NY PUBLIC LIBRARY THE BRANCH LIBRARIES
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THE WELL IN THE WOOD
BERT LESION TAYLOR
A PENNY WHISTLE
THE SO-CALLED HUMAN RACE
THE WELL IN THE WOOD
And others in a uniform col-
lected edition, to be ready later
Ne - w York: Alfred A Knopf
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The Well in the
Bert Leston Taylor
With illustrations by
F. Y. Corv
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New York ^^1 ^^^ 1922
Alfred A Knopf
COPYRIGHT, 1904, 1922, BY
ALFRED A. KNOPF, INC.
Published, September, 1922
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MANUFACTURED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
"THE BACILLUS DEDICATORY'
I had intended dedicating this little book to Mr.
Henry B. Fuller, to whose friendship and criticism
I owe much ; but finally I decided it were wiser to
refrain. The explanation of my change of mind is
contained in the paragraph which follows :
"In this part of the world," wrote Mr. Fuller, not
long ago, "the bacillus dedicatory hardly survives
within us up to middle age, but there is no deny-
ing that it is terribly active in most beginners, and
that the ingenuous gratitude of these gives their
established elders considerable cause for embar-
rassment. Have I written a successful story?
Then I cast about for some well-known name,
'higher up,' with whicn to adorn my fly-leaf and to
ease my overpovvcring sense of obligation. The
effort on the part qt , these 'various celebrities to
elude my homage is the liveliest side of the liter-
ary game, and not the least instructive phase of
unwritten literary history. '
THE STORIED ROADS OF FAIRYLAND
The dinner done, the lamp is lit,
And in its mellow glow we sit
And talk of matters, grave and gay,
That went to make another day.
Comes Little One, a book in hand,
With this request nay, this command
(For who'd gainsay the little sprite):
"Please will you read to me to-night?"
Read to you, Little One? Why, yes.
What shall it be to-night? You guess
You'd like to hear about the bears
Their bowls of porridge, beds and chairs?
Well, that you shall. . . There ! that tale's done !
And now you'd like another one?
To-morrow evening, Curly Head,
It's "hass-pass seven !" Off to bed !
So each night another story:
Wicked dwarfs and giants gory;
Dragons fierce and princes daring,
Forth to fame and fortune faring;
Wandering tots, with leaves for bed;
Houses made of gingerbread;
Witches bad and fairies good;
And all the wonders of the wood.
j: I like the witches best," says she
Who nightly nestles on my knee;
But why by them she sets such store
Psychologists must puzzle o'er.
Her likes are mine, and I agree
With all that she confides to me.
And thus we travel, hand in hand,
The storied roads of Fairyland.
Ah, Little One, when years have fled,
And left their silver on my head,
And when the dimming eyes of age
With difficulty scan the page,
Perchance I'll turn the tables then;
Perchance /'// put the question, when
I borrow of your better sight:
'Please will you read to me to-night?"
I ENCHANTER'S NIGHTSHADE i
II ON THE WAY TO BEAVERTOWN 9
III THE LAZIEST BEAVER 17
IV "WHY DOES A RABBIT WABBLE His
V THE GUINEA-PIG WHOSE EYES FELL
VI THE WHITE BLACKBIRD 47
VII A TRAVELED DONKEY 61
VIII OLD SAWS IN NEW SETTINGS 72
IX TROUBLES OF A BEAR 81
X THE WEE BEAR'S BIRTHDAY PARTY 91
XI A LONG DISPUTE ENDED 105
XII THE FLIGHT OF THE LOON 114
XIII "MARY'S LITTLE LAMB" 125
XIV "ONE FROM Two LEAVES FOUR" 138
XV AT THE CORNER 149
XVI A FROLIC IN THE FOREST 158
XVII DOCTOR GOOSE'S LECTURE J7o
XVIII THE WELL IN THE WOOD 177
XIX DISENCHANTMENT 186
AND Now VANISHED IN THE DEPTHS OF
THE WELL Frontispiece
AND LED THE WAY INTO A THICKET 13
WHICH GREW FAINTER AND FAINTER 25
BUT I'VE CAUGHT You 54
THEY SET OFF THROUGH THE WOOD 77
I MEAN I CAN'T SLEEP 89
HAVE You HEARD ''NOBODY KNOWS"? 120
AND BEHOLD THEY Were ROSES 127
THE WELL IN THE WOOD
"Colonel, you 'diculous dog, you're so hot
now you can hardly breathe. No ; you needn't
bark. It's too warm to play any more.'
