen, Juno. In the dense forest, far below, lived a lovely princess who spent her time in hunting.
" Juno was jealous of her great beauty, and changed her into a bear. Down she fell upon the ground. Her soft white hands and feet became great paws, while her fingers grew into sharp claws. When she tried to speak, only a savage growl rolled through her fierce jaws.
" All night long she slept in the dark woods, yet she did not feel cold, for a heavy coat of long hair had grown all over her body.
" One day she met her only son hunting. 0, how happy she felt, as she turned to embrace him. He will surely know his mother,' thought she.
" But alas ! he saw only a savage bear, and as it rushed towards him, he raised his hunting-spear to kill it. Then Jupiter, filled with pity, changed the son into a little bear ; and, taking them both into the sky, chained them near the den of the north star.
" How angry Juno was to see them shining there. She begged old Ocean not to let them bathe in its cool water. So there they prowl, the Great and Little Bear, round and round the pole star, yet never dip below the horizon that we see from our valley."
" What a pretty story ! " cried Chip, sporting about in glee. Please tell us just one more. We never knew before you came, little raindrops, how many beautiful things there were around us."
" Let me see. What shall it be ? " mused the dimpled stream. " 0, yes ! there is a very pretty one in the northeastern sky .l
" Start with me from the handle of the Great Dipper, and travel straight through the north star till we reach five bright stars that make a W in the edge of the Milky Way. These are in the group called 'Cassiopeia!' It is about as far from the pole star on one side as the Great, Dipper is on the other.
" Farther down in the sky, in the same straight line, beneath the W, there is a row of shining stars, just to the left of a large starry square. The bright row is Andromeda,' a beautiful princess. The square is a part of the great winged horse, Pegasus.
" Now set out once more from the W, and move down the Milky Way towards the northeast. About half-way to the horizon, you will see three or more bright stars, pointing downwards, with a large twinkling dot to the right. This group is Perseus,' a noble prince.
" As far above the W as Perseus is below it, and reaching in towards the pole star, there is a faint cluster that shows where old King Cepheus 2 sits upon his throne."
"What a bright star nearly overhead!" piped the robin. "It is the brightest that twinkles in the whole sky."
"And what a pretty cross just above us in the Milky Way ! " chirped the frisky chipmonk.
" Do you remember the dark night when the raindrops set out on their journey?" rippled the brook. "' Out of the east came beautiful Vega, brightest of all the host. Near it floated the graceful Swan among the starry drops that glisten in the Milky Way.' "
"Now I know ! " sang Redbreast.. " The brilliant star above us is Vega, and the cross is a part of the Swan. I looked for them the evening after you told us the first story, but I found them just rising in the northeast."
" And if you will look in the same place next spring, you will see them there again as soon as the sun goes down," bubbled the silver stream. "But Vega and the Swan are not in the story I am to tell, and so we will go back to Perseus and the Princess.
" Many years ago, near the sacred river that. winds like an endless serpent across an almost boundless desert, ruled a wise king, named Cepheus.
" One time, his vain young queen, Cassiopeia,. boasted that she was as beautiful as the graceful Nymphs that sported in the waves. Then the angry Water-Sprites sent a fierce storm to destroy her land ; and with it came a horrible sea-monster that killed many poor people.
' There is but one way to save your homes,' the Nymphs said to the king. 'Chain your beautiful daughter, Andromeda, to a lonely rock on the shore, and when our frightful monster has devoured her, he will leave your coasts in peace.'
Then was the good king very sad, for he loved his daughter dearly. But his dying people begged. him to save them, and at length he yielded. The-lovely princess was chained to a great cliff over-hanging the sea, while her father and mother sat. weeping on the shore.
" Just then a dark speck was seen far off in the sky. Nearer and nearer it came, till, with the speed of an eagle, down flew the noble prince, Perseus, son of Jupiter. Some claim that he rode on flying Pegasus, while others say he came on winged sandals. On his left arm he carried a magic shield that would turn to stone any creature-that looked upon it.
" Scarcely had the story of grief been told, when across the sea came the hungry monster, bellowing and splashing. Straight for the rock he swam, where lay the helpless princess. With glaring eyes and open mouth, he dashed forward, to seize his prey.
" But what was that ? Like the flash of a meteor, brave Perseus darted through the air, and plunged his sword into the great scaly back. Then, as the angry beast turned to meet his foe, the brave prince held out his shield, while turning away his own eyes, and where the giant creature swam, there rose a great ledge from the sea. The trusty shield had changed him into stone.
" Of course the noble prince wedded the fair Andromeda, and his proud father carried them all off to live forever in the starry sky.
" But the wrathful Nymphs had Cassiopeia placed so near the pole star, that one half the night she hangs with her head down to teach her to be humble."
As the brooklet ended its story, little Chip looked up with surprise into the sky, and cried, "The Great Bear seems to be moving ! When Dick first pointed it out, it was in the northwest. Now it is in the north, under the pole star. Why ! I believe every spot in the sky is moving ; for Cassiopeia is just overhead, and the Swan is flying low in the west. I hope the pretty stars will not leave us forever."
" Never fear ! " laughed the brook. "You need to sleep now. But when the bright golden butter-cups have faded along the dusty roadside of the Milky Way, come back, and I will tell you why the sun, moon and stars seem to move across the sky."