Frank Richard Stockton.

The novels and stories of Frank R. Stockton . (Volume 17) online

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3 OP



Mr. Stockton in his sfudy.
From a photograph.





Copyright, 1887, 1888, 1892, 1893, 1897, 1900,





CANON ........ 3

THE BEE-MAN OF OEN . . . .51










PRINTER'S BABY . . ... . 311







OVER the great door of an old, old church, which
stood in a quiet town of a far-away land, there
was carved in stone the figure of a large griffin. The
old-time sculptor had done his work with great care,
but the image he had made was not a pleasant one to
look at. It had a large head, with enormous open
mouth and savage teeth. From its back arose great
wings, armed with sharp hooks and prongs. It had
stout legs in front, with projecting claws, but there
were no legs behind, the body running out into a long
and powerful tail, finished off at the end with a barbed
point. This tail was coiled up under him, the end
sticking up just back of his wings.

The sculptor, or the people who had ordered this
stone figure, had evidently been very much pleased
with it, for little copies of it, also in stone, had been
placed here and there along the sides of the church,
not very far from the ground, so that people could
easily look at them and ponder on their curious forms.
There were a great many other sculptures on the out
side of this church saints, martyrs, grotesque heads
of men, beasts, and birds, as well as those of other
creatures which cannot be named, because nobody
knows exactly what they were. But none were so
curious and interesting as the great griffin over the



door and the little griffins on the sides of the

A long, long distance from the town, in the midst of
dreadful wilds scarcely known to man, there dwelt the
Griffin whose image had been put up over the church
door. In some way or other the old-time sculptor
had seen him, and afterwards, to the best of his mem
ory, had copied his figure in stone. The Griffin had
never known this until, hundreds of years afterwards,
he heard from a bird, from a wild animal, or in some
manner which it is not easy to find out, that there was
a likeness of him on the old church in the distant town.

Now, this Griffin had no idea whatever how he
looked. He had never seen a mirror, and the streams
where he lived were so turbulent and violent that a
quiet piece of water, which would reflect the image of
anything looking into it, could not be found. Being,
as far as could be ascertained, the very last of his race,
he had never seen another griffin. Therefore it was
that, when he heard of this stone image of himself, he
became very anxious to know what he looked like, and
at last he determined to go to the old church and see
for himself what manner of being he was. So he
started off from the dreadful wilds, and flew on and
on until he came to the countries inhabited by men,
where his appearance in the air created great conster
nation. But he alighted nowhere, keeping up a steady
flight until he reached the suburbs of the town which
had his image on its church. Here, late in the after
noon, he alighted in a green meadow by the side of a
brook, and stretched himself on the grass to rest. His
great wings were tired, for he had not made such a
long flight in a century or more.

The news of his coming spread quickly over the


town, and the people, frightened nearly out of their
wits by the arrival of so extraordinary a visitor, fled
into their houses and shut themselves up. The Griffin
called loudly for some one to come to him ; but the
more he called, the more afraid the people were to
show themselves. At length he saw two laborers hur
rying to their homes through the fields, and in a ter
rible voice he commanded them to stop. Not, daring
to disobey, the men stood, trembling.

"What is the matter with you all?" cried the
Griffin. "Is there not a man in your town who is
brave enough to speak to me ? "

"I think," said one of the laborers, his voice
shaking so that his words could hardly be under
stood, "that perhaps the Minor Canon would

"Go, call him, then ! " said the Griffin. "I want to
see him."

The Minor Canon, who filled a subordinate position
in the old church, had just finished the afternoon ser
vice, and was coming out of a side door, with three
aged women who had formed the week-day congrega
tion. He was a young man of a kind disposition, and
very anxious to do good to the people of the town.
Apart from his duties in the church, where he con
ducted services every week-day, he visited the sick
and the poor ; counselled and assisted persons who were
in trouble, and taught a school composed entirely of
the bad children in the town, with whom nobody else
would have anything to do. Whenever the people
wanted something difficult done for them, they always
went to the Minor Canon. Thus it was that the la
borer thought of the young priest when he found that
some one must come and speak to the Griffin.



The Minor Canon had not heard of the strange
event, which was known to the whole town except
himself and the three old women, and when he was
informed of it, and was told that the Griffin had asked
to see him, he was greatly amazed and frightened.

"Me ! " he exclaimed. "He has never heard of me !
What should he want with me f "

"Oh, you must go instantly ! " cried the two men.
"He is very angry now because he has been kept wait
ing so long, and nobody knows what may happen if
you don't hurry to him."

The poor Minor Canon would rather have had his
hand cut off than to go out to meet an angry griffin ;
but he felt that it was his duty to go, for it would be a
woeful thing if injury should come to the people of the
town because he was not brave enough to obey the
summons of the Griffin ; so, pale and frightened, he
started off.