Buddie was sitting on the fallen, mossy trunk
of a cedar tree, just inside the edge of the
wood, throwing little sticks for her dog Colonel
to fetch. Being a young dog, Colonel wanted
to play all day long, and he could not under-
stand why Buddie should tire of throwing sticks
when he never wearied of recovering them.
So when she bent to tie her shoe-string he
assumed that another stick was coming, and,
yelping with delight, he crouched for the spring.
But Buddie, in bending over, had made a
discovery that put an end to playing with sticks,
for that day at least.
2 THE WELL IN THE WOOD
"Oh, what pretty flowers!' she cried; and
she began to make a bouquet of some white
blossoms that grew among the mosses of the
Before you learn about this strange flower,
Little One, I must tell you something of the
small person who found it, and of the wood in
which it grew.
" Buddie' was her every-day name. It is
short and easy to say, especially if one is in a
hurry, as Buddie's mother always was. On
Sundays her name was Ethel Elvira, which
quite became a dress with a great deal of starch,
a sash with a great deal of rustle and new shoes
with a great deal of squeak.
Her home was a log house in the wild North-
land, just where the pine-trees came down to
peep into the mirror of a great lake. It was a
lonely shore and not at all the kind that you,
Little One, would like, for there was no sandy
beach to dig in. Here and there were short
stretches of gravel, but mostly it was black rock
THE WELL IN THE WOOD 3
and deep water, which the sun never succeeded
in warming. As far as one could see up and
down the lake there was no other house, and
the only blur on the wide sweep of dark blue
water was the tattered sail of a restless Indian
or the trailing smoke of a distant steamer.
In all the country round about there was
only one road, and this kept so close to the
lake for fear, very likely, it would get lost
that there was just room between it and the
water for the log house and a small back yard
for the chickens. Across the road \vas a cleared
space, sloping up over a little hill, in which
grew potatoes, turnips and other vegetables that
could stand a cold climate ; for Buddie's home
was so far north that real winter lasted six
months, and sometimes longer. There wasn't
any spring to speak of without complaining
and nobody could tell when summer ended and
Buddie had two brothers younger than her-
self. One was a wee tot who slept in a ham-
4 THE WELL IN THE WOOD
mock near the kitchen stove, where the mother
could keep the pot a-boiling and the cradle
a-swinging at the same time ; the other usually
spent his time " helping father' to improve the
road, which was in a sad way, or to hunt for the
cows, which sometimes went deep into the
wood to escape the tormenting flies.
As there was no other little girl to play with,
Buddie had to amuse herself as best she could.
One way was to turn the pages of a big, fine
book of animal stones, a Christmas gift from a
city friend of the family ; and when all the pic-
tures had been looked at for the hundredth
time, she would call Colonel and ramble along
the edge of the wood, in the hope of seeing
some of the animals pictured in her book.
She never went more than a very little way
into the wood.
"For if you do,' her mother would say,
"the bears will eat you up.' So it was that
the wood came to have a great fascination for
her, as it would for you or me, Little One, if we
THE WELL IN THE WOOD 5
could not go into it. A great many of us always
wish to do what we are told not to do, which is
very wrong, of course, and discourages the wise
and patient people who write books on Ethics.
It was a wonderful wood, not at all like the
wood in your favorite fairy tale. You can hardly
realize, Little One, how far away it stretched
hundreds and hundreds of miles away to the
ice and snow of the far, far North. There were
no roads, as in your fairy-tale wood, and no
paths except a few old trails which had not been
used for years, and over which the wild grasses
and shrubs ran again. From the shore road
you could see into it only a little way, because
there were so many trees that had branches
close to the ground, and such a tangle of old
dead trees and thickly growing young ones.
During the day, when the sunlight crept in
through every crack, it was quite cheerful among
the pines and firs and birches, and a great deal
seemed to be going on there ; but when night
came on it grew dark and still, and the only
THE WELL IN THE WOOD
speck of light for miles and miles came from
the lamp in the log house window.
Rather a lonely place, one would say, for a
little girl to grow up in. But Buddie never
thought of that. She was always busy, and the
days passed quickly enough. Colonel was a
lively companion, if he was only a dog, and a
yellow one at that ; and he had one good
quality which even a yellow dog can have he
was entirely devoted to his young mistress.
If she wandered too far
up or down the road, or
seemed to be disregarding
her mother's command to
keep out of the wood, he
would take hold of her dress
with his teeth and gently
pull her back.
And now to return to the
strange flower Buddie found.
Pay attention, Little One : if it were not for the
flower I should not be telling you this story.
