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| Home | Reading Room The New McGuffey Fourth Reader

The New McGuffey Fourth Reader
by William H. McGuffey, Compiler

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Once upon a time, a good many years ago, there was a traveler,

and he set out upon a journey. It was a magic journey, and was to

seem very long when he began it, and very short when he got

halfway through.

He traveled along a rather dark path for some little time,

without meeting anything, until at last he came to a beautiful

child. So he said to the child, "What do you here?" And the child

said, "I am always at play. Come and play with me."

So he played with the child the whole day long, and they were

very merry. The sky was so blue, the sun was so bright, the water

was so sparkling, the leaves were so green, the flowers were so

lovely, and they heard so many singing birds, and saw so many

butterflies, that everything was beautiful. This was in fine weather.

When it rained, they loved to watch the falling drops and smell

the fresh scents. When it blew, it was delightful to listen to

the wind, and fancy what it said, as it came rushing from its

home, whistling and howling, and driving the clouds before it,

bending the trees, rumbling in the chimneys, shaking the house

and making the sea roar in fury.

But when it snowed, that was the best of all; for they liked

nothing so well as to look up at the white flakes falling fast

and thick, like down frown the breasts of millions of white

birds, and to see how smooth and deep the drift was, and to

listen to the hush upon the paths and roads.

But one day of a sudden the traveler lost the child. He called to

him over and over again, but got no answer. So he went on for a

little while without meeting anything, until at last he came to a

handsome boy. He said to the boy, "What do you here?" And the boy

said, "I am always learning. Come and learn with me."

So he learned with the boy about Jupiter and Juno, and the Greeks

and Romans,--more than I could tell, or he either; for he soon

forgot a great deal of it. But they were not always learning;

they had the merriest games that ever were played.

They rowed upon the river in summer, and skated on the ice in

winter; they were active afoot and active on horseback; at

cricket, and all games of ball; at prisoner's base,

hare-and-hounds, follow-my-leader, and more sports than I can

think of: nobody could beat them. As to friends, they had such

dear friends, and so many of them, that I want the time to reckon

them up. They were all young, like the handsome boy, and were

never to be strange to one another all their lives through.

Still, one day, in the midst of all these pleasures, the traveler

lost the boy, as he had lost the child, and, after calling him in

vain, went on upon his journey. So he went on for a while without

seeing anything, until at last he came to a young man. He said to

the young man, "What do you here?" And the young man said, "I am

always in love. Come and love with me."

But the traveler lost the young man as he had lost the rest of

his friends, and, after calling to him to come back, which he

never did, went on upon his journey. At last he came to a

middle-aged gentleman. So he said to him, "What are you doing

here?" And his answer was, "I am always busy. Come and be busy

with me."

The traveler began to be very busy with the gentleman, and they

went on through the wood together. The whole journey was through

a wood, only it had been open and green at first, like a wood in

spring, and now began to be thick and dark, like a wood in

summer; some of the little trees that had come out earliest were

even turning brown.

The gentleman was not alone, but had a lady of about the same age

with him, who was his wife; and they had children, who were with

them too. They all went on together through the wood, cutting

down the trees, and making a path among the branches, and

carrying burdens and working hard.

Sometimes they came to a long green avenue that opened into

deeper woods. Then they would hear a very distant little voice

crying, "Father, father, I am another child! Stop for me!" And

presently they would see a very little figure, growing larger as

it came along, running to join them. When it came up, they all

crowded round it, and kissed and welcomed it; and then they all

went on together.

Sometimes they came to several avenues at once; and then they all

stood still, and one of the children said, "Father, I am going to

sea;" and another said, "Father, I am going to India;" and

another, "Father, I am going to seek my fortune where I can;" and

another, "Father, I am going to heaven."

So, with many tears at parting, they went, solitary, down those

avenues, each child upon its way; and the child who went to

heaven rose into the golden air and vanished.

Whenever these partings happened, the traveler looked at the

gentleman, and saw him glance up at the sky above the trees,

where the day was beginning to decline, and the sunset to come

on. He saw, too, that his hair was turning gray. But they could

never rest long, for they had their journey to perform, and it

was necessary for them to be always busy.

At last, there had been so many partings that there were no

children left, and only the traveler, the gentleman, and the lady

went upon their way in company. And now the wood was yellow; and

now brown; and the leaves, even of the forest trees, began to fall.

They came to an avenue that was darker than the rest, and were

pressing forward on their journey without looking down it, when

the lady stopped.

"My husband," said the lady, "I am called."

They listened, and they heard a voice a long way down the avenue

say, "Mother, mother!"

It was the voice of the child who had said, "I am going to

heaven!" and the father cried, "I pray not yet. The sunset is

very near. I pray not yet."

But the voice called, "Mother, mother!" without minding him,

though his hair was now quite white, and tears were on his face.

Then the mother, who was already drawn into the shade of the dark

avenue, and moving away with her arms still around his neck,

kissed him and said, "My dearest, I am summoned, and I go!" And

she was gone. The traveler and he were left alone together.

And they went on and on, until they came very near to the end of

the wood; so near, that they could see the setting sun shining

red before them through the trees.

Yet once more, while he broke his way among the branches, the

traveler lost his friend. He called and called, but there was no

reply, and when he passed out of the wood and saw the peaceful

sun going down upon a wide purple prospect, he came to an old man

sitting upon a fallen tree. He said to the old man, "What do you

here?" And the old man said, with a calm smile, "I am always

remembering. Come and remember with me."

So the traveler sat down by the side of the old man, face to face

with the serene sunset; and all his friends came softly back and

stood around him. The beautiful child, the handsome boy, the

young man, the father, mother, and children every one of them was

there, and he had lost nothing. He loved them all, and was kind

and forbearing with them all, and they all honored and loved him.


Scents, smells.

Cricket, a game at ball very popular in England.

Solitary, alone.

Summoned, called.

Allegory, a truth related in the form of a story.



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