"Well," said the Griffin, as soon as the young man
came near, "I am glad to see that there is some one
who has the courage to come to me."

The Minor Canon did not feel very courageous, but
he bowed his head.

"Is this the town," said the Griffin, "where there
is a church with a likeness of myself over one of the

The Minor Canon looked at the frightful creature
before him, and saw that it was, without doubt, ex
actly like the stone image on the church. "Yes," he
said, "you are right."

"Well, then," said the Griffin, "will you take me
to it? I wish very much to see it."

The Minor Canon instantly thought that if the


Griffin entered the town without the people knowing
what he came for, some of them would probably be
frightened to death, and so he sought to gain time to
prepare their minds.

"It is growing dark now," he said, very much
afraid, as he spoke, that his words might enrage the
Griffin, "and objects on the front of the church can
not be seen clearly. It will be better to wait until
morning, if you wish to get a good view of the stone
image of yourself."

"That will suit me very well," said the Griffin. "I
see you are a man of good sense. I am tired, and I
will take a nap here on this soft grass, while I cool
my tail in the little stream that runs near me. The
end of my tail gets red-hot when I am angry or ex
cited, and it is quite warm now. So you may go ; but
be sure and come early to-morrow morning, and show
me the way to the church."

The Minor Canon was glad enough to take his leave,
and hurried into the town. In front of the church he
found a great many people assembled to hear his re
port of his interview with the Griffin. When they
found that he had not come to spread ruin and devas
tation, but simply to see his stony likeness on the
church, they showed neither relief nor gratification,
but began to upbraid the Minor Canon for consenting
to conduct the creature into the town.

"What could I do?" cried the young man. "If I
should not bring him he would come himself, and per
haps end by setting fire to the town with his red-hot

Still the people were not satisfied, and a great many
plans were proposed to prevent the Griffin from com-



ing into the town. Some elderly persons urged that
the young men should go out and kill him. But the
young men scoffed at such a ridiculous idea. Then
some one said that it would be a good thing to de
stroy the stone image, so that the Griffin would have
no excuse for entering the town. This proposal was
received with such favor that many of the people
ran for hammers, chisels, and crowbars with which to
tear down and break up the stone griffin. But the
Minor Canon resisted this plan with all the strength
of his mind and body. He assured the people that
this action would enrage the Griffin beyond measure,
for it would be impossible to conceal from him that
his image had been destroyed during the night.

But they were so determined to break up the stone
griffin that the Minor Canon saw that there was noth
ing for him to do but to stay there and protect it.
All night he walked up and down in front of the
church door, keeping away the men who brought
ladders by which they might mount to the great
stone griffin and knock it to pieces with their ham
mers and crowbars. After many hours the people
were obliged to give up their attempts, and went
home to sleep. But the Minor Canon remained at his
post till early morning, and then he hurried away to
the field where he had left the Griffin.

The monster had just awakened, and rising to his
fore legs and shaking himself, he said that he was
ready to go into the town. The Minor Canon, there
fore, walked back, the Griffin flying slowly through
the air at a short distance above the head of his guide.
Not a person was to be seen in the streets, and they



proceeded directly to the front of the church, where
the Minor Canon pointed out the stone griffin.

The real Griffin settled down in the little square
before the church and gazed earnestly at his sculptured
likeness. For a long time he looked at it. First he
put his head on one side, and then he put it on the
other. Then he shut his right eye and gazed with his
left, after which he shut his left eye and gazed with
his right. Then he moved a little to one side and
looked at the image, then he moved the other way.
After a while he said to the Minor Canon, who had
been standing by all this time :

"It is, it must be, an excellent likeness ! That
breadth between the eyes, that expansive forehead,
those massive jaws ! I feel that it must resemble me.
If there is any fault to find with it, it is that the neck
seems a little stiff. But that is nothing. It is an
admirable likeness admirable ! "

The Griffin sat looking at his image all the morning
and all the afternoon. The Minor Canon had been
afraid to go away and leave him, and had hoped all
through the day that he would soon be satisfied with
his inspection and fly away home. But by evening
the poor young man was utterly exhausted, and felt
that he must eat and sleep. He frankly admitted this
fact to the Griffin, and asked him if he would not like
something to eat. He said this because he felt obliged
in politeness to do so ; but as soon as he had spoken
the words, he was seized with dread lest the monster
should demand half a dozen babies, or some tempting
repast of that kind.

"Oh, no," said the Griffin, "I never eat between the



equinoxes. At the vernal and at the autumnal equi
nox I take a good meal, and that lasts me for half a
year. I am extremely regular in my habits, and do
not think it healthful to eat at odd times. But if you
need food, go and get it, and I will return to the soft
grass where I slept last night, and take another nap."