THE WELL IN THE WOOD 7
Botanists call it Circcea Alpina, but you
never could remember that. The other name
for it is " Enchanter's Nightshade,' which you
may not forget so easily. It is a small plant,
and the flower books do not say much about it ;
but I feel quite sure it must have originated on
the ^Eaean Isle, where Circe the Enchantress
lived, ever so many years ago. I think very
8 THE WELL IN THE WOOD
likely Ulysses, whom you have read about or
will read about some clay, carried off a bouquet
of it when he sailed away from the isle, and in
the course of time the seeds reached our land.
Anyhow, you must have guessed that there was
some sort of enchantment in Buddie's bouquet,
even if I had not tried to explain ; for no sooner
had she fastened it under her hair-ribbon than
Colonel exclaimed, in u really talk" :
" Who cares for flowers! Throw me a stick
ON THE WAY TO BEAVERTOWN
If a dog were to speak to you, Little One,
in "really talk,' I dare say you would jump a
foot unless you happened to be sitting on a
fallen tree at the time ; then, very likely, you
would do as Buddie did, jump to both feet.
" Why, Colonel!" she cried ; "I didn't know
you could talk.'
" Indeed?" replied the Yellow Dog. "Well,
I assure you I am an excellent talker, if you
start me off on subjects in which I am inter-
ested. Like all persons that really have some-
thing to say, I need to be drawn out.'
Certainly he did not talk like a common dog,
and he no longer looked like one. He held his
head proudly, and his once dejected tail had an
upward and aristocratic sweep. Could this be
io THE WELL IN THE WOOD
the same yellow dog that her father kicked
around and accused of stealing eggs ? Buddie
rubbed her eyes and looked again. Yes ; it
was the same dog : around his neck was the
rope collar with which she dragged him about.
Besides being an easy talker, Colonel seemed
to be something of a mind-reader.
"It is a common belief,' he went on, "that
all yellow dogs are good for is to kick around,
or to put the blame on when eggs are missing.
Now, I do not like eggs, and I do not know of
a single yellow dog that does. It only goes to
prove the old saying : Give a yellow dog a bad
name and it will stick to him like a bur to his
tail. But show me the yellow dog that is not
the equal, in good manners, courage and intel-
ligence, of any black or brown dog.'
Although Buddie lived a long way from any
village, she had seen a great many dogs. They
were mostly Indian curs, wolfish-looking crea-
tures, and the greatest thieves in the world.
Neglected by their owners, they foraged every-
THE WELL IN THE WOOD n
where, often traveling miles in search of food,
and eating almost anything they could chew.
They were of all colors except yellow. Colonel
was the only yellow dog Buddie had ever seen.
And she was bound to admit that he was a much
more agreeable dog than the ravenous creatures
that came slinking around the log house every
now and then, in the hope of picking up even
so poor a meal as potato-parings or egg-shells.
"/ say, give the yellow dog a show,' de-
clared Colonel, sitting up on his haunches and
making a grand flourish with his right forepaw.
"Other dogs have shows, but you never hear
of a yellow dog show. Let justice be done,
though the sky falls.'
With his left forepaw he made another grand
flourish, and paused for a reply. But all Bud-
die could think of was :
"I'm sure it 1 wouldn't be nice to have the
" Oh, that is just a figure of speech, like, Let
justice be done,' said Colonel. "Nobody
12 THE WELL IN THE WOOD
expects the sky to fall ; though I dare say it
ivould if justice were clone.'
Buddie did not quite understand what was
meant by a figure of speech, but, like many
older persons, she was impressed by large words
and an easy style of tossing them off and it
seemed to her that Colonel was a very superior
person-^ if you could call a dog a person.
"If there are no more sticks to fetch,' said
Colonel, dropping again on all fours, "I think
I shall make a few calls on my friends in the
"Won't you get lost ?' asked Buddie, peer-
ing doubtfully into the dark grove of spruce
" Certainly not,' replied Colonel, tossing his
head. "I very often go miles into the wood,
for I can always nose my way back again. How
would you like to pay a visit to my friend, the
Laziest Beaver ? We'll be sure to find him at
"The Laziest Beaver?' repeated Buddie, in
14 THE WELL IN THE WOOD
surprise. " Are beavers lazy?' She had often
heard her father say, when he had come home
tired at twilight, that he had " worked like a
"I have known a great many beavers in my
time,' Colonel replied, "and I never knew
one to do a stroke of work if he could get out
of it. Indeed, Lazy as a Beaver, is a common
expression in these parts. My friend, the Lazi-
est Beaver, never worked in his life.'
