day I lay rocking in my boat, reading a very famous book, which all
children know and love, and the name of which I’ll tell you by and by.
So busily was I reading, that I never minded the tide; and presently
discovered that I was floating out to sea, with neither sail nor oar. At
first I was very much frightened; for there was no one in sight on land or
sea, and I didn’t know where I might drift to. But the water was calm,
the sky clear, and the wind blew balmily; so I waited for what should
I saw a speck on the sea, and eagerly watched it; for it drew rapidly
near, and seemed to be going my way. When it came closer, I was much
amazed; for, of all the queer boats I ever saw, this was the queerest. It
was a great wooden bowl, very cracked and old; and in it sat three
gray-headed little gentlemen with spectacles, all reading busily, and
letting the boat go where it pleased. Now, right in their way was a rock;
and I called out, “Sir, sir, take care.”
my call came too late: crash went the bowl, out came the bottom, and down
plumped all the little gentlemen into the sea. I tried not to laugh, as
the books, wigs, and spectacles flew about; and, urging my boat nearer, I
managed to fish them up, dripping and sneezing, and looking like drowned
kittens. When the flurry was over, and they had got their breath, I asked
who they were, and where they were going.
are from Gotham, ma’am,” said the fattest one wiping a very wet face
on a very wet handkerchief. “We were going to that island yonder. We
have often tried, but never got there: it’s always so, and I begin to
think the thing can’t be done.”
looked where he pointed; and, sure enough, there was an island where I had
never seen one before. I rubbed my eyes, and looked again. Yes: there it
was — a little island, with trees and people on it, for I saw smoke
coming out of the chimney of a queerly-shaped house on the shore.
is the name of it?” I asked.
little old gentleman put his finger on his lips, and said, with a
couldn’t tell you, ma’am. It’s a secret; but, if you manage to land
there, you will soon know.”
other old men nodded at the same time; and then all went to reading again,
with the water still dropping off the ends of their noses. This made me
very curious; and, as the tide drifted us nearer and nearer, I looked well
about me, and saw several things that filled me with a strong desire to
land on the island. The odd house, I found, was built like a high-heeled
shoe; and at every window I saw children’s heads. Some were eating
broth; some were crying; and some had nightcaps on. I caught sight of a
distracted old lady flying about, with a ladle in one hand, and a rod in
the other; but the house was so full of children (even up to the
sky-light, — out of which they popped their heads, and nodded at me)
that I couldn’t see much of the mamma of this large family: one seldom
can, you know.
had hardly got over my surprise at this queer sight, when I saw a cow fly
up through the air, over the new moon that hung there, and come down and
disappear in the woods. I really didn’t know what to make of this, but
had no time to ask the old men what it meant; for a cat, playing a fiddle,
was seen on the shore. A little dog stood by, listening and laughing;
while a dish and a spoon ran away over the beach with all their might. If
the boat had not floated up to the land, I think I should have swam there
— I was so anxious to see what was going on; for there was a great
racket on the island, and such a remarkable collection of creatures, it
was impossible to help staring.
soon as we landed, three other gentlemen came to welcome the ones I had
saved, and seemed very glad to see them. They appeared to have just landed
from a tub in which was a drum, rub-a-dub-dubbing all by itself. One of
the new men had a white frock on, and carried a large knife; the second
had dough on his hands, flour on his coat, and a hot-looking face; the
third was very greasy, had a bundle of candles under his arm, and a ball
of wicking half out of his pocket. The six shook hands, and walked away
together, talking about a fair; and left me to take care of myself.
walked on through a pleasant meadow, where a pretty little girl was
looking sadly up at a row of sheep’s tails hung on a tree. I also saw a
little boy in blue, asleep by a hay-cock; and another boy taking aim at a
cock-sparrow, who clapped his wings and flew away. Presently I saw two
more little girls: one sat by a fire warming her toes; and, when I asked
what her name was, she said pleasantly:
other one sat on a tuft of grass, eating some thing that looked very nice;
but, all of a sudden, she dropped her bowl, and ran away, looking very
the matter with her?” I asked of a gay young frog who came tripping
along with his hat under his arm.