The next day the Griffin came again to the little
square before the church, and remained there until
evening, steadfastly regarding the stone griffin over
the door. The Minor Canon came once or twice to
look at him, and the Griffin seemed very glad to see
him. But the young clergyman could not stay as he
had done before, for he had many duties to perform.
Nobody went to the church, but the people came to
the Minor Canon's house, and anxiously asked him
how long the Griffin was going to stay.

"I do not know," he answered, "but I think he will
soon be satisfied with looking at his stone likeness, and
then he will go away."

But the Griffin did not go away. Morning after
morning he went to the church, but after a time he
did not stay there all day. He seemed to have taken
a great fancy to the Minor Canon, and followed him
about as he pursued his various avocations. He
would wait for him at the side door of the church, for
the Minor Canon held services every day, morning
and evening, though nobody came now. "If any one
should come," he said to himself, "I must be found at
my post." When the young man came out, the Griffin
would accompany him in his visits to the sick and the
poor, and would often look into the windows of the
school-house where the Minor Canon was teaching his
unruly scholars. All the other schools were closed,



but the parents of the Minor Canon's scholars forced
them to go to school, because they were'*so bad they
could not endure them all day at home griffin or no
griffin. But it must be said they generally behaved
very well when that great monster sat up on his tail
and looked in at the school-room window.

When it was perceived that the Griffin showed no
sign of going away, all the people who were able to
do so, left the town. The canons and the higher offi
cers of the church had fled away during the first day
of the Griffin's visit, leaving behind only the Minor
Canon and some of the men who opened the doors and
swept the church. All the citizens who could afford
it shut up their houses and travelled to distant parts,
and only the working-people and the poor were left
behind. After some days these ventured to go about
and attend to their business, for if they did not work
they would starve. They were getting a little used to
seeing the Griffin, and having been told that he did
not eat between equinoxes, they did not feel so much
afraid of him as before.

Day by day the Griffin became more and more at
tached to the Minor Canon. He kept near him a
great part of the time, and often spent the night in
front of the little house where the young clergyman
lived alone. This strange companionship was often
burdensome to the Minor Canon. But, on the other
hand, he could not deny that he derived a great deal
of benefit and instruction from it. The Griffin had
lived for hundreds of years, and had seen much, and
he told the Minor Canon many wonderful things.

"It is like reading an old book," said the young
clergyman to himself. "But how many books I would



have had to read before I would have found out what
the Griffin has told me about the earth, the air, the
water, about minerals, and metals, and growing things,
and all the wonders of the world ! "

Thus the summer went on, and drew toward its
close. And now the people of the town began to be
very much troubled again.

"It will not be long,' 7 they said, "before the au
tumnal equinox is here, and then that monster will
want to eat. He will be dreadfully hungry, for he has
taken so much exercise since his last meal. He will
devour our children. Without doubt, he will eat them
all. What is to be done ? "

To this question no one could give an answer, but
all agreed that the Griffin must not be allowed to
remain until the approaching equinox. After talking
over the matter a great deal, a crowd of the people
went to the Minor Canon, at a time when the Griffin
was not with him.

"It is all your fault," they said, "that that monster
is among us. You brought him here, and you ought
to see that he goes away. It is only on your account
that he stays here at all, for, although he visits his
image every day, he is with you the greater part of
the time. If you were not here he would not stay.
It is your duty to go away, and then he will follow
you, and we shall be free from the dreadful danger
which hangs over us."

"Go away ! " cried the Minor Canon, greatly grieved
at being spoken to in such a way. "Where shall I
go ? If I go to some other town, shall I not take this
trouble there ? Have I a right to do that * "

"No," said the people, "you must not go to any


other town. There is no town far enough away. You
must go to the dreadful wilds where the Griffin lives,
and then he will follow you and stay there. 77

They did not say whether or not they expected the
Minor Canon to stay there also, and he did not ask
them anything about it. He bowed his head, and
went into his house to think. The more he thought,
the more clear it became to his mind that it was his
duty to go away, and thus free the town from the
presence of the Griffin.

That evening he packed a leather bag full of bread
and meat, and early the next morning he set out on
his journey to the dreadful wilds. It was a long,
weary, and doleful journey, especially after he had
gone beyond the habitations of men ; but the Minor
Canon kept on bravely, and never faltered. The way
was longer than he had expected, and his provisions
soon grew so scanty that he was obliged to eat but a
little every day ; but he kept up his courage, and
pressed on, and after many days of toilsome travel
he reached the dreadful wilds.