"Well, let's go to see him,' cried Buddie,
happily. " Only, don't go fast, as I can't jump
over things the way you can.'
"Never fear,' replied Colonel. "I shall
show you the easiest paths. Besides, there is
no hurry; we have all day before us.'
As he spoke he cleared a huge log with a
graceful leap, and led the way into a thicket of
young poplar trees.
Now, I am quite sure, Little One, that in
going into the wood, Buddie did not mean to
disobey her mother she never before had done
THE WELL IN THE WOOD 15
so. You are to believe, as I believe, that the
bouquet of Enchanter's Nightshade in her hair
was to blame, just as it was the cause of every-
thing else that happened to her that wonderful
At first Buddie had some trouble in following
her guide, who slipped through the brush with
an ease born of much practice. The little
branches caught in her hair, and tried to poke
out her eyes. But she soon learned to bend
her head at the right moment and shield her
eyes with her arms ; and as they got deeper
into the wood, where the proud pine-trees grew
and the little bushes dared not intrude, walking
became almost as easy as along a road.
"This friend of mine, the Laziest Beaver,'
said Colonel, when Buddie stopped for a little
rest, " is always going to do something, but
never gets round to it. He's been going to re-
build a dam for I don't know how long, and
he's always talking about repairing his house,
which fell down about his ears last summer.
16 THE WELL IN THE WOOD
But he'd rather sit in the sun and tell stories
and exchange news. He's the greatest gossip
in the woods the crows are nothing to him
and every one that wants to find out anything
goes straight to him.'
" Where does he live ?' asked Buddie.
u Just a little way from here, at Beavertown.
It used to be quite a village, but last year the
beavers moved to a better place up the river.
The Laziest Beaver was too lazy to follow them ;
so he lives all alone in his tumble-down house,
by the side of his tumble-down dam, and lies
out in the sun all day, and has just the laziest
time in the world. Shall we move along ?'
Their way now led downhill to the river,
which, fortunately, it was not necessary to cross.
A little distance up-stream a smaller river came
in, and along the bank of this Colonel led the
way to a meadow of tall wild grass.
This was Beavertown.
THE LAZIEST BEAVER
They found the Laziest Beaver at home
just as Colonel, the Yellow Dog, had promised
lying in the sun in front of his tumble-down
dwelling, and fanning himself with lazy flaps of
his broad tail. He nodded pleasantly as Col-
onel and Buddie approached, but made no
attempt to rise for a more formal greeting.
"This is Buddie,' said the Yellow Dog, pre-
" Which Buddie? ' ' asked the Laziest Beaver.
"Why, just Buddie."
"I've heard of some Buddie, any Buddie,
every Buddie and no Buddie, but I never heard
of just Buddie before,' remarked the Laziest
"She lives in the log house by the lake,
where I stop,' Colonel explained.
i8 THE WELL IN THE WOOD
" I've been meaning to get down to the lake
on a visit,' said the Laziest Beaver, "but I
can't seem to find the time. There's that dam
to build, you know, and my house needs a few
Remembering what Colonel had told her
about the Laziest Beaver always talking of do-
ing something but never getting around to do
it, Buddie smiled, which was not at all polite.
The Laziest Beaver noticed the smile, and
changed the subject.
THE WELL IN THE WOOD 19
" What's the news?' he asked, addressing
the Yellow Dog.
' 'Carrying news to you would be carrying
sweets to a beehive,' replied Colonel, with a
bow. The Laziest Beaver was touched by the
flattery, and smiled amiably.
"Well,' he said, " I do pick up a little news
now and then. By the way, Bunny Cotton-
Tayle was around here to-day. He is going
up to The Well this afternoon to find the an-
swer,' said the Laziest Beaver.
"What's the answer?' asked Buddie, who
thought it no more than polite to take part in
"That's just it,' replied the Laziest Beaver.
"That's what he's going up to The Well to find
"I'm afraid I don't understand,' said Bud-
die, much puzzled!
"She means,' said Colonel, "what is the
answer to what?'
"I don't know what the answer to what is,
20 THE WELL IN THE WOOD
unless it is that? said the Laziest Beaver.
"You often hear people say, tha? s ivhat S
"That is not the question," objected Colonel.
"Then she should have asked, What's the
question f not, What ' s the answer? ' de-
clared the Laziest Beaver, triumphantly.
"Question! Question!' cried the Yellow
"The question is,' said the Laziest Beaver,
"whv does a rabbit wabble his nose?"