Muffit is a fashionable lady, and afraid of spiders, madam; also of
frogs.” And he puffed himself angrily up, till his eyes quite goggled in
pray, who are you, sir?” I asked, staring at his white vest, green coat,
and fine cravat.
me, if I don’t give my name, ma’am. My false friend, the rat, got me
into a sad scrape once; and Rowley insists upon it that a duck destroyed
me, which is all gammon, ma’am, — all gammon.”
that, the frog skipped away; and I turned into a narrow lane, which seemed
to lead toward some music. I had not gone far, when I heard the rumbling
of a wheelbarrow, and saw a little man wheeling a little woman along. The
little man looked very hot and tired; but the little woman looked very
nice, in a smart bonnet and shawl, and kept looking at a new gold ring on
her finger, as she rode along under her little umbrella. I was wondering
who they were, when down went the wheelbarrow; and the little lady
screamed so dismally that I ran away, lest I should get into trouble,
being a stranger.
a corner, I came upon a very charming scene, and slipped into a quiet nook
to see what was going on. It was evidently a wedding; and I was just in
time to see it, for the procession was passing at that moment. First came
a splendid cock-a-doodle, all in black and gold, like a herald, blowing
his trumpet, and marching with a very dignified step. Then came a rook, in
black, like a minister, with spectacles and white cravat. A lark and
bullfinch followed — friends, I suppose; and then the bride and
bridegroom. Miss Wren was evidently a Quakeress; for she wore a sober
dress, and a little white veil, through which her bright eyes shone. The
bridegroom was a military man, in his scarlet uniform — a plump,
bold-looking bird, very happy and proud just then. A goldfinch gave away
the bride, and a linnet was bridemaid. The ceremony was very fine; and, as
soon as it was over, the blackbird, thrush and nightingale burst out in a
splendid dinner followed, at which was nearly every bird that flies; so
you may imagine the music there was. They had currant-pie in abundance;
and cherry-wine, which excited a cuckoo so much, that he became quite
rude, and so far forgot himself as to pull the bride about. This made the
groom so angry that he begged his friend, the sparrow, to bring his bow
and arrow, and punish the ruffian. But, alas! Sparrow had also taken a
drop too much: he aimed wrong, and, with a dreadful cry, Mr. Robin sank
dying into the arms of his wife, little Jane.
was too much for me; and, taking advantage of the confusion that followed,
I left the tragical scene as fast as possible.
little farther on, I was shocked to see a goose dragging an old man down
some steps that led to a little house.
me! What’s the matter here?” I cried.
won’t say his prayers,” screamed the goose.
perhaps he was never taught,” said I.
never too late to learn: he’s had his chance; he won’t be pious and
good, so away with him. Don’t interfere, whatever you do: hold your
tongue, and go about your business,” scolded the goose who certainly had
a dreadful temper.
dared say no more; and, when the poor old man had been driven away by this
foul proceeding, I went up the steps and peeped in; for I heard some one
crying, and thought the cross bird, perhaps, had hurt someone else. A
little old woman stood there, wringing her hands in great distress; while
a small dog was barking at her with all his might.
me! The fashions have got even here,” thought I; for the old woman was
dressed in the latest style — or, rather, she had overdone it sadly; for
her gown was nearly up to her knees, and she was nearly as ridiculous an
object as some of the young ladies I had seen at home. She had a
respectable bonnet on, however, instead of a straw saucer; and her hair
was neatly put under a cap — not made into a knob on the top of her
dear soul, what’s the trouble?” said I, quite touched by her tears.
a mercy, ma’am! I’ve been to market with my butter and eggs — for
the price of both is so high, one can soon get rich now-a-days — and,
being tired, I stopped to rest a bit, but fell asleep by the road.
Somebody — I think it’s a rogue of a peddler who sold me wooden
nutmegs, and a clock that wouldn’t go, and some pans that came to bits
the first time I used them — somebody cut my new gown and petticoat off
all round, in the shameful way you see. I thought I never should get home;
for I was such a fright, I actually didn’t know myself. But, thinks I,
my doggy will know me; and then I shall be sure I’m I, and not some
boldfaced creature in short skirts. But, oh, ma’am! Doggy don’t know
me; and I ain’t myself, and I don’t know what to do.”
a foolish little beast; so don’t mind him, but have a cup of tea, and go
to bed. You can make your gown decent tomorrow; and, if I see the tricksy
peddler, I’ll give him a scolding.”