When the Griffin found that the Minor Canon had
left the town, he seemed sorry, but showed no disposi
tion to go and look for him. After a few days had
passed, he became much annoyed, and asked some of
the people where the Minor Canon had gone. But
although the citizens had been so anxious that the
young clergyman should go to the dreadful wilds,
thinking that the Griffin would immediately follow
him, they were now afraid to mention the Minor
Canon 7 s destination, for the monster seemed angry
already, and if he should suspect their trick, he would
doubtless become very much enraged. So every one



said he did not know, and the Griffin wandered about
disconsolate. One morning he looked into the Minor
Canon's school-house, which was always empty now,
and thought that it was a shame that everything
should suffer on account of the young man's absence.

"It does not matter so much about the church," he
said, "for nobody went there. But it is a pity about
the school. I think I will teach it myself until he

It was the hour for opening the school, and the
Griffin went inside and pulled the rope which rang
the school bell. Some of the children who heard the
bell ran in to see what was the matter, supposing it to
be a joke of one of their companions. But when they
saw the Griffin they stood astonished and scared.

"Go tell the other scholars," said the monster, "that
school is about to open, and that if they are not all
here in ten minutes I shall come after them."

In seven minutes every scholar was in place.

Never was seen such an orderly school. Not a boy
or girl moved or uttered a whisper. The Griffin
climbed into the master's seat, his wide wings spread
on each side of him, because he could not lean back in
his chair while they stuck out behind, and his great
tail coiled around in front of the desk, the barbed end
sticking up, ready to tap any boy or girl who might
misbehave. The Griffin now addressed the scholars,
telling them that he intended to teach them while
their master was away. In speaking he endeavored
to imitate, as far as possible, the mild and gentle tones
of the Minor Canon, but it must be admitted that in
this he was not very successful. He had paid a good
deal of attention to the studies of the school, and he



determined not to attempt to teach them anything
new, but to review them in what they had been study
ing. So he called up the various classes, and ques
tioned them upon their previous lessons. The chil
dren racked their brains to remember what they had
learned. They were so afraid of the Griffin's dis
pleasure that they recited as they had never recited
before. One of the boys, far down in his class, an
swered so well that the Griffin was astonished.

"I should think you would be at the head," said he.
"I am sure you have never been in the habit of re
citing so well. Why is this? "

"Because I did not choose to take the trouble," said
the boy, trembling in his boots. He felt obliged to
speak the truth, for all the children thought that the
great eyes of the Griffin could see right through them,
and that he would know when they told a falsehood.

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," said the
Griffin. "Go down to the very tail of the class, and
if you are not at the head in two days, I shall know
the reason why."

The next afternoon this boy was number one.

It was astonishing how much these children now
learned of what they had been studying. It was as
if they had been educated over again. The Griffin
used no severity toward them, but there was a look
about him which made them unwilling to go to bed
until they were sure they knew their lessons for the
next day.

The Griffin now thought that he ought to visit the
sick and the poor, and he began to go about the town
for this purpose. The effect upon the sick was miracu
lous. All, except those who were very ill indeed,



jumped from their beds when they heard he was com
ing, and declared themselves quite well. To those who
could not get up he gave herbs and roots, which none
of them had ever before thought of as medicines, but
which the Griffin had seen used in various parts of the
world, and most of them recovered. But, for all that,
they afterwards said that no matter what happened to
them, they hoped that they should never again have
such a doctor coming to their bedsides, feeling their
pulses and looking at their tongues.

As for the poor, they seemed to have utterly disap
peared. All those who had depended upon charity
for their daily bread were now at work in some way
or other, many of them offering to do odd jobs for
their neighbors just for the sake of their meals a
thing which before had been seldom heard of in the
town. The Griffin could find no one who needed his

The summer now passed, and the autumnal equi
nox was rapidly approaching. The citizens were
in a state of great alarm and anxiety. The Griffin
showed no signs of going away, but seemed to have
settled himself permanently among them. In a short
time the day for his semi-annual meal would arrive,
and then what would happen? The monster would
certainly be very hungry, and would devour all their

Now they greatly regretted and lamented that they
had sent away the Minor Canon. He was the only
one on whom they could have depended in this trouble,
for he could talk freely with the Griffin, and so find
out what could be done. But it would not do to be
inactive. Some step must be taken immediately. A



meeting of the citizens was called, and two old men
were appointed to go and talk to the Griffin. They
were instructed to offer to prepare a splendid dinner
for him on equinox day one which would entirely
satisfy his hunger. They would offer him the fattest
mutton, the most tender beef, fish and game of vari
ous sorts, and anything of the kind he might fancy.
If none of these suited, they were to mention that
there was an orphan asylum in the next town.

"Anything would be better," said the citizens, "than
to have our dear children devoured."

The old men went to the Griffin, but their proposi
tions were not received with favor.

"From what I have seen of the people of this town,"
said the monster, "I do not think I could relish any
thing which was prepared by them. They appear to

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Online LibraryFrank Richard StocktonThe novels and stories of Frank R. Stockton . (Volume 17) → online text (page 1 of 19)