"Oh, I wonder why he does!' cried Bud-
die. She had had a pet rabbit once upon a
time, and she used to feed him long spears of
grass, one after the other, and Bunny would
take them in just as a printing press takes in
rolls of paper sitting perfectly still the while,
and wabbling and wabbling and wabbling his
" Doesn't he know why himself? " she asked.
" Of course not. If he did he wouldn't have
to go up to The Well to find out, would he?'
"But how will he find out at The Well?
Who will tell him?"
THE WELL IN THE WOOD 21
" Truth, of course. Doesn't Truth lie at the
bottom of a well ? '
"I don't know," said Buddie. " We haven't
any well on our place ; we get our water out of
" It's a very remarkable thing,' ' said the Yel-
low Dog, thoughtfully; "a very remarkable
thing. Nobody knows why a rabbit has to
wabble his nose.'
"There's a song about it, isn't there?'
asked the Laziest Beaver. "I believe I've
heard you sing it.'
"I believe I have sung it a few times,' an-
swered Colonel, modestly, although he was ex-
tremely proud of his voice and never lost a
chance to show it off.
"Sins: it for us," said the Laziest Beaver. " I
haven't heard any music for quite a while.'
"Oh, please do!' urged Buddie.
"Really, I am so hoarse,' began Colonel,
"Oh, bark away! " said the Laziest Beaver.
"We can stand it if you can.'
22 THE WELL IN THE WOOD
"Yes ; do sing ! ' pleaded Buddie.
Thus encouraged, the Yellow Dog, who was
really anxious to sing, cleared his throat with a
Bow-wow-wow-wow-wow-wow-wow, Bow - - - wow,
and began, in a light and rather throaty, but,
on the whole, pleasing voice :
"Why a peach or a plum has of seeds only one,
While a fig has a thousand, we know ;
We know why a fire won't burn in the sun,
And why you can't boil melted snow ;
We know why green peas
"Pleasant weather we are having," remarked
the Laziest Beaver to Buddie.
"Yes," she answered absently, her attention
on the song. She thought it kind of Colonel to
sing, and extremely impolite of the Laziest Bea-
ver to talk, especially as it was he that had asked
for the music. Meanwhile the Yellow Dog,
who had often sung in public, and so expected
talking, kept on :
THE WELL IN THE WOOD 23
" We know why green peas make the best currant jell,
Why and wherefore the peanut-tree grows;
But, alack and alas! there is no one can tell
Why a rabbit should wabble his nose."
" Our friend sings quite well, don't you think
so ?' went on the Laziest Beaver.
64 Yes,' replied Buddie, pleasantly, though
inwardly vexed and she nodded encourage-
ment to the Yellow Dog, who just then burst
into the chorus :
"We've whispered it so you could hear it for miles ;
We've shouted it ' under the rose ';
But alas and alack ! only Echo calls back-
' Oh why does he wabble his nose ?' "
The Laziest Beaver hummed the chorus very
much off the key and so loudly that Buddie
scarcely could make out the words of it.
" I do wish people wouldn't talk when some
one is trying to sing,' she thought; and as
Colonel began the second verse she got up and
crossed over to where he was sitting, and paid
no further attention to the Laziest Beaver.
24 THE WELL IN THE WOOD
"Now, every one knows where time goes when it flies,
And why a round robin is round ;
Why moles are stone-blind, while potatoes have eyes,
Although they both live underground ;
Which side a worm turns on, and which side a lane ;
And where the wind goes when it blows ;
But no one can tell and we ask it in vain
Why a rabbit should wabble his nose.
" We've whispered it so you could hear it for miles ;
We've shouted it ' under the rose ';
But alas and alack ! only Echo calls back
' Oh why does he wabble his nose ?
Wabble his nose,
His no-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ose ?' '
By this time the Laziest Beaver, who picked
up songs as quickly as gossip, had learned the
words and the tune of the chorus; and when
the Yellow Dog repeated it he joined in again
shouting the first line, whispering the second,
and imitating Echo in the fourth. And so good
was the imitation that Buddie found herself
looking up and around for the voices in the air,
which grew fainter and fainter and fainter, and
at last died away in a long " no-o-o-o-o-o-o-se f '
26 THE WELL IN THE WOOD
Then, much to her surprise, she discovered
that while she had been looking up and around,
the Yellow Dog and the Laziest Beaver had
vanished, and with them the tumble-down bea-
ver house and the meadow and the little river.
She was in the deep w r ood again, sitting on the
fallen trunk of a great pine-tree, and watching a
rabbit, who, apparently unconscious of her pres-
ence, was regarding himself in a small hand-