seemed to comfort the old woman; though doggy still barked.
next neighbor has a dog who never behaves in this way,” she said, as she
put her teapot on the coals. “He’s a remarkable beast; and you’d
better stop to see him as you pass, ma’am. He’s always up to some
funny prank or other.”
said I would; and, as I went by the next house, I took a look in at the
window. The closet was empty, I observed; but the dog sat smoking a pipe,
looking as grave as a judge.
is your mistress?” asked I.
for some tripe,” answered the dog, politely taking the pipe out of his
mouth, and adding, “I hope the smoke doesn’t annoy you.”
don’t approve of smoking,” said I.
to hear it,” said the dog, coolly.
was going to lecture him on this bad habit; but I saw his mistress coming
with a dish in her hand, and, fearing she might think me rude to peep in
at her windows, I walked on, wondering what we were coming to when even
four-legged puppies smoked.
the door of the next little house, I saw a market-wagon loaded with
vegetables, and a smart young pig just driving it away. I had heard of
this interesting family, and took a look as I passed by. A second tidy pig
sat blowing the fire; and a third was eating roast-beef, as if he had just
come in from his work. The fourth, I was grieved to see, looked very
sulky; for it was evident he had been naughty, and so lost his dinner. The
little pig was at the door, crying to get in; and it was sweet to see how
kindly the others let him in, wiped his tears, tied on his bib, and
brought him his bread and milk. I was very glad to see these young orphans
doing so well, and I knew my friends at home would enjoy hearing from
loud scream made me jump; and the sudden splash of water made me run
along, without stopping to pick up a boy and girl who came tumbling down
the hill with an empty pail, bumping their heads as they rolled.
something nice, and feeling hungry, I stepped into a large room near by
— a sort of eating-house, I fancy; for various parties seemed to be
enjoying themselves in their different ways. A small boy sat near the
door, eating a large pie; and he gave me a fine plum which he had just
pulled out. At one table was a fat gentleman cutting another pie, which
had a dark crust, through which appeared the heads of a flock of birds,
all singing gayly.
no end to the improvements in cooking, and no accounting for tastes,” I
added, looking at a handsomely dressed lady, who sat near, eating bread
I passed this party, I saw behind the lady’s chair a maid, with a
clothespin in her hand, and no nose. She sobbingly told me a bird had
nipped it off; and I gave her a bit of court-plaster, which I fortunately
had in my pocket.
couple were dividing their meat in a queer way; for one took all the fat,
and the other all the lean. The next people were odder still; for the man
looked rather guilty, and seemed to be hiding a three-peck measure under
his chair, while he waited for his wife to bring on some cold
barley-pudding, which, to my surprise, she was frying herself. I also saw
a queer moonstruck-looking man inquiring the way to Norridge; and another
man making wry faces over some plum-pudding, with which he had burnt his
mouth, because his friend came down too soon.
ordered pease-porridge hot, and they brought it cold; but I didn’t wait
for any thing else, being in a hurry to see all there was to be seen on
this strange island. Feeling refreshed, I strolled on, passing a jolly old
gentleman smoking and drinking while three fiddlers played before him. As
I turned into a road that led toward a hill, a little boy, riding a
dapple-gray pony, and an old lady on a white horse, with bells ringing
somewhere, trotted by me, followed by a little girl, who wished to know
where she could buy a penny bun. I told her the best were at Newmarch’s,
in Bedford Street, and she ran on, much pleased; but I’m afraid she
never found that best of bake-shops. I was going quietly along, when the
sound of another horse coming made me look round; and there I saw a
dreadful sight — a wild horse, tearing over the ground, with fiery eyes
and streaming tail. On his back sat a crazy man, beating him with a broom;
a crazy woman was behind him, with her bonnet on wrong side before,
holding one crazy child in her lap, while another stood on the horse; a
third was hanging on by one foot, and all were howling at the top of their
voices as they rushed by. I scrambled over the wall to get out of the way,
and there I saw more curious sights. Two blind men were sitting on the
grass, trying to see two lame men who were hobbling along as hard as they
could; and, near by, a bull was fighting a bee in the most violent manner.
This rather alarmed me; and I scrambled back into the road again, just as
a very fine lady jumped over a barberry-bush near by, and a gentleman went
flying after, with a ring in one hand and a stick in the other.
very odd people they have here!” I thought.
by was a tidy little house under the hill, and in it a tidy little woman
who sold things to eat. Being rather hungry, in spite of my porridge, I
bought a baked apple and a cranberry-pie; for she said they were good, and
I found she told the truth. As I sat eating my pie, some dogs began to
bark; and by came a troop of beggars, some in rags, and some in old velvet
gowns. A drunken grenadier was with them, who wanted a pot of beer; but as
he had no money, the old woman sent him about his business.
my way up the hill, I saw a little boy crying over a dead pig, and his
sister, who seemed to be dead also. I asked his name, and he sobbed out,
“Johnny Pringle, ma’am,” and went on crying so hard I could do
nothing to comfort him. While I stood talking to him, a sudden gust of
wind blew up the road, and down came the bough of a tree; and, to my
surprise, a cradle with a baby in it also. The baby screamed dreadfully,
and I didn’t know how to quiet it; so I ran back to the old woman, and
left it with her, asking if that was the way babies were taken care of
you, my dear! It’s ma is making patty-cakes; and put it up there to be
out of the way of Tom Tinker’s dog. I’ll soon hush it up,” said the
old woman; and, trotting it on her knee, she began to sing:
My kitten, my kitten,
My kitten, any deary.
that the child was in good hands, I hurried away, for I saw something was
going on upon the hill-top. When I got to the hill-top, I was shocked to
find some people tossing an old woman in a blanket. I begged them to stop;
but one of the men, who, I found, was a Welchman, by the name of Taffy,
told me the old lady liked it.
why does she like it?” I asked in great surprise.
the piper’s son, will tell you: it’s my turn to toss now,” said the
you see, ma’am,” said Tom, “she is one of those dreadfully nice old
women, who are always fussing and scrubbing, and worrying people to death,
with everlastingly cleaning house. Now and then we get so tired out with
her that we propose to her to clean the sky itself. She likes that; and,
as this is the only way we can get her up, we toss till she sticks
somewhere, and then leave her to sweep cobwebs till she is ready to come
back and behave herself.”
that is the oddest thing I ever heard. I know just such an old lady, and
when I go home I’ll try your plan. It seems to me that you have a great
many queer old ladies on this island,” I said to another man, whom they
called Peter, and who stood eating pumpkin all the time.
we do have rather a nice collection; but you haven’t seen the best of
all. We expect her every minute; and Margery Daw is to let us know the
minute she lights on the island,” replied Peter, with his mouth full.
said I, “you speak as if she flew.”
rides on a bird. Hurrah! The old sweeper has lit. Now the cobwebs will
fly. Don’t hurry back,” shouted the man; and a faint, far-off voice
answered, “I shall be back again by and by.”
people folded up the blanket, looking much relieved; and I was examining a
very odd house which was built by an ancient king called Boggen, when
Margery Daw, a dirty little girl, came up the hill, screaming, at the top
of her voice:
come! She’s come!”
one looked up; and I saw a large white bird slowly flying over the island.
On its back sat the nicest old woman that ever was seen: all the others
were nothing compared to her. She had a pointed hat on over her cap, a red
cloak, high-heeled shoes, and a crutch in her hand. She smiled and nodded
as the bird approached; and every one ran and nodded, and screamed,
“Welcome! Welcome, mother!”
soon as she touched the ground, she was so surrounded that I could only
see the top of her hat; for hundreds and hundreds of little children
suddenly appeared, like a great flock of birds, — rosy, happy, pretty
children; but all looked unreal, and among them I saw some who looked like
little people I had known long ago.
are they?” I asked of a bonny lass, who was sitting on a cushion, eating
strawberries and cream.
are the phantoms of all the little people who ever read and loved our
mother’s songs,” said the maid.
did she write?” I asked, feeling very queer, and as if I was going to
that are immortal; and you have them in your hand,” replied the bonny
maid, smiling at my stupidity.
looked; and there, on the cover of the book I had been reading so busily
when the tide carried me away, I saw the words “Mother Goose’s
Melodies.” I was so delighted that I had seen her I gave a shout, and
tried to get near enough to hug and kiss the dear old soul, as the swarm
of children were doing; but my cry woke me, and I was so sorry to find it
all a